Songwriter Ross Bagdasarian had had a hit in 1957 with the novelty single "Witch Doctor." Part of the wacky song's appeal was the song's chorus, which was created by speeding up the sound of voices recorded normally. Realizing he was on to something, Bagdasarian decided to put out an entire record done with the sped-up voices; brainstorming what sort of animals to go with the voices, his children suggested chipmunks - and Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were born. The resulting single, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," was released for the Christmas season of 1958 and sold more than five million copies within two months.
CBS premiered a half-hour cartoon show devoted to the squirrely trio (and their manager Dave Seville, Bagdasarian's nom de rongeur) - but made it a half-hour primetime Wednesday night show (similar to the previous season's offerings from ABC, Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones, both of which had hits for that network). This was a poor decision, as it was opposite NBC's Wagon Train, so the next year the cartoon was moved to Saturday mornings, where it prospered.
Each episode included two regular Chipmunks cartoon segments, one or two musical interludes, and a cartoon of wacky inventor "CLyde Crashup" (who was aided by silent assistant Leonardo). The show was syndicated in 1979 on NBC.
Bagdasarian did his best to cash in on the Chipmunk mania as much as possible. Several record albums were released, including Let's All Sing With the Chipmunks, The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles, Chipmunks A Go Go, and even The Chipmunks Sing Songs From Dr. Dolittle. IN 1980, Ross Jr. took over the reigns in the 1980's, creating a new cartoon series in 1983, and even overseeing the creation of up-to-date recordings featuring the recalcitrant rodents, including Chipmunk Punk.
David Seville / the Chipmunks - Ross Bagdasarian
Clyde Crashup - Shepard Menken
Additonal voices: June Foray, Lee Patrick, Bill Lee, William Sanford, Reg Dennis, Joe Besser