Thursday, April 21, 2011


above: the classic 1947 "Tubby the Tuba" cartoon

Tubby the Tuba is a classic tale that helps introduce young people to the orchestra. The story revolves around Tubby, a Tuba who feels left out because he doesn't ever get to play the melody. Tubby then goes down to the river to sulk where he meets a singing bullfrog who teaches him a tune. Very proud of his new tune, Tubby goes back to the orchestra to show everyone that he can sing too. At first Tubby is scoffed at, but after the other instruments hear his tune they join in. 

Tubby has become synonymous with Tuba even outside of musical circles. My own parents (whom I love dearly but don't have a musical bone in their bodies) know Tubby. This song was a big hit in it's day that was turned into this short cartoon in 1947 and then a feature length film in 1975. 

The song was inspired shortly after world war II, when Paul Tripp and George Kleinsinger had debuted another song. After the performance a Tuba player supposedly said "I can sing too!" and this was the genesis of the Tubby story. The story was written by Paul Tripp and the music was composed by George Kleinsinger.

Another important fact about Tubby is that while it is a comical children's story, it is also somewhat true. The most well known (in my opinion) piece of Tuba solo literature is the Ralph Vaughan Williams Concerto for Bass Tuba. This piece was not debuted until 1954. Solo music for Tubas was slim at best during this time period, aside from transcriptions. This is sort of to be expected as the Tuba has only existed for about 200 years, which is relatively young when compared to other instruments found in the orchestra. 
Tubby also breaks the unfortunate stereotype that Tubas can only "oompah." 

My favorite recording of Tubby is:
Am I wrong, or does Tubby look just like Tommy Johnson (who plays him on this recording)
Here is an NPR story from All Things Considered in 2002 after the passing of Paul Tripp:

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