This novelty song was originally recorded by an American singer named David Dante, whose real name was David Hess (he also recorded as David Hill). Dante wrote the song with the songwriters Buddy Kaye and Ethel Lee.
Pat Boone heard the song on a trip to the Philippines, where he was performing. Upon returning to America, he recorded the song and it became an unlikely hit: backed by "The Locket," it peaked at #6 in US and made #2 UK. The song's original singer, David Hess, later appeared in a number of horror movies, including The Last House on the Left and Swamp Thing.
Speedy Gonzales is a cartoon character - the fastest mouse in Mexico - who first appeared in 1953. The Boone record includes the voice of Speedy, Mel Blanc (1908-89), whose voice appears in the cartoon also, and who was renowned for voicing comic animation characters. In the song as in the cartoon, Speedy is an unusual mouse, whose vices include drinking with "a floozy named Flo."
When Elton John brought out "Crocodile Rock
," the similarity of his "La, la, las" to those in this song prompted a lawsuit, but there are only so many ways "La, la, la" can be sung, and the action came to nothing. Boone would later cite Elton's appropriation as an example of a rock artist copying him - Boone took a lot of flak for recording songs by R&B acts, and was shunned by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though he was one of the most successful artists of the early rock era.
Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
In the liner notes to the 1995 60-track CD box set Pat Boone: His Greatest Hits and Finest Performances, which marked the first time the original recordings of all his significant hits were collected in a single box set (what usually is reissued as his pre-1960 material are actually post-1960 stereo re-records), Boone said: "I heard the song myself in the Philippines in a little nightspot. I got a copy of the record, took it home and played it for [Dot Records owner] Randy Wood, who said, 'Oh no. That was already out on RCA and it was a bomb.' I said, 'Randy, that's a hit song.' I wheedled and pleaded for a year, but he wouldn't ever let me do it. Finally, we were going to record something else and we only had two songs. I said, 'Randy, we need a third song. Let me do "Speedy Gonzales".' He finally agreed and sent me to his house to get the record I'd given him. Randy had hundreds of 45s all over his house and I asked his housekeeper to help me look for it. We spent a couple of hours looking, but I could not find it. As I was leaving, the housekeeper said, 'Mr. Wood gave me some records and they're in the back of my closet. Do you want to look at those?' There it was, the very last 45 on the bottom of the stack. The next night we recorded it." (Thanks to Gary Theroux, who wrote these liner notes.)
The singer of the "La la La" parts was Jackie Ward. The following year, under the name of Robin Ward, she had a #14 US hit with "Wonderful Summer."
The spoken intro doesn't appear on the original version. On Boone's recording, he opens by setting the scene:
It was a moonlit night in old Mexico
I walked alone between some old adobe haciendas
Suddenly, I heard the plaintive cry of a young Mexican girl
You better come home, Speedy Gonzales
The lyric is loaded with Mexican stereotypes, as Speedy is portrayed as a dimwitted, destitute drunk who loves enchiladas and chili peppers. Boone didn't see it as derogatory. "They might think it was a little denigrating but anyone who knew anything about me knew I wouldn't be looking down my nose at anybody," he told Goldmine. "Certainly this was a colorful, funny record about a fictional person called Speedy Gonzales."
This song was a departure for Boone, who had been doing mostly ballads and standards in the previous few years. It was the last of his 17 US Top 10 hits.
According to Boone, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu loves this song. "He was at MIT at college when my record 'Speedy Gonzales' was a big hit," Boone told Songfacts
. "It became one of his favorite records then. Whenever we are together, he says, 'Hello Speedy, come on in!' - into his office in Jerusalem."