“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)” by Allan Sherman
“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)” is said to have been inspired by a camping experience of Allan Sherman’s son. Within the context of this piece, camping, if you’re not familiar with the practice, is one which parents send their children, usually boys, away for an extended period of time, most often during the summer, to learn about the wilderness, etc. under the guidance of an experienced staff of personnel.
And in the case of this narrative, the lad who is attending one Camp Granada is reporting home to his parents via letter. This being back in the days when posting messages via snail mail was still a widespread practice. And honestly, even the ownership of telephones was not as ubiquitous then as it has become since.
The Lyrics of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)”
But anyway, the lyrics reflect the aforementioned letter being read by the kid’s dad. As such, it is the boy who is the narrator. And pretty much from the onset, after he greets his “muddah” and “fadduh” (i.e. mother and father), we get a sense that something isn’t right. And why? Because he promptly goes on to complain about incessant rain.
Then in the second verse he points out how two of his homeys who are also in the camp, Joe Spivy and Leonard Skinner, have been poisoned, from two different sources even.
In the next verse, the boy reveals that certain members of the camp staff have beef with each other. There is also a “head coach” at hand, who most likely would be the one in charge of organizing sporting events.
And he’s a real man’s man, i.e. not allowing any of the boys to display sissy-like tendencies. So he proceeds to indoctrinate them in literature to push his machismo ideology. And by all indications him doing so is something that the narrator does not enjoy.
Even More Woes
Adding onto the child’s woes is the fact that his “bunkmate has malaria”. And whereas malaria may not be transmittable via open-air contact, still it is a matter of concern. No one actually would want to be confined with an individual suffering from the disease in a non-medical setting.
Also there is another homey of the boy’s by the name of Jeffrey Hardy who, by the looks of things, is currently lost somewhere in the woods. This is pretty much any parents’ nightmare as far as a camping child is concerned. So the narrator uses the opportunity to entreat his own parents to bring him home.
After all, they wouldn’t want to receive news of him “get(ting) eaten by a bear” or anything like that. And he also assures them that if they do grant his request, upon returning home, he won’t give them any trouble whatsoever.
Moreover he presents his as a case dearly missing his other family members. According to him, he “would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss (him)” if only they would be kind enough to take him out of Camp Grenada.
Then suddenly, in the very last passage of the song, the tone completely flips. The ‘hail’ rain has stopped, and everyone, in the blink of an eye, is now having mad fun. So then narrator then proceeds to tell his parents to “kindly disregard” everything stated above, you know, like ‘see when you see you’.
What “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)” is all about
So again, it’s clear that this is a comedic piece. Even if such is not abundantly evident earlier in the song based solely on the lyrics, the style of the audio further buttresses the reality of this narrative being meant to be taken in jest.
And we can say that from the writer’s perspective, i.e. himself being a dad, it is meant to poke fun at how fickle the dispositions of children can be at times.
Moreover he seems, at least to some degree, to be making light of the camp experience. Indeed as the Los Angeles Times expounded in their biographical study of this song, camping is such that most kids have an adverse reaction, i.e. homesickness, during the early goings.
And Allan Sherman would have been aware of this fact not only through his own time in the camping field but also via the related experiences of his son.
Allan Sherman and the Success of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”
The original vocalist behind this American classic was Allan Sherman (1924-1973), who as inferred was actually a comedian first and foremost. However, he also had a pretty successful run as a musician, back when popular folk singers were akin to pop stars.
In fact the album this song is featured on, “My Son, the Folk Singer” (1962), upon its release set a record as being the fastest-selling album up until that point in history.
Moreover, as far as the Billboard Hot 100 is concerned, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” reached all the way up to number 2. This is an achievement which is almost unthinkable for a song of this nature given the 21st century musical landscape.
Another testament to this song’s popularity is the fact that it has been translated into different languages – including Swedish, German and Hebrew – i.e. being an international phenomenon.
Even More Success
In fact Robert Sherman, i.e. Allan Sherman’s son who inspired this piece, didn’t even realize how popular the tune was until he heard a group of hundreds of kids, along with their parents, singing it in a movie theater in the UK. And on a related note, it has been pointed out that this song topped the charts in Hong Kong. FYI, summer camps are practically alien in Hong Kong.
“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” took home a Grammy Award, in 1964. It won in the category of Best Comedy Performance. And in 2020, the Library of Congress did go on to preserve it in the National Recording Registry.
More Facts about “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)”
The official release date of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, via Warner Bros. Records, was during August of 1963.
The music behind the lyrics was not originally part of this song. Rather it dates back to a late-19th century opera called La Giaconda by Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886). And the particular part of the opera, i.e. the instrumental to which “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” is set, is entitled “Dance of the Hours”.
There is a remix of this song, if you will, which is called “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! 64”. Allan Sherman put together the said remix to be performed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during the titular year.
To note, the “Camp Granada” mentioned in the lyrics was actually a fictional construct of the author.