Ross Bagdasarian Sr. - the Armenian genius behind “Alvin and the Chipmunks"

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. - the Armenian genius behind “Alvin and the Chipmunks

PanARMENIAN.Net - Much has been said and written about Ross Bagdasarian Sr. - American pianist, musician, actor, voice actor, and record producer of Armenian descent - who is the genius behind “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, the animated music group that has retained its unique place in the American TV and film industry for many decades now.

PanARMENIAN.Net decided to dig into the life and career of the man standing behind one of the cutest singing creatures, who inspired generations of Chipmunk lovers across the world to this day. By the way, it was on this exact day (October 4) 56 years ago that "The Alvin Show" - featuring the singing characters "Alvin and the Chipmunks" - premiered.

Bagdasarian, a.k.a. David Seville, created the show in the late 1950s, having by that time already achieved some success with comic songs.

According to Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., the songwriter’s son who went on to inherit the Chipmunk franchise, Bagdasarian, Jr spent the last dollars that the family had at one point to buy a tape recorder. It was then that he found the squeaky-voiced gimmick which ultimately made him famous.

Ross Sr. was born Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian to Fresno-based Dick and Virginia (nėe Saroyan) Bagdasarian, Armenian immigrants from the Ottoman Empire, who had miraculously escaped the Hamidian massacres prior to the Genocide of 1915.

In the period leading up to the chipmunk era, the Armenian-American entertainer collaborated with his cousin, playwright William Saroyan to co-write “Come On-A My House,” which hit #1 for Rosemary Clooney in 1951.

Also, he acted on Broadway and appeared in classic films such as Billy Wilder’s “Stalag” 17 (1953) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), sharing screen time with Hitch himself in the latter.

But none of these brought him the fame which came after a chance encounter with a chipmunk that jumped in front of his car and inspired the main character, Alvin.

Bagdasarian later added Simon and Theodore, all of them named after Liberty Record executives, Alvin S. Bennett, Simon Waronker and Theodore Keep. The three were joined by their “adoptive father, confidant, and songwriter” David Seville (Seville is actually named after Bagdasarian’s stage name.)

The result of the overwhelming success that followed was that Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1958 and the first-ever Grammy for Best Comedy Performance in 1959 (Best Comedy Album) went to Ross Sr. for his timeless classic “The Chipmunk Song.”

After Bagdasarian’s untimely death from a sudden heart attack at the age of 52, The Chipmunks remained on hold until Ross, Jr. and his wife, Janice Karman tried to revive the series.

They finally succeeded in bringing Ross Sr’s legacy back to TV screens, when in 1983, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” launched on NBC and Ross, Jr, following in his father’s tradition, voiced the characters of Alvin, Simon and David Seville.

The series ran through 1990, only to come back to cinema in 2007, when a film dedicated to the elder Bagdasarian was released.

The end credits read: “This film is dedicated to Ross Bagdasarian Sr., who was crazy enough to invent three singing chipmunks nearly fifty years ago.”

Srbuhy Martirosyan / PanARMENIAN.Net
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