Carl Weismann was a self-taught Danish ornithologist and pioneering field recordist.

During his lifetime, Weismann recorded a wealth of material and published a number of recordings on his own record label.

He is perhaps most widely known for the novelty records released under the name ‘The Singing Dogs’. The idea for popular tunes sung by dogs came from field recordings which were ‘spoilt’ by the sounds of dogs barking on the tape. He teamed up with Don Charles, a record producer working in Copenhagen, and they spliced together and arranged the pitches of the dog barks into the tune of the Stephen Foster song “Oh! Susanna”.

RCA Victor released this track in 1955 as the A-side on a 7″ single, with the B-side a medley of “Pat-a-Cake”, “Three Blind Mice”, and “Jingle Bells”. The novelty record became a hit, reaching #22 on the US Billboard Pop Singles chart. In 1983 RCA reissued “Jingle Bells” as a single, becoming a Christmas hit on virtually every radio format. Since then the track has become a fixture during the Christmas and holiday season.

The royalties from Jingle Bells financed Weismann’s far-flung bird recording trips. According to a warmly written obituary in the Journal of Bioacoustics, Weismann was particularly interested in how the sounds of certain bird populations changed over generations. Despite no formal training, Weismann holds an esteemed place in ornithology, and his 60 years’ worth of field recordings are stored in the British Library National Sound Archives.

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Collection 3 #26

Minutes by Carl Weismann