Stan Freberg had one of those Los Angeles careers. He was at the end of the national radio programs and the start of TV, including for KTLA Channel 5. He did voice work for Warner Bros, Disney and others. He was known to many first as a cultural and political satirist, putting out albums that spoofed hit songs of his day, and as an advertising executive he created memorable unconventional campaigns. The phrase "just the facts, ma'am" attributed to Dragnet's Joe Friday is actually from Freberg's spoof of Dragnet, apparently. His friends included Ray Bradbury.
Freberg died today at a hospital in Santa Monica. From the Hollywood Reporter:
The godfather of humorous and irreverent commercials, Freberg lampooned cultural institutions and described himself as a “guerilla satirist.” The New York Times dubbed him the “Che Guevara of advertising,” and years later, “Weird Al” Yankovic called him a major influence on his career.
Freberg also was known for his musical parodies. “Wun’erful Wun’erful,” his 1957 spoof of “champagne music” — on which he collaborated with orchestra leader Billy May — lampooned The Lawrence Welk Show.
He also parodied Johnnie Ray’s hit “Cry,” which Freberg rendered as “Try.” (Ray was quite angry until he realized the parody was fueling sales of his record.)
Freberg had hit records on his own, including St. George and the Dragonets, a send-up of the series Dragnet. His recordings were so popular that he landed his own radio program in 1954, That’s Rich. In 1957, he presented The Stan Freberg Show on CBS Radio, where he regularly mocked commercials by advertising bogus products.
His son, photographer Donovan Freberg, posted on Facebook before 11 a.m.: "My father died this morning. I am ok. To me, the father I knew and loved dearly and still very much do left me over a decade ago. He was, and will always be my hero and I will carry his brilliant legacy forward as best I am able. RIP, Stan Freberg, 1926-2015."
Then just before 12:30 he posted an update: "Just got in a bad car accident. Uber cab, full front impact. All airbags deployed. I'm ok but please send prayers. NOT a good day."
Video: Freberg's classic 1951 spoof of a soap opera for Capitol Records, later to be emulated in a scene of "Mad Men" and turn up in numerous pop cultural references.
RIP the first great genius of American musical satire, Stan Freberg. Privileged to have known him, and learned from him.— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) April 7, 2015