Jimmie Dodd & The Mickey Mouse March

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me?

If you’re a longtime fan of Disney, I’m sure you know what comes next. You can probably hear the melody in your head.

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

The Mickey Mouse March first paraded onto televisions across the United States on October 3, 1955. The song served as the theme for the Mickey Mouse Club, a program that debuted a few months after the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. The show lasted an hour and featured a cast of “Mouseketeers” who sang songs and performed skits in-between Disney cartoons and Disney Newsreels. 

Each week featured a different theme, and included serials like The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Secret of Mystery Lake, and Annette (a segment featuring Annette Funicello as Annette McLoud, a poor orphan from the country who moves to the big city). 

Funicello became one of the show’s biggest stars, as did Bobby Burgess and Cubby O’Brien. Other Mouseketeers included Karen Pendleton, Darlene Gillespie, Tommy Cole, and Lonnie Burr, to name just a few. 

Jimmie Dodd acted as MC and “Head Mouseketeer”. An actor, singer, and songwriter, Dodd actually penned the Mickey Mouse March. A 2016 article from WCPO in Cincinnati noted, “Jimmie Dodd really was the leader of the club. He was its songwriter, its singer, its host, and its soul — the man Walt Disney rubber-stamped to emcee his variety show (1955-59) for kids after hearing just one composition by the Cincinnatian: ‘The Pencil Song.’”

Let’s get to know the wonderful Mr. Dodd a little better.

Hey There, Hi There, Ho There…

Jimmie Dodd Playing Guitar

Born on March 28, 1910, Dodd grew up in Cincinnati. His parents divorced while he was still young. After the split, Dodd’s father, who played the violin and sang on WLW-AM radio for a decade, moved a few houses away and began working at a music store. Against that backdrop, it seems inevitable that Jimmie would develop a passion for songwriting.

By high school, he was playing banjo, a skill he would put to use in a local dance band while attending the University of Cincinnati. During this time he also began performing on the radio. 

After spending time at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, he moved to Florida. His official biography on D23 notes, “His first professional job was playing guitar and singing his own songs for a St. Petersburg, Florida, radio station. He later appeared with bandleader Louis Prima.” As a fun side note, Prima would later perform his own piece of iconic Disney music in the song ‘I Wanna Be Like You.’ It was Prima who provided the voice of King Louie in The Jungle Book. 

Dodd eventually found his way to California in 1937. Three years later, he made his silver screen debut as Evans in the comedy “Those Were the Days!” starring William Holden and Bonita Granville. 

In 1940, he married Ruth Carroll who became his performing partner. They entertained frequently at USO shows. Beginning in 1943, they appeared in North Africa, before moving to the China/Burma/India Theater in late 1944.  

Over the next 15 years, he would appear in a staggering 77 films. Contacts made during the overseas tours helped him break into television, first with Arthur Godfrey and later with Jinx Falkenburg.

He was hospitalized in 1951 and the expense proved a significant burden on his and Ruth’s finances. By a stroke of luck, a songwriting contest was held to find an “official” song for Washington D.C. The local history site Boundary Stones, run by the D.C.-based public broadcasting station WETA, writes, “ James H. Simon, a TV and radio salesman native to Georgetown, related his plight of having to attend business conferences and feeling left out each time all the state songs were played. “It’s almost a contest. The Texans even bring guns to shoot off when they sing ‘The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.’ On Jan. 17, 1951, his letter to the editor bemoaning the state of things was published in The Washington Post…Thus, Simon proposed a solution: a nationwide “Song for Washington” contest (sponsored by Motorola, Simon’s wholesale dealer) to find an anthem worthy of the Nation’s Capital. The Washington Post jumped on the idea the very same day with an editorial endorsement.”

Dodd entered the contest and his song was declared the winner. As the winner, he was awarded $1000, money that he sorely needed.

Sometime in the mid-50s, Dodd’s friend Bill Justice from Walt Disney Studios contacted him. He mentioned that Walt needed a song written about a pencil. D23 wrote of the incident, “So Jimmie wrote and personally performed a little “pencil” ditty for Walt, which won him his role on the Mickey Mouse Club. According to Santoli, Walt suddenly proclaimed, “Hey, Jim is the one who should be on the Mickey Mouse Club!”

The Leader of the Club

Dodd’s output was prolific during the Mickey Mouse Club’s four-year run. He penned 22 songs for the show before it even began filming, including We Are the Merry Mouseketeers, Here Comes The Circus, and of course, The Mickey Mouse March.

For Mouseketeers who may need a little refresher, the lyrics were as follows:

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me?

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Hey there, hi there, ho there

You’re as welcome as can be

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse

Forever let us hold our banner high

High, high, high

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse club

We’ll have fun, we’ll be new faces

High, high, high, high

We’ll do things and we’ll go places

All around the world

We’ll go marching

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Hey there, hi there, ho there

You’re as welcome as can be

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse

Forever let us hold our banner high

High, high, high

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

The song, as originally written, was a simple march written in 2/4 time. Of course, numerous renditions have appeared over the years. A disco version was made for The New Mickey Mouse Club, which ran from 1977 to1979, and a pop version was used for The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (1989-1996). A variation on the song also appeared in the social media series dubbed Club Mickey Mouse (2017-2018). 

Through its longevity, it has become one of the most recognizable Disney melodies, instantly recognizable around the world.  It is simultaneously a symbol of the joy and laughter brought about by Mickey Mouse and the creativity, camaraderie, and charm of the Mickey Mouse Club. 

As the show’s host, Dodd quickly became a full-blown Disney celebrity. WCPO noted, “Dodd’s ride with the Mouseketeers lasted 10 years (1955-64), five on a live show on weekdays; two as a Disney promoter and leader of two live Mouse Club tours in Australia, and two as host of syndicated “Mouse Club” reruns.” In addition, he appeared in the brief-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus at Disneyland, where he served as Ring Master. 

On the Mickey Mouse Club, he was known for performing on his four-string, tenor guitar (dubbed a Mousegetar), and for the brief messages he delivered at the end of each episode which served to impart a simple, moral lesson to the viewers. They became known as “Doddisms”, and one of his favorites came from the French philosopher Etienne de Grolier, who said, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there by any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” 

Though he died in 1964, a few years after the show’s original run ended, he left behind a monumental amount of work. In addition to his 77 movie credits, he appeared in 332 episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club and wrote 525 songs. Most importantly, Dodd’s memory lives on in the hearts of Mouseketeers young and old around the world.  

An article on the page ‘The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show, states, “It was Mickey’s club and Walt’s studio, but it was Jimmie’s show. He was the indispensable cast member who tied everything together, day to day, season to season.”

For their part, D23 wrote, “ With his trusty “Mousegetar” in hand, the singer, songwriter, musician, dancer, and actor was a friend to children across the nation. He often transferred his infectious spirit through Doddisms, delightful instruction on the principles of good living, which he shared on each show to “help us all be better Mouseketeers.”

While both are fitting tributes to the man who brought music to the Mickey Mouse Club, it seems most fitting to pay tribute and end with his own words:

Now Mouseketeers

there’s one thing we want you

always to remember.

Come along and sing our song

and join our family

M-I-C

K-E-Y

M-O-U-S-E

Through the years we’ll all

be friends

wherever we may be.

M-I-C

K-E-Y

M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

forever let us hold our

banner high.

Now its time to say goodbye

to all our company.

M-I-C

Spoken:

see you real soon

K-E-Y

Spoken:

why? because we like you

M-O-U-S-E.

Jimmie Dodd and the Mickey Mouse Club

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s