Alvin and the Chipmunks is a five-time Grammy Award-winning animated music group, created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. in 1958. The group consists of three singing chipmunks: Alvin, the mischievous troublemaker, who quickly became the star of the group, Simon, the tall bespectacled intellectual, and Theodore, the chubby, impressionable sweetheart.
The trio is "managed" by their human "father" and confidant, David Seville. In reality, David Seville was Bagdasarian's stage name, and the Chipmunks themselves are named after the executives of their original record label, Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (the president), Simon Waronker (the founder and owner), and Theodore Keep (the chief engineer).
Audiences often assume the characters started as cartoons and branched out into music, but that is the opposite of how they began. After first being brought to life in Bagdasarian's 1950s novelty recordings under the name David Seville and the Chipmunks, the characters were an unprecedented success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon series and motion pictures.
The voices of the group were all performed by Bagdasarian, who sped up the playback to create the higher pitched, squeaky voices. This process was not entirely new; Bagdasarian had also used it for a previous novelty song project, "The Witch Doctor", but it was so unusual and well executed it earned the "trio" two Grammy Awards for engineering.
Although the characters were fictional, they did release a long line of "real" albums and singles, with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" becoming a number-one hit single in the United States.
After his death in 1972, the voices of the Chipmunks were subsequently recorded by his son, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., and his wife, Janice Karman, in all subsequent incarnations to date.