1. The Making of “Woodsy the Owl – Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”

Dear Friends….
Today is a special anniversary in my life. Most of you know that I grew up in Southern California not far from Hollywood. Well, it was forty-seven years ago, today, that I recorded and sang “The Ballad of Woodsy The Owl – Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” for the US Department of Agriculture and MGM Records. Those were exciting times. Our band, “Maggie”,(Barry McGuire, Tom Barilier, John Bidasio, Bob Pelli, Dick Davenport and me, had just signed a contract with MGM Records. My mother had a friend who told me about the Woodsy project. Evidently, Smokey the Bear was too busy with forest fires and they needed a new character to help stamp out pollution. And Earth Day was launched that year, as well. So I got together with Mirian Bartoo. Mirian came up with original song idea and we spent several nights making it into the song we eventually recorded -“Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute”. It became the theme song for America’s programs aimed at stopping pollution.

We recorded Woodsy and another song at A&M Studios. I had only been in a recording studio one other time but, now, I was at Herb Alpert’s studio. Very heady times for a new guy in town. The session was to record Woodsy, and, the “B” side of the record which was a song that my partner and I had written. It was called “Who You Gonna Be When You Grow Up”. It was for a children’s rock opera. Our producer was a guy named Joe Saraceno and our engineer was Henry Lewy, who was Joni Mitchell’s producer. A few years later I got to record on one of Joni Mitchell’s albums – what a treat!




Anyway, our producer – Joe Saraceno – had done a lot of surf songs and was a bit rough around the edges. We recorded the instruments, then my lead vocals, then the kids voices. There was a short piano solo in the song and I made the same mistake three times. Joe said, into my earphones, “Kimber, you FUC-!”. The next time I got it right but we weren’t done with Joe’s outbursts quite yet. A couple hours later we started mixing the song and guess what we hear during my solo??? That’s right – “Kimber, you FUC-!”. It stuck out, as Joe would say, like “bulls balls”. We were running out of time and Joe mixed his outburst way back in the mix. But if you ever hear that song on television listen real hard and you’ll hear something besides a children’s song.

After Woodsy we went to work on “Who You Gonna Be”. Being in Herb Alpert’s studio where so many stars had recorded was exciting and thrilling. “Who You Gonna Be” is a pretty song that I had written on a piano. Even though I had never played one, I kept hearing a harpsichord on the track. But, I didn’t have a harpsichord. I asked Henry, who knew everyone in Hollywood, where we could get a harpsichord. He said, “Let me make a call….”. Henry got on the phone and I hear him say, “Hi Burt, It’s Henry……yes, I have a new writer who needs a harpsichord – here, you talk to him.” I took the phone and said, “Hello, this is Dave Kimber and the gentleman on the other end said, “Hi David, this is Burt Bacharach. You can use my harpsichord and I’ll send it ASAP”. And he did. I asked him, “Why was your harpsichord here last night?”. He said the The Carpenters had been using it for a new song. I felt giddy with all of these famous names flying around. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Henry didn’t say, “Hey Dave, John Lennon is on line three.” And I would have to say, “Tell him I’m busy…..”. You can listen to both songs, below:

Woodsy The Owl, “Give A Hoot, Don’t Pollute” Original PSA Video

video

“Who You Gonna Be When You Grow Up”



That night I went to eat on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, at an outdoor health food restaurant. Somehow, this day was simply magical…and the magic just kept happening! A very pretty girl waited on me and within I a few minutes I learned that “Henrietta” was born on my birthday – not just the day, but also the year. That’s never happened again in my life.

Well, before I left for home a shadow came over the patio and I looked up and the Goodyear Blimp was cruising overhead. And under the blimp were flashing lights that spelled out, “Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute”! At that point I just knew that Woodsy and our song was going to be a big success, all over America.

A couple of years later I was driving a group of Girl Scouts to a Woodsy appearance. Without thinking, I threw a small piece of paper out the window of my car – I think it was a gum wrapper. Of course, the girls were horrified. Here I was, the writer and singer of the Woodsy the Owl theme and an ambassador for this country’s anti-pollution efforts – and I was littering! It was an OOPS! moment that always makes me laugh.

