Stan Freberg, Acclaimed Satirist, Dies at 88

Stan Freberg
Courtesy Everett Collection

Stan Freberg photographed in 196.

Stan Freberg, whose freewheeling career in advertising garnered him worldwide acclaim and whose satirical entertainments abounded on TV, the radio and on records, has died. He was 88. 

He died of natural causes at a Santa Monica hospital, his son and daughter, Donavan and Donna Freberg, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

"He was and will always be my hero, and I will carry his brilliant legacy forward as best I am able," his son wrote on Facebook.

He is survived by his wife, Hunter Freberg, and granddaughter.

The godfather of humorous and irreverent commercials, Freberg lampooned cultural institutions and described himself as a "guerrilla satirist." The New York Times dubbed him the "Che Guevara of advertising" and, years later, "Weird Al" Yankovic called him a major influence on his career.

Freberg also was known for his musical parodies. "Wun'erful Wun'erful," his 1957 spoof of "champagne music" -- on which he collaborated with orchestra leader Billy May -- lampooned The Lawrence Welk Show.

In the pre-rock 'n' roll era, 10 of Freberg's parody records reached the top 30, with "St. George and the Dragonet" hitting No. 1 for four weeks in 1953.

Freberg first charted in 1951 with the soap opera parody "John and Marsha" and would hit No. 15 with "Try," a spoof of Johnny Ray's "Cry"; No. 9 with the Dragnet spoof "Little Blue Riding Hood"; and No. 15 with "Point of Order," a spoken-word piece poking fun at Senate's Army-McCarthy hearings.

His recordings were so popular that he landed his own radio program in 1954, That's Rich. In 1957, he presented The Stan Freberg Show on CBS Radio, where he regularly mocked commercials by advertising bogus products.

At the first Grammy Awards ceremony, Freberg won the prize for best performance, documentary or spoken word, for The Best of the Stan Freberg Shows. The album was a compilation of bits from CBS Radio's last episodic comedy program.

His first fully conceived original album, 1961's Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America on Capitol, peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard 200. He left the record business in 1966, returning 30 years later with part two of United States for Rhino.

--Additional reporting by Phil Gallo

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.