July 7, 2014

Ray Stevens: Butch Babarian, Yodel Champion...

Hello July and hello to all the fans of Ray Stevens that happen to stop by at some point. As the title of this blog entry indicates I'm going to discuss a little bit about an obscure novelty single from Ray that came along 50 years ago in 1964. Some sources state that "Butch Babarian" came calling in 1963 but I've seen some internet sources claim 1964...but I've always mentioned 1964 as the year it hit because a singles price guide I have has it listed under that year. Since I have more faith in a price guide I'll continue to refer to this song's year of release as 1964. Unfortunately, though, many single releases never had a year of release printed on the label...and so there's always going to be assumption and speculation filling in the gaps of when a single actually hit the market compared to when the song itself happened to be recorded.

Now then...who exactly is this Babarian fellow?? He's a mountain climbing yodeling champion residing in the Swiss Alps. He has a dog named Houston. The song is about Butch's yodeling exercises atop a mountain and the incident that occurs one day as he was yodeling his heart's content in all directions: East, West, North, and South. During his yodel in the southern direction...the incident happens. He's taken to the hospital and is operated on and is given a special device to use from that day forward anytime he climbs a mountain to yodel. Now then...just what served as the inspiration for the character?? None other than Busch Bavarian Beer. An ad campaign for the beer that ran in the late '50s and into the '60s featured heavy use of yodelers, Germans, Austrians, and of course the mountain terrain. Busch beer used to be branded Busch Bavarian. The illustration of the Bavarian Alps still exists on labels of modern-day Busch beer cans and beer bottles but the branding named has long since changed from including Bavarian in the title.

Busch Bavarian Beer

You can hear the Busch Bavarian Beer jingle beginning at the 12 minute, 57 second mark in the video clip. It's a promotional video lasting more than 45 minutes and so, if you're only curious as to the inspiration for Ray's opening to "Butch Babarian" and a glimpse into the reason that the song is set in the sort of climate and locale it's set in, simply jump to the point in the video that I indicated.

The song didn't reach the Hot 100 pop singles chart in spite of the fact that the subject matter and the target of the parody would've been very familiar to people at the time. As far as I know there was very little publicity from the record company surrounding this release...I've researched and came up with nothing remotely close to being a promotional ad for the song. It's very comical and cute...not anything severe or savage. One of the interesting things that I came across is that Mercury Records issued at one least one series of singles in which the label contained an error in the title. The label has the song's title being Butch Babarrian...using the letter 'R' twice in the last name rather than using it just once. I'll post that image later in the blog entry. One of the things I come across as I browse the internet are people that mistakenly refer to the character's last name as 'Barbarian'. It's natural to see "Butch Babarian" and, reading it quickly, misread it as Butch Barbarian. The character's last name is pronounced and spelled 'Babarian' for a reason...to rhyme with Bavarian. Of course, if one has no idea about the Busch Bavarian beer commercials from the past, you'll have no idea of the song's original inspiration. You can hear the song on a couple of compilation projects by Mercury Records that have been issued on Ray Stevens. It's available on the Mercury collection The Best of Ray Stevens and some of the more obscure compilations originating from overseas.

Here's the image featuring the erroneous spelling...click the image for a bigger view...


  1. Thanks for the post. It's such a random song in his catalog with no obvious inspiration...unless you knew about the beer. As to the misspelling, it has a U instead of an A! Love the subtitle too..."sure footed mountain climber and world champion yodeler"

    1. Every so often I'll pick some random song from his career to blog about. Sometimes it's deliberate...such as "Butch Babarian" due to it's being 50 this year. I didn't notice the "U" on the single's label until later on...the thing that caught my eye first were the 2 R's in the last name.

  2. I'm looking for Carolyn Dezurik's version of the Busch Bavarian jingle and can't find it anywhere.It's my understanding she did the commercial around the early 60's or maybe the late 50's. She is the yodeler in the jingle. The Dezurik Sisters were very popular in the late 30's and all through the 40's. They were regulars on the Grand Ol Opry. Carolyn stayed on singing in the 50's but with her husbands polka band. Do you have any info on this?


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