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'NEUTRON' POWER VOICE ARTIST LAUNCHING FIRST KIDS' CD.

Byline: Diana McKeon Charkalis Lifestyle Editor

When Jimmy Neutron speaks, kids listen.

That was proven recently, when Debi Derryberry, who voices the animated junior genius on the eponymous Nickelodeon hit, got on the line with a rambunctious 4-year-old fan who normally runs from the phone.

As she intoned the words, ``This is Jimmy Neutron,'' his eyes widened and a smile covered his face. Frozen in place, he gripped the receiver. ``He's really in there,'' the preschooler declared in awe.

Actress/musician Derryberry, who voices a number of other popular cartoon characters, including Playhouse Disney's ``Clay,'' says she gets this reaction a lot from kids. And she's soon to be the recipient of even more attention with the release of her first CD, ``What a Way to Play'' (4River Records; $12). She'll showcase the new work Saturday at 11 a.m. at MommyZone in Tarzana.

The infectious collection of songs, sung in her own voice, includes hard-to-forget originals as well as new arrangements of traditional favorites. There's a swinging version of ``The ABC Song,'' a rockabilly-flavored ``Itsy Bitsy Spider'' and a funk-based ``Wheels on the Bus.''

``These days parents do everything with their kids - we play right along with them,'' says Derryberry, who lives in Toluca Lake with her husband and son, River, almost 5. ``I tried to make it something adults could enjoy as well. So often, songs in children's music can be patronizing, and I didn't want that. Children these days are so savvy.''

Derryberry, who lists children's artists Laurie Berkner, Dan Zane and Raffi among her favorites, recruited an impressive list of musicians to work with her, including drummer Dave Kemper, who plays with Bob Dylan, percussionist Danny Frankel (k.d. lang), guitarist Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams) and Van Dyke Park.

When she was 9 years old, Derryberry got her first guitar and penned ``My Dog's My Buddy,'' a rocking tribute to her best pal, Eli, a dachshund. Although it was a big hit with her family, she put kids' music on the back burner as she grew up. She was a premed student at UCLA, and tried to make it as a country performer in Nashville before returning to her native California. Armed with a demo tape, she embarked on a voice-over career. It was there that she found success and satisfaction as well as a place where her charmingly quirky sound was appreciated.

``I always got teased for my voice,'' she notes. ``All my life, people would imitate me and call me 'chipmunk.' It's nice to not have to make up a grown-up voice and just sound like myself.''

On the new CD, Derryberry has included the ``Buddy'' song as well as other playful tunes written throughout her life that observe the human condition from a kid's point of view. There's ``Nose,'' about the problems of a cold nose at bedtime and ``Raisin Fingers,'' a jazzy commentary on the puckery bath-time blues.

``So many of the songs I've written over the years are geared toward children - I feel so fortunate to have found my niche,'' she says. ``For me, this is just a delicious place to be.''

Diana McKeon Charkalis, (818) 713-3760

diana.charkalis(at)dailynews.com

WHAT A WAY TO PLAY

What: Debi Derryberry showcases her first CD for kids.

When: 11 a.m. Saturday.

Where: MommyZone, 18399 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.

Tickets: $5, reservations required. Call (818) 345-6060.

What else: The CD ``What a Way to Play'' is available at independent retailers, including Storyopolis in Studio City, and online at www.debiderryberry.com, Amazon.com and cdbaby.com.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) ``Jimmy Neutron'' star Debi Derryberry got her start with children's music when she was just 9 years old.

(2) no caption (CD covers)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 2006
Words:622
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