"A Chat With Alvin" is included on the Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years album, which was released September 21, 1999.
- What was it like growing up with Ross Bagdasarian Sr.?
- What are your fondest memories of your family listening to your dad's songs?
- How did Ross Bagdasarian Sr. come up with the name David Seville?
- Did your dad yell at you like he yelled at Alvin?
- How did The Chipmunks get their start?
- Who is each character modeled after?
- What is your fondest memory growing up with the man who created The Chipmunks?
- Did you, or your brother, or sister inspire any of the chipmunk stories?
- Could you name some of the great artists The Chipmunks have had the opportunity to work with?
Host: Hello everyone and welcome to the first installment of A Chat With Alvin. I'm your host, Alvin, star of television, movies-
Alvin: Can't I just plug my video, The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein?
Alvin: Ok. Anyway, as Tom Cruise, Cindy Crawford, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Alanis Morissette, and Dennis Miller were unavailable, my guest today is the son of David Seville, Ross "Bagnarglianan"- "Bagdinazio"- "Bagnargums"-
Alvin: Whatever. Junior. Do I call you Ross, or Junior, or Skippy, or what?
Ross: Ross is fine.
Alvin: Well, what was it like growing up with him? Wait a minute! I can answer that.
Ross: They're not asking you, Alvin.
Alvin: Well that's a mistake, isn't it?
Ross: May I answer the question? He wasn't David Seville, or Ross Bagdasarian Sr., he was just my dad and we had a great understanding. I didn't have to go and listen to his recording sessions and watch him do the animated shows and he didn't have to go to my little league games.
Alvin: What are your fondest memories of your family listening to your dad's songs? I bet you loved my stuff the most, right?
Ross: Oh yeah, definitely. Anyway, I remember going into my dad's den when I was eight or nine years old and listening to "The Chipmunk Song" and I loved the relationship of David Seville and Alvin. And Alvin talked back to my dad, and we never talked back to my dad, so we were rooting for Alvin the whole way. I loved "The Chipmunk Song."
Alvin: How did Ross Sr.- man it's so weird calling him Ross Sr., he was always David Seville to me! Anyway, how did he come up with the name David Seville?
Ross: Well, this was in the mid-50s or so, and number one, Tony Curtis, Carrie Grant, Rock Hudson, all of these people changed from their real name, you know, none of them were using their real name. Bagdasarian was much too ethnic, and of course, as far as the record company was concerned, would never fit on a 45, so they needed something shorter and something simpler. And so my dad, having been stationed in Spain during World War II and loving the city of Seville, came up with the name David Seville.
Alvin: Tell me, Ross, did your dad yell at you like he did me?
Ross: Well, let's just say I was the good son. When it came time to do the voices of David Seville and The Chipmunks, I wanted to make sure the characters sounded the same as the originals. And although we auditioned a lot of different actors for The Chipmunks and for Dave, my wife said, "Look, you sound very much like your dad, why don't you do it?" I was no actor, and not sure that I am today, but anyway, I was much worse then. And I thought, "Well, I might be able to pull this off," because I remembered when I was growing up, I used to yell up at my brother the way that my dad did, and I would go, "Adam!", and my brother would run out to the door, he was sure that it was my dad and not me, and say "Wha-What is it pop?" So I thought, "You know, if I could fool my brother into thinking that I was my dad, maybe I sound enough like him to play David Seville."
Alvin: And, how did The Chipmunks get their start? As if I didn't know.
Ross: Well, my dad wrote the "Witch Doctor" about six months before he wrote "The Chipmunk Song," and in that song he used that sped up voice of the witch doctor, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla, bing bang." So later on, he wanted to incorporate that into a character or characters and he didn't know if they were going to be singing reindeer, singing hippopotamuses, or what. He was driving along near Yosemite by Fresno, where he was born, and thinking, "What are they gonna be?," and as he was driving his car, a little, tiny chipmunk burst in front of the road and really dared my dad and his 4,000 pound car to drive past. And my dad loved the audacity of that character. He had found Alvin, and he knew at that point that that singing voice, that sped up voice, was going to become chipmunks.
Alvin: And who is each character modeled after?
Ross: Well, the chipmunks, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, were named after three record executives of Liberty Records. Al was Al Bennett, Simon was Si Waronker, and Theodore was Theodore, or Ted, Keep. Ted was the engineer who, along with my dad, won Grammies for best engineering and, you know, they were doing incredible things in those days. I mean, my dad would do all the different voices, Dave, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and they only had two tracks to work on. So, engineering was definitely a feat back in those days.
Alvin: And Ross, what is your fondest memory growing up with the man who created The Chipmunks?
Ross: Being eight or nine years old and getting to stay up late to watch my dad on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Alvin: Oh yeah! I remember that! I was brilliant.
Ross: Unfortunately, the kids at school didn't always believe me when I would say, "Well, my dad created The Chipmunks." They'd say, "No he didn't, David Seville did." And we get in a fight over who created The Chipmunks. Was it Ross Bagdasarian or David Seville? I tried to explain to them that it was one in the same person, but generally, that didn't go over very well.
Alvin: Did you, or your brother, or sister inspire any of the chipmunk stories?
Ross: Well, my brother, Adam, who was about five years old at the time, this was in summer of 1958, a few months after my dad had written the "Witch Doctor," came up and asked my dad in the dead of summer whether it was Christmas or not. Not because my brother was particularly religious, but really because he loved the idea of getting presents. And so, my dad, when he wrote "Christmas, Christmas time is near, time for joy and time for cheer," the beginning of "The Chipmunk Song," was really based on my brother, or The Chipmunks, who could not wait for Christmas to come. And my brother definitely couldn't wait.
Alvin: And Ross, if you wouldn't mind, name some of the great artists The Chipmunks have had the opportunity to work with.
Ross: Well, The Chipmunks have performed with everyone from The Beatles, and Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Kenny G, Celine Dion, Tammy Wynette, Will Smith, I mean, it's a really long list and it's always done with great respect and a little touch of humor and one of the things- it starts with my dad meeting The Beatles in the mid-60s when Beatle Mania was at its height. And not only did they have the kind of sense of humor to appreciate what it was that he was looking to do, but very much gave him their blessing. One of the really special things was working with Will Smith. We did a TV special with Will where Will introduced five decades with The Chipmunks and The Chipmunks celebrating five decades of music. And so, Will Smith became the host of that show, and he dressed up in each of the eras, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. But one of the things that was so great is that my wife and I write most of the shows, and as we did that special, and there was a little introduction for the 1990s part of the show, and we needed to write a rap. And it was just the lamest kind of rap that you can image two white people writing. At any event, Will Smith looked at this and said, "Do you mind if I kind of work this thing a little bit?," and he, in the course of probably 25 seconds, wrote a wonderful rap introduction to The Chipmunks in the 1990s.
Alvin: Well, time flies doesn't it? But, that wraps up our first edition of A Chat With Alvin. I'd like to thank my guest, Ross "Bagdinasclio"- "Bagnargian"- "Bagdisaglian"-
Alvin: Jeez, he sounds just like his dad.
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