Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (born Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian; January 27, 1919 – January 16, 1972) was the man responsible for creating Alvin and the Chipmunks as well as the original singer, song writer, and voice actor for Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and Dave.
Bagdasarian, Sr. used $190 of the last $200 his family had to buy a state of the art recorder that switched speeds of voices. After experimenting with changes made to a piano, he recorded his own singing voice at half speed and played it back at normal speed, which would later become the vocals for The Chipmunks. Using this technique, he recorded "Witch Doctor" in 1958. Though this voice technique was created and used in "Witch Doctor," it isn't attributed to the Chipmunks until "The Chipmunk Song."
Bagdasarian, Sr. thought of naming the group "The Chipmunks" after he had recorded "The Chipmunk Song." One day when driving his car, a chipmunk jumped in front of his car, "Daring him to drive past" as his son Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. said in an interview. He thought of the audacity of the animal and that became the basis of Alvin. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore's names would came from his co-corkers.
Since his true name couldn't fit on a 45, Bagdasarian, Sr. took on the stage name of David Seville, which came from his love of a city called Seville in Spain. He voiced all three chipmunks as well as Dave in The Alvin Show and the music associated with the series.
In addition to struggling as a songwriter, Ross Sr. would also routinely pop-ups in movies during the 50s in very small parts and silent extra roles to try to supplement the money he wasn't really making as a songwriter.
One movie that Ross Sr. has a very small role in is the 1953 WW2 movie, Stalag 17. During the movies commentary, he got a mention for starting The Chipmunks, writing "Come On-A My House" with Saroyan, becoming wealthy enough to no longer be an extra, and Armenian food supposedly killing him.
Though The Alvin Show lasted one season, the series was unique in various ways. A laugh track was not used to tell people when to laugh since Ross thought that if the show was funny, the audience wouldn't need to be cued to laugh. The Alvin Show also did not contain violence. During the era, cartoon violence was very popular as seen by many shows from the 60's such as Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons. Considering that The Chipmunks started out as a musical group, Ross created the show as a musical comedy hour, using new songs for each episode.
Upon his death in 1972, the Chipmunks started to gain popularity again with reruns of the 60's show and the spark of a late night "Chipmunk" song. A disk jockey sped up a popular record named "Call Me" and stated that it was the newest song from The Chipmunks, starting a late 70s spark and the rest is history.
With this new spark, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. revived the Chipmunks in 1980 with the release of Chipmunk Punk. Bagdasarian, Jr. also dedicated the first CGI film to his father. A title card shown in the end credits of the 2007 Alvin and the Chipmunks movie reads, "This film is dedicated to Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., who was crazy enough to invent these singing chipmunks nearly 50 years ago."
- "Everytime I write a song I keep a mental picture of a housewife with her hands in soapy water, listening to the radio. I try to figure out how to get her hands out of the dishwater to turn up the volume, to hear my song."
- (Talking about "Witch Doctor") "While the tape was moving at half speed, I said 'ting tang' and then I remembered an uncle who had moved to the state of Washington, and I sputtered 'walla walla' topped off with a resounding 'bing bang'."
- (Talking about "The Chipmunk Song") "So we took it to Minneapolis to try it out on a small independent station that didn't have so many rules. By the time it had completed it's first air play, the stations' switchboard was lit up like a you-know-what. Listeners demanded they play it over and over again, and then they called other stations and asked for it. The rest is history."
- "It was a wonderful sight to see stacks of my records piled high on a cigar store counter and selling as fast as the clerk could take the money."