Witch Doctor

Album: Alvin And The Chipmunks (1958)
Charted: 11 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • David Seville, whose real name was Ross Bagdasarian, was the creator of Alvin And The Chipmunks, a group made up of three animated chipmunks, which were really human voices pitched up to make them sound like small furry creatures.

    Seville got the vocal effect by recording his voice into a tape recorder that was slowed to half speed and then playing it back at normal speed. "Witch Doctor" was his first song to use the technique, and at that point there were no "Chipmunks." (The squeaky voice was the witch doctor and had no physical form - Seville hadn't created the characters yet and used his own name for the recording).

    Seville was a successful songwriter by the time he released this track as his first single - he had written the Rosemary Clooney hit "Come on-a My House" and a popular instrumental called "Armen's Theme."

    "Witch Doctor" was a huge hit, going to US #1 in April 1958 and staying for three weeks. Soon after, Seville created three distinct voices and branded his act "The Chimpmunks." Later that year, he released "The Chipmunk Song" which went to #1 for four weeks and became a Christmas favorite. Alvin And The Chipmunks got their own TV show (The Alvin Show) in 1961, again in 1983 (Alvin and the Chipmunks), and once again in 2015 (ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks). Several movies have also appeared, starting with The Chipmunk Adventure in 1987.
  • This song is the story of a gentleman seeking some help from a witch doctor in order to impress a woman he has fallen in love with. The wise witch doctor offers some words of advice in order to help the gentleman win the woman's heart by saying, "Oo ee, oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang." It was said to be a call for love.
  • Sha Na Na recorded this, as did a Danish pop group known as Cartoons. Devo also covered it for the 1998 Rugrats Movie. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo worked on the music for the film. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Margaret - Worcester, MA, for above 2
  • While it's quite a stretch to think of this tune as R&B, it was a #1 R&B hit. Many R&B chart toppers of the day were comedic or novelty recordings, including "Get A Job" by The Silhouettes and "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters.
  • Seville got the idea for this song from a story called Duel with a Witch Doctor, which was written by Jan de Hartog and published in Reader's Digest Condensed Books in 1957.
  • Some of the many uses of this song in the media include the TV shows The Simpsons and The Muppet Show, and the movie Homeward Bound.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 9

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 4th 1958, David Seville performed "Witch Doctor" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    One month earlier on April 8th, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart; and April 22nd, 1958 it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Best Sellers chart and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    As already stated it reached #1 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart, that was on May 20th, 1958 for one week...
    He had five other charted records under the name David Seville; "Armen's Theme" (#42 in 1957), "Gotta Get To Your House" (#77 in 1957), "The Bird On My Head" (#34 in 1958), "Little Brass Band" (#78 in 1958), and "Judy" (#86 in 1959)...
    Mr. Seville, born Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian, passed away on January 16th, 1972 at the young age of 52 (heart attack)...
    May he R.I.P.
  • James from Norfolk, VaGoes to show you that playing around (experimenting with) with recording equipment will lead to some interesting contributions to musicmaking like backmasking, iterative sounds and words, soundbites, sampling, synth sounds, distortions, subliminal sounds, multitonality, etc. + The scatting from Witch Doctor shows up concealed in the very last song in Grease. + Sometime after making this song, David Seville was driving his car donw a country road and came across a chipmunk that was sitting in the middle of the road. David tried to get it to move out of the way, but the rodent held his ground defiantly. That's how he came up with chipmunks being the animals of choice for his next hit record.
  • Michael from Mcfarland, WiFans of this great man know that this is NOT his first single. He had a very interesting career before his breakthrough with this big hit.
  • Stolf from Ogdensburg , NyThe question of whether "Witch Doctor" was a chipmunk song was addressed on "The Alvin Show." Dave is showing the boys ceremonial masks, and Alvin asks if they can sing "Witch Doctor." Dave replies: "I don't think so, fellas...I made that record once." Alvin insists: "Yeah, but not with us, c'mon!" And so they do. So it wasn't, then it was, I guess you could say. (You can see this clip on Youtube...I just did.)
  • Mike from Franklin County, PaDavid Seville made the voice of the the Witch Doctor in the bathroom of his own house . He used a tape recorder that takes round - wheel tapes , and recorded his own voice while singing the lyrics ; then he would play it back on fast - forward , making his voice sound like chipmunks. He used this same technique to make the voices of Alvin , Simon and Theodore .
  • G. from Newport News, VaQuagmire used this all-too-familiar phrase as a ha-ha in your face jibe during the recent Family Guy ep, "You may now kiss the...whoever receives."
  • Ruy from Rio De Janeiro, BrazilMark is absolutely right. "Witch Doctor" was released in 1958 in the name of David Saville. The Chipmunk craze started in 1959, first through the hit of "Alvin's Harmonica", then with the follower "Ragtime Cowboy Joe", in the same year, and always in the same label (Liberty Records).
  • Ed from Canton, OhI had this album. Did I say that out loud?
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhUh, I remember this when it came out, and I don't think that it was ever credited to The Chipmunks, at least not at the time. That is, Ross B. certainly produced and sang the thing, and he was also The Chipmunks, but I don't believe that either Alvin or the other characters were ever associated with Witch Doctor. It wouldn't have made any sense: we're supposed to be hearing the voice of a witch doctor in this effort, not small rodents.
see more comments

Francis Rossi of Status QuoSongwriter Interviews

Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.

Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock PhotographySong Writing

One of rock's top photographers talks about artistry in photography, raising funds for a documentary, and enjoying a County Fair with Tom Waits.

John Doe of XSongwriter Interviews

With his X-wife Exene, John fronts the band X and writes their songs.

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.

Joan ArmatradingSongwriter Interviews

The revered singer-songwriter talks inspiration and explains why she put a mahout in "Drop the Pilot."

Curt Kirkwood of Meat PuppetsSongwriter Interviews

The (Meat)puppetmaster takes us through songs like "Lake Of Fire" and "Backwater," and talks about performing with Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged.