Dawg Meets Duck

David Grisman

Seasons Greetings! For this year's Christmas column, I thought I'd tell the tale of how I met the world's most famous duck and how he came to sing (that is, quack) on my now legendary Christmas album David Grisman's Acoustic Christmas [Rounder).

Years ago, while thumbing through the biography of Walt Disney's inimitable Donald Duck [Ed. Note: Among his many otber interests, David is an aficionado of vintage cartoon art.], I came across a photograph of a man in a sombrero, strumming a Gibson F-4 mandolin. When I read the text, I learned that this mandolin player was none other than Mr. Clarence Nash, who became known throughout the world as the incredible voice of Donald Duck!

It seemed that Mr. Nash began his show business career as a mandolin picker in vaudeville. Later he incorporated animal and bird imitations into his act; and then one night he was heard on the radio by Walt Disney, who was looking for a voice for one of the newest Disney cartoon creations. Even though Clarence's crazy-sounding voice was supposed to be a goat-well, you know how things turned out.

After a little research (thanks to my journalist-wife), I found myself talking on the telephone to a friendly man in his seventies, who did indeed start his career as a mandolin player. Although Clarence Nash sounded like a normal human throughout our conversation, his closing line confirmed what I knew to be true: "Well, so long, David. Nice talking to you." It was the voice!

Shortly thereafter, we met in person, first when Clarence came to visit at a performance by the Here Today band, and later when I paid a call on "Ducky" at his home. There he showed me his old three point F-4 mandolin, and reminisced about mandolin playing and his long associationÑthen still quite activeÑwith Disney.

About a year later, while finishing my Christmas album, I had one of those rare flashes of vision, and imagined an arrangement of the perennial favorite, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," featuring Clarence on vocal and myself on mandolin. Fortunately, "Ducky" liked the idea, and thanks to the kind permission of the Disney studios, Clarence and I met in a recording studio two hours before the record was to be mastered, and recorded our little arrangement.

The only catch was that the Disney executives insisted Clarence not be credited on the album. Therefore, no one realized that it was the real Donald Duck doing the singing. In fact, a lot of folks thought it was me! Sadly, Mr. Nash passed away a couple of years later, and so now I'd like you all to know that it was, in fact, Donald Duck himself on the Acoustic Christmas album.

Now for some music: Here's the simple mandolin accompaniment I played with the one and only. Happy holidays, and be good for goodness' sake!

Traditional Arrangement. Copyright 1983 David Grisman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.