Monday, February 8, 2016

I knew all the words to this song when I was 7 years old. This song was written by Barbara Cameron. More on her in a moment, but first:
If you're on the highway and Road Runner goes "beep beep"
Just step aside or ya might end up in a heap
Road Runner, Road Runner runs down the road all day
Even the Coyote can't make him change his ways

Road Runner! The Coyote's after you!
Road Runner! If he catches you you're through!
Road Runner! The Coyote's after you!
Road Runner! If he catches you you're through!

That Coyote is really a crazy clown
When will he learn that he never can mow him down
Poor little Road Runner never bothers anyone
Just runnin' down the road's his idea of having fun

Barbara Cameron was born in Dayton, Ohio, on February 14, 1926. Her mother was a very talented singer and pianist, and Barbara grew up with a love of music. Her vocal talents were especially recognized, and she sang in church, for local competitions, and at various Dayton events in her teens.

Beginning in 1942, Cameron began singing as part of the choral group at WLW, one of Dayton's largest radio station. It was common for local radio stations in that day to produce their own music, comedy, and variety shows. This required solo and small-group vocalists who could sing jingles, sing theme songs, and even compose music quickly. She was trained by Grace Raine, WLW's longtime vocal coach.

In 1943, Cameron was hired to replace Doris Day -- a WLW singing star who had just resigned from the station to begin her professional singing career. Cameron sang on WLW's popular late-night show "Moon River", and was a member of the trio "Mary, Jean and Betty". When Ruth DeVore left the popular DeVore Sisters trio, Cameron replaced her. Her singing was now heard throughout the South.

Cameron was so popular that after World War II WLW gave her permission to record an album at King Records. King Records started in 1943 and was headquartered in Cincinnati. They specialized in country music, had a "race label" for black singers (Federal Records) that got James Brown his start. Federal was well known for its R&B groups, and The Dominoes got their first hit -- and their first crossover hit -- with King in 1951 for "Sixty Minute Man". In October 1947, Cameron released her first album, "An Invitation to Love". King released the record in a special eight-side "album" box.

While on the radio in the 1940s and 1950s, Cameron sang with Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, the Andrew Sisters, Bob Hope, and many others.

In the 1950s, Cameron also began appearing on WKRC-TV as a television hostess and variety star. She married Joe Kotler, a rising executive at Ziv Television. The couple moved to New York City in the late 1950s, after Ziv was bought out by Warner Brothers. She had two children, a son, Doug, and a daughter, Cam.

Barbara Cameron became semi-retired after her move to New York. She occasionally returned to Cincinnati to sing with the Cincinnati Pops and dabbled in composing, but was primarily a homemaker.

It was through her husband that Cameron came to write "The Road Runner Show" theme song. In 1963, Warners wanted to package its Porky Pig cartoons into a new, half-hour television show. Composer Winston Sharples wrote the theme song and Joe Kotler managed to bring his wife's vocal talents to the studio's attention. Barbara then sang the "Porky Pig Show" theme with other studio singers and musicians.

In 1965, Warners decided they wanted to repackage their Road Runner cartoons into a TV show as well. They wanted a theme song for the show, but had been dissatisfied with the very 1950s-style theme written by Sharples. Joe Kotler said his wife could provide a much snazzier, cooler, updated sound.

Barbara Cameron wrote the Road Runner theme in just a few hours. She recorded it herself, with music by Warner Studio musicians. Two versions, one with reverb and one without, were produced.

Barbara and Joe Kotler retired to Ft. Myers, Florida in the 1980s. Their son had become an internationally famous jazz violinist and their daughter a successful cellist in Boston. Joe Kotler died in the spring of 2011, and Barbara quickly succumbed to senile dementia thereafter.

Barbara Cameron died on January 6, 2013, just shy of her 87th birthday.

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