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The Music Behind The Hit Summer Camp Song, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh"

ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images
Comedian Allan Sherman with Edie Adams in 1963 performing a sketch on Walt Disney Television's "Here's Edie."

It's summer camp season, which may call to mind Allan Sherman's popular parody, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” —inspired by letters sent home from overnight camp by the comedian's son. The song hit No. 2 on Billboard's "Hot 100" list in the summer of 1963 and won a Grammy Award for Comedy in '64.

Sherman tied his clever lyrics to a familiar tune in Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, a ballet composed in 1876 as an interlude in Act 3 of his opera, La Gioconda, based on an 1835 play by Victor Hugo. The ballet was written into the plot as entertainment for the characters.

The opera was a big success, premiering in 1880 in Milan's La Scala, and in 1883 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The ballet music has been frequently parodied by a variety of artists. In 1929, portions were used by Disney in its Silly Symphonies series; in 1940, the full ballet is parodied in Disney's Fantasia, danced by hippos, ostriches, alligators, and elephants.

The Andrew Sisters used the music as the basis for their 1952 hit song, "Idle Chatter."

But the music's popularity skyrocketed in 1963 with Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh." In 1964, the year the original won a Grammy, Sherman wrote a second version for an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson: "Back at Camp Granada." In 1965, he created a third version for a TV ad for a board game based on Camp Granada.

Among other uses of Ponchielli's ballet music: Spike Jones parodied it in 1957, Mel Brooks' 1981 comedy History of the World Part I included the music, and Christopher Wheeldon choregraphed his own version of the full Dance of the Hours for his company Morphoses.

Lyrics to "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh"

Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining
I went hiking with Joe Spivey
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got Ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner
All the counsellors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses
Now I don't want this should scare ya'
But my bunkmate has Malaria
You remember Jeffery Hardy
They're about to organize a searching party
Take me home, oh Muddah, Faddah
Take me home, I hate Grenada
Don't leave me out in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear
Take me home, I promise I will
Not make noise, or mess the house with
Other boys,…

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.