Bratton, John (1867-1947)

John Walter Bratton was an American Tin Pan Alley composer and theatrical producer who became popular during the era known as the Gay Nineties. Raised by his grandmother, Mary Bratton, in New Castle, Delaware, near Wilmington, John Walter Bratton (sometimes spelled Bratten) was the son of John F. and Emma Bratton, of whom little is known. He was educated at the Harkness Academy in Wilmington and later attended the Philadelphia College of Music before embarking on a career as a baritone singer.

"The Teddy Bears' Picnic" is a song written in 1907 with lyrics added by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in 1932. It remains popular as a children's song, having been recorded by numerous artists over the decades. Kennedy lived at Staplegrove Elm and is buried in Staplegrove Church, Taunton, Somerset, England. Local folklore has it that the small wooded area between the church and Staplegrove Scout Hut was the inspiration for his lyrics.

The first recording of the piece was by the Edison Symphony Orchestra, made at Edison Records' "New York Recording Department" studio, 79 Fifth Avenue, New York City, in November 1907 and was released as Edison two-minute cylinder 9777 in March 1908, as announced on page 3 of the January 1908 issue of The Edison Phonograph Monthly (vol. VI, no. 1). Arthur Pryor's Band made the work's first disc recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey, on 14 September 1908. Take 2 from that session was released in November 1908 as Victor single-faced disc 5594 and as side A of the company's first double-faced disc 16001, with the title on the label reading "The Teddy Bears' Picnic/Descriptive Novelty". An early UK recording was made by the Black Diamonds Band for Zonophone records in 1908.

The first vocal version was recorded in 1932 on BBC Radio by Henry Hall with his BBC Orchestra, with Val Rosing singing Kennedy's lyrics. The song has subsequently been recorded by numerous notable artists, including: Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby (recorded 22 June 1950), Frank DeVol, Michael Feinstein, Jerry Garcia, John Inman, Anne Murray, and Dave Van Ronk. Notable non-solo artists to record the song include the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Rosenshontz, and Trout Fishing in America.

The 1932 Henry Hall recording was of especially good quality with a large tonal range. It was used for more than 30 years by BBC audio engineers (up until the early 1960s) to test and calibrate the frequency response of audio equipment.

Teddy Bears' Picnic

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Teddy Bears' Picnic
Brattan / Jones