AT MIKE SPALLA'S SAN FERNANDO VALLEY home, not just heav'n and nature will sing this holiday season. So will Binky, Cheese Puff, Clara, Cueball, Graymer, Max, Petunia, Sprocket and Twizzler.
Spalla, a 34-year-old former video editor, and his family's nine feline pals are clawing their way to stardom with Jingle Cats: Meowy Christmas, a 20-song CD of carols. "Everybody knows the Barking Dogs," says Spalla. "Now it's the cats' turn."
He got the idea for the album two years ago, when he noticed that each of his cats' meows had a distinctive—and sometimes musical—sound. For his own amusement, he taped the meows and mixed them into a recording of "Jingle Bells." "It was a goof at first," says Spalla, a rock musician. "But people roared with laughter when they heard it, so I polished it up and took it to radio stations."
When a couple of the stations played the song on Christmas Day, the Jingle Cats were born. Spalla spent the next 11 months trailing his cats around in a quest for more meows to mix, sometimes resorting to making them meow for their dinner or popping headphones on them and playing other meows to record their responses. "At first they had no idea what I was doing and were sort of freaked out," says Spalla. "I always hoped they'd understand, and I think eventually they actually did."
When his cassette of cat carols proved a local success last Christmas, Spalla quit his editing job at his father's video production company and dived into the project. "We thought he was a little crazy," says Spalla's wife, Jennifer Maharry. "He would get so excited he'd play some meows back and laugh hysterically."
The CD—which features a guest appearance by Spalla's dog, Klippy Kloppy—will be released nationally this month, and Spalla already has visions of Jingle Cats coffee mugs, calendars and even an animated film dancing in his head. The only thing he hasn't figured out is how success will affect his tuneful tabbies.
"Binky's had an attitude ever since I found him," sighs Spalla. "And now he's a star."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine