This is great — Kookaburra pointed to a fascinating article about the origins and history of “Wimoweh” (more popularly known as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) called Where does the lion sleep tonight? that I’ve been browsing off and on for the past hour in breaks between jobs. Lots of neat tidbits in the article.
Like [the Weavers’] earlier recordings, it took place with Gordon Jenkins presiding and an orchestra in attendance. Prior to this, Jenkins had been very subdued in his instrumental approach, adding just the occasional sting and the odd swirl of strings to the Weavers’ cheery singalongs. Maybe he was growing bored, because his arrangement of “Wimoweh” was a great Vegas-y explosion of big-band raunch that almost equalled the barbaric splendour of the Zulu original. Trombones blared. Trumpets screamed. Strings swooped and soared through Solomon’s miracle melody. And then Pete [Seeger] cut loose with all that hollering and screaming. It was a startling departure from everything else the Weavers had ever done, but Billboard loved it, anointing it a Pick of the Week. Cash Box said, “May easily break”. Variety said, “Terrific!”