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How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

Pop and country music singer Patti Page achieved the feat of having her first million-selling single, With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming, released in 1950 - but she will forever be remembered for her more famous novelty hit, How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

When she released the "doggie" song in January 1953, it rocketed to the top of the United States' Billboard and Cash Box singles charts, selling more than two million copies. It remained at number one on the Billboard chart for eight weeks and was probably the only chart-topping single in history to feature the sound of dogs barking!

The song was so popular, it reportedly started a craze among children that the media called "yipping" (emitting a high-pitched dog bark) in the school playground.

Record label, Mercury Records, reported fans contacted them asking if they had any puppies needing a home, while the American Kennel Club reported an increase of 8% in its annual registrations, as people rushed out to buy a dog!

Patti Page

 

Background

Born in November 1927, Patti Page was a popular and highly-respected country singer in the 1940s. Escaping her impoverished upbringing in a home with no electricity, the Oklahoma-born star signed for Mercury Records in 1947.

Page, her older sisters and her mother had picked cotton for a living, while her father was a railroad worker. After graduating from Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa in 1947, Page, who had enjoyed singing for fun, auditioned for a spot on KTUL radio station, singing with Al Clauser and his Oklahoma Outlaws.

Jack Rael, a popular saxophone player and band manager, came to Tulsa to play a live gig in 1946 and heard 19-year-old Page on the radio. He liked her voice and asked if she would join his band, the Jimmy Joy Band. She accepted and Rael later became her manager.

Page toured the United States with the band for the remainder of 1946, ending up in Chicago, Illinois, in 1947. She was invited to sing with a live group led by well-known orchestra leader Benny Goodman, resulting in her first recording contract as Mercury Records' main female singer.

 

Hit records

Page soon achieved massive success with a succession of hit records, including her debut, Confess, in 1947. There was a strike at the studio at the time of the recording, so Mercury Records' engineer Bill Putnam used a revolutionary technique of overdubbing Page's voice using new recording technology to provide backing vocals.

This enabled the singer to harmonise with herself on the final recording - a technique subsequently used on her hit singles throughout the 1950s. Confess peaked at number 15 in the US Billboard chart and was followed by her top 20 hit, So in Love, in 1949 and Boogie Woogie Santa Claus in 1950.

The technique of harmonising her own vocals was also used on her million-selling With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming. Further hits followed, such as her number one single Tennessee Waltz, also in 1950, her top five hit Would I Love You in 1951 and three further top ten hits in the same year, including Mister and Mississippi.

 

"Doggie" song

How Much is that Doggie in the Window (commonly known as the "doggie" song) was following the popular trend of the day, with singers releasing a novelty song. Other artists that followed the trend included crooner Bing Crosby with Pistol Packin' Mama and big band singer Merv Griffin's I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

Bob Merrill wrote How Much is that Doggie in the Window in 1952 and credited the barking dog sounds to "Joe and Mac". When the names appeared on the credits, initially they were thought to be real dogs, but later it was suggested they referred to Page's arranger Joe Reisman and a violinist, who had apparently recreated the dog sounds in the studio. The recording also featured the singer's overdubbed harmonies, as she performed the backing vocals too.

As well as topping the charts in the US for eight weeks, it also introduced Page to the UK market, as the song peaked at number nine in the UK singles chart. It reached number one in Australia and in the Radio Luxembourg chart.

After Page's massive success with the novelty song, it became a popular children's ditty and has remained so to this day. The lyrics about wanting to buy the "dog with the waggiest tail" were reworked in the 2004 children's book by Iza Trapani, How Much is that Doggie in the Window.

 

Puppy mills

The lyrics were innocent in 1953, with the narrator asking how much the "doggie in the window" was, adding, "I do hope that doggie's for sale!"

However, later into the 20th century, a change in the perception of dogs for sale associated the song with the scourge of puppy mills, where female dogs were often used as breeding machines to provide puppies for pet shops, making a profit for the breeder.

Page, an animal lover herself, criticised puppy mills in an interview in 2009, saying the answer to the original question, "How much is that doggie in the window?" today is, "Too much."

She said she didn't mean the price tag in pet shops, but in terms of the cost of the suffering for the mother dogs at the puppy mills. She said, "This is where most pet store puppies come from - and that kind of cruelty is too high a price to pay."

Page recorded a new version of the song in 2009, renamed Do You See That Doggie in the Shelter? containing the new lyrics, "Do you see that doggie in the shelter - the one with the 'take me home' eyes? If you give him love and attention, he will be your best friend for life."

The new lyrics were written by Chris Gantry to publicise the adoption of homeless animals from animal shelters. The song's rights were donated to the Humane Society of the United States, so that they could earn money for their animal welfare work.

After Page died in January 2013, at the age of 85, the Humane Society of the US paid tribute to her kindness, writing an online eulogy saying she would be fondly remembered for her "compassion for animals".

If you run a shelter or boarding kennels, or if you have pet dogs yourself, make sure their sleeping environment is warm and comfy with Coruba's high-quality, hygienic animal rubber matting products.

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