Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Irene Ryan: Motown’s Newest Teen Sensation

How unfortunate when an actor embodies a character so convincingly that s/he becomes forever associated with that one role – such as Irene Ryan, heretofore known to millions as Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.  But, as her 1973 UPI obituary points out, Irene Ryan was part of an elite group of entertainers who enjoyed success in vaudeville, radio, film, TV, and Broadway – where Ryan [would not – see comments below] won a Tony award for her portrayal of Berthe, a “regal but lusty medieval grandmother,” in Pippin.

Looks like we might need to add “music” to Ryan’s long list of accomplishments, since one curious consequence of Pippin being partially backed by Berry Gordy is that Irene Ryan got a chance – at the very end of her life – to release a 45 on Motown.  In this YouTube video for “No Time at All,” look for a promotional ad featuring Irene Ryan, as Granny, with the tagline, “Motown’s Newest Teen Sensation” (around the 50-second mark).

No Time at All - Granny Ryan on Motown

Songs for 1972’s Pippin were written by Stephen Schwartz, composer of the previous year’s Godspell.  “No Time at All” produced by Bob Crewe, who co-wrote “Lucky Ladybug” for Billy and Lillie.

Granny:  The Role of a Lifetime 

Rather than be upset about being typecast as Daisy “Granny” Moses from The Beverly Hillbillies, in fact, quite the opposite was true.  In her UPI obituary, Irene Ryan was quoted in 1967, during the height of the show’s popularity, as saying, “A show like this comes along once in a performer’s lifetime. It’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.  The minute I saw the pilot script I knew it would make a big hit.”

3 Responses

  1. Irene Ryan did not win the Tony.. she lost to a woman from ” A Little Night Music” which is a shame, because Ryan died that same year.

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