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Jim Timmens

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Jim Timmens, right, accepts a Grammy, along with Christopher Cerf, for Aren't You Glad You're You?

Jim Timmens (born James Francis Timmens; 1920-1980) was a music arranger, conductor, and composer who was a key contributor to Sesame Street records for over a decade. As musical director of the children's division of Columbia Records, Timmens, like his colleague Arthur Shimkin, was involved from the start. On 1970's The Sesame Street Book & Record and several other early titles, Timmens was sound editor, especially when soundtrack material from the show was used. He was also credited for "studio control," or essentially supervising the recording sessions (and by 1975, he was billed specifically as director of recording). He stayed on when Sesame Street Records formed, and apart from the Sesame records, he edited the 1974 Electric Company album.

On the 1977 album Aren't You Glad You're You?, Timmens was the musical director (a title he'd retain on several subsequent albums) and shared the Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children with producer Christopher Cerf. On Big Bird Leads the Band, Timmens composed, conducted, and arranged all of the songs, including original tracks like "Four Fun" as well as arranging traditional children's tunes such as "Frere Jacques" for a full orchestra. Although he received producer credit on a few singles, Timmens now held the title on several albums, including The Sesame Street Fairy Tale Album (also directing the music and arranging "Attila the Hen" and others), Sleepytime Bird (again songwriting and arranging), Bob Sings!, Sesame Street Story Time, and At Home with Ernie and Bert.

By 1979, Timmens work was finally heard on the show itself, when he co-wrote the song "Zig Zag Dance." For his final major contribution, Big Bird's Birdtime Stories in 1980, Timmens produced and wrote the script. Jim Timmens died in 1980, but his name occasionally cropped up on later albums, such as Bert & Ernie: Side By Side (1981), for his editing work.

Early in his musical career, Timmens studied with the German composer Stefan Wolpe. He joined the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra in 1952, playing percussion (which he would return to on select Sesame albums). Within a few years, he was doing arrangements for the group, as well as for the NBC radio series Bandstand (1956-1957) and The Steve Allen Show on television.[1] Between 1959 and 1960, for Warner Bros. Records, Timmens made four "Revisited" albums, tackling Gilbert & Sullivan, Show Boat, Porgy & Bess, and spirituals (Hallelujah! Spirituals in Stereo). The records presented jazz arrangements of the familiar songs, and the band included Doc Severinsen, Al Klink, and Mel Davis.

By 1959, Timmens had shifted to children's records, working for Golden. The first took advantage of his jazz background, A Child's Introduction to Jazz (1959), with Bob Keeshan narrating. More "Child's Introduction" titles followed, including A Child's Introduction to Outer Space (1959). Timmens replaced Mitch Miller as Golden's musical director around 1961, working on albums featuring Popeye, Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat, Woody Woodpecker, and many Hanna-Barbera characters, including "Pebbles' Lullaby" for The Flintstones. He composed and conducted music for Danny Kaye on a 1962 Grimm's Fairy Tales album and, the same year, conducted and arranged A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh songs. Concurrent with his recording work, Timmens was the primary composer for Terrytoons from 1964 until 1971, working particularly on the Astronut, Sad Cat, and James Hound animated shorts. He also spent a stint working for the Radio City Music Hall.

When Golden founder Arthur Shimkin moved to Columbia Records in 1967, Timmens followed, serving as musical director of the Columbia Children's Book and Record Library, writing and arrangings songs and score for Cinderella, The Bible, Oliver Twist, Don Quixote, and Pinocchio. Even after his Sesame tenure began, Timmens continued to work on other albums on occasion,serving as mixing consultant on the 1972 Mister Rogers album Come On and Make Up and scored a series of ghost stories for Troll Records in 1973.



  1. Showboat Revisited by Jim Timmens and His Orchestra. Liner notes. 1959.

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