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Ever since the early days of Sam and Friends, music has been an integral part of Muppet performances. However, during the early years, the Muppets were only lip-syncing to other artists' records. It was not until the advent of Sesame Street, and the release of records of music from the show, that the full potential of writing, performing, and recording original Muppet-related music began to be realized.
During the years that Columbia Records was making Sesame Street records, the soundtracks from The Frog Prince and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen were released. These were packaged in a similar format, with gatefold covers and pictures of scenes from the specials on the inside. The two albums were reissued in 1976 on Sesame Street Records with non-gatefold covers, and slightly different artwork.
Unlike the Sesame Street recordings, which were kept in print for up to ten years at a time on whichever label currently held their license, other Muppet recordings have been under very short-term agreements, sometimes only for one or two albums from a TV show or other production. As a result, many labels have released Muppet music. In 1976, when The Muppet Show began, a deal was struck with Pye Records in the UK, and Arista Records in the US, to release records of music from the program. The Pye records are very desirable for collectors, since some of the artwork is different, some titles have extra songs, and some titles were never released in the United States (see below for details).
A similar deal was struck with Atlantic Records in the US to release the soundtrack albums from the first two Muppet theatrical movies. However, in the UK and various other countries, The Muppet Movie's album was released by CBS Records. Then for The Great Muppet Caper, UK distribution had changed to Warner Bros. Records.
By 1982, US Muppet recordings had moved from Atlantic to Warner, and they put out everything from movie soundtracks (including The Dark Crystal) to an exercise album by Miss Piggy. This recording showcased how much her character had grown since she had begun on The Muppet Show, to the point that she could carry an entire album by herself. Also during this period, RCA Records released two albums from specials that had featured Muppet Show guest star John Denver.
Concurrently with the Warner material, in the early 1980's, an actual record label called Muppet Music was formed, to be distributed by I.J.E., a record company that was releasing records by Strawberry Shortcake, Schoolhouse Rock, and other children's properties. This label released soundtracks to various Muppet projects, including the first Fraggle Rock album, another album of songs from The Muppet Show, as well as nine 7" book and record/tape sets. However, this arrangement, similar to what had been done with the Sesame Street records from 1974 to 1983, only lasted for about two years, and by 1986, other than some reissues of earlier material, there would be no more original Muppet records released during Jim Henson's lifetime.
Other than A Christmas Together being reissued on CD for the first time in 1990, Muppet music was dormant until 1992, when a new deal was struck to form a label called Jim Henson Records, to be distributed by BMG, the parent of RCA. This turned out to be the most prolific period for Muppet music since Jim's death, with new and reissued movie soundtracks, compilations of Muppet Show songs (including some tracks never released in the US before), original albums of country and pop music, and even an album performed by Rowlf the Dog, which had been recorded back in 1984, but never released until now.
Unfortunately, after only two years, the Muppets again found themselves without a label, and during the next ten years they would bounce from label to label for various movie soundtracks, reissues and compilations.
With the purchase of the Muppets by The Walt Disney Company in 2004, the Muppets finally found some stability. Their soundtracks and original albums would now be released by Walt Disney Records, the music division of the studio.