PS. Within the next several years the animated cartoon service spot showed thousands of times in every state. If you were a child in those days, you probably knew every word to the Woodsy Song, because they played it so often.

I felt like the most famous guy you’ve never heard of……

Snapshots

Trip to Washington
From left to right: Woodsy, My Partner, Mayor Washington, Earl Butz (Secretary of Agriculture), Dave Kimber.


Woodsy’s First Appearance in The Rose Parade

19 thoughts on “1. The Making of “Woodsy the Owl – Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute”

  1. Dave- what year are you referencing for the Woodsy song? Oh, I just did the math- 2019 minus 47 equals 1972. Am I right? Independent Recorders in Studio city had an in -house Baldwin electronic harpsichord circa 1971 if I remember correctly.
    I you were given an acetate it should be gilded or bronzed and proudly hung in the entrance way of your abode.

    Were there any promotional 45s printed of the song to be handed out at schools? Do you still have an acetate or mixed down 1/4 inch reel? If so it should be bronzed or gilded and proudly hung in the entrance was of your abode. John Poole

  2. Dave, we’ll, your finally publishing at least one of your great stories to share! Thank you, even though your life’s work is most worthy of a book full !
    Happy anniversary day Mr. Sunshine & many more ?❤️?

  3. This was a great read. I am often amazed at what different CV alumni accomplished. What year was Woodsey’s first appearsnce in the Rose Parade?

  4. My family lived in Montrose right up the street from your family. I remember the neighborhood kids and I got to learn the song and did a practice recording at your house. So glad it was such a hit for you !!!

  5. Dave,

    This is a great article. I love hearing your stories about Hollywood and the entertainment business. You are one of the most talented people I knoq. You’re a great friend and it’s been a pleasure to work with you on many projects through the years.

    God Bless,
    Dennis Freeman

  6. My uncle’s music is the soundtrack of my early childhood. He and Elton John were equals in my eyes & ears. I vividly recall the day he introduced me to to Woodsy in the back yard of his parents’ home. I did not recall that “Who are gonna be” was the B-side, but I didn’t read the title as most people might in this article. I sang it! Such a sweet memory for me and I had NO idea it had such celebrity ties! To me, Uncle David and his partner were the celebrities. Kimber Tales are still my favorite collection of stories and no one tells them better than Kimber brothers.

  7. Happy birthday Dave!

    I knew you performed the Woodsy the Owl song and appeared in the first Crocodile Dundee movie, but the background story is great. Indeed it was magical!

    It’s also magical that you married one of the best people in the planet, my friend Pam. Your two kids are extra special too. Although you’ve had ups and downs, I think you’ll agree how blessed you’ve been. Just think, the best is yet to come!
    Happy birthday again!

  8. I remember the first time I met you .You came into my Stardom office on Ballenger Rd. You told me you had just moved here from Australia . We talked for quite awhile, that is when I learned you had written Woodsy The Owl and that you had been on TV as Music Director there. I was very impressed about the knowledge you had of the Music Business.There is as you know a difference between Music and the Business. It was refreshing to talk to someone locally that knew the difference. You are One of the Must Talented Men I have ever met and I am proud to call you my Friend.

  9. Dave I know how talented you are. I have bought some great tapes from you. I wish You had another tape where you described animals and your daughter helped with one song about the alligator. I would buy a couple more. And the History one that was a lesson about the United States. My Granddaughter loved that. She was an honor student at Davison and got a full ride from Uof M Flint for four years. We need some more of the same. Love your music and your voice is so beautiful.

  10. Dave, I remember “Woodsy” the Owl, and the song. I look forward to hearing more stories from your past adventures. Take care.

  11. Holy Cow, David. This is just a marvelous teaser for what we all know will be a wonderful and widely appreciated and well-read book on your amazingly fortuitous and serendipitous life. Keep it up, Brother, you’ve got so much more to say!!! So, so glad you’ve been in my life. Let the words and love flow!!!!

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