The Life & Times of Howdy Doody – Part 3
We all remember that we spent our afternoons, and later, our Saturday mornings in the 50’s with Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody, but how much do you really remember about the show itself and the strange cast of characters who kept us entertained throughout a good portion of our childhoods?
C’mon backstage because once again, it’s Howdy Doody time!
Most of us remember that the show took place in the fictional town of Doodyville with the set at first resembling a circus, then a Wild West Show, and finally, just various locations within Doodyville. There was a full cast of puppets including Howdy Doody, his best friend Dilly Dally, and perennial villain, Mayor Phineas T. Bluster. Even as a kid, we all wondered how that old swindler kept getting re-elected by the otherwise genteel and benign citizens of Doodyville. (In addition, we wondered why Howdy wasn’t the mayor of a town obviously named after him.)
How many of these other “denizens of Doodyville” do you recognize?
- Don José Bluster (Phineas’ brother)
- John J. Fadoozle (America’s # 1 – BOING! - Private Eye)
- Heidi Doody (Howdy’s sister)
- Hyde & Zeke (twin bears)
- Windy Scuttlebutt
- Sandra the Witch
- Mambo the Elephant
- Paddle the Gnu
And of course, the Flub-a-Dub, who combined the parts of eight animals: a duck’s bill, spaniel’s ears, cat’s whiskers, giraffe’s neck, dachshund’s body, seal’s feet, a pig’s tail, and an elephant’s memory.
The show also provided a sturdy launch pad for two other non-human stars. Zippy the Chimp joined the cast in 1952 and eventually became a media star in his own right, complete with an abundance of authorized merchandise. For some reason, the talented chimpanzee hated the Mr. Bluster puppet and would attack him on sight. Apparently, the little simian was an excellent judge of character.
Almost forgotten now is the fact that another huge superstar got his start with Buffalo Bob and the gang. Gumby (dammit) made his network debut on The Howdy Doody Show in 1956. The little guy proved so popular that NBC was able to spin him off into his own series a year later. The rest, as they say, is show biz history.
Along with Zippy, Gumby and the stringed performers, Doodyville boasted a full cast of human actors as well. It was these human actors that caused the most trouble behind the scenes. Next time, we’ll pull back the curtain on the notorious “Christmas Eve Massacre” that almost derailed The Howdy Doody Show in 1953.
Once upon a time, people relied on magazines like Consumer Reports before making big purchase decision. Now, people increasingly rely on online reviews. But most experts give those kind of ratings low ratings!
There are several reasons for this. One is that if people have a bad shopping or shipping experience, they tend to blame the product and not the retailer. Second, many consumers are swayed by brand name recognition and are hardly putting these products through scientific testing - the way the consumer magazines do.Thirdly, some products actually have paid people and/or employees to post favorable reviews online. (What? I can't believe everything I read on the internet?)
Those who know say smart shoppers still rely on consumer testing experts and NOT online reviews.
So you’ve finally decided you want to get in shape. Your plan is to join a gym and reclaim that hard body you had at 25. Good for you! But here’s a tip.
Gym owners tell us that a large percentage of new gym members only last about a month before their visits start to trail off and then stop all together.
Before you make a long term financial commitment, test your resolve. Find a gym that will either charge you per visit or allow you to go month to month with no long term contract. If you’re still going strong after a few weeks, then you might want to consider signing up for the long haul.
Throughout the early days of rock, many, many hit records were put together by producer/songwriters using session singers and musicians and then released with a made-up name for the recording act. Perhaps no such group ever achieved so much as the Grass Roots, who actually, ultimately became a real touring band and wound up in the American Pop Music Hall of Fame!
Their story begins at the fledgling 60s record label, Dunhill. The label had been started by producer Lou Adler. Together with the songwriting duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Bari, they had recorded a song called “Where Were You When I Needed You.” They made-up the group name the Grassroots (originally one word) and shopped the record to stations around California. Music people liked the tune, but thought the vocals needed to punched up. So, Adler, Sloan and Bari recruited a San Francisco band called the Bedouins. Vocals on the record were replaced with the Bedouins’ lead singer, Willie Fulton. The song was a modest chart success, cracking the Top 30, and the Bedouins began touring as the Grass Roots (Now two words).
Eventually Fulton and most of the rest of the band became frustrated with a lack of input into the group’s recordings and departed Dunhill Records. However, when they tried to continue appearing as the Grass Roots, they discovered that the label, not the band, owned the name. So much for that plan.
Meanwhile Sloan and Bari hired another local band to become the Grass Roots. The band was playing gigs as the 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators). As with the Bedouins, Adler, Sloan & Bari used studio musicians during the sessions and employed the band only for the vocal tracks. Luck was with them as the 13th Floor’s bass player and key vocalist was a gentleman named Rob Grill. Their first collaboration in early 1967, “Let’s Live for Today,” made it into the Top 10.
Over the next several years, band members came, went, sometimes returned and left again with head-spinning speed. It didn’t matter. L.A.’s top sessions players (now known as “the Wrecking Crew”) and Grill’s lead vocals kept the hits coming. The Grass Roots put 14 songs into the Top 40 between 1966 and 1972.
When the hits dried up, Grill and an ever-changing assemblage of musicians continued to tour as the Grass Roots (Grill having been granted ownership of the name). The group was inducted into the American Pop Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
Sadly, Rob passed away in 2011, but there is still a group touring as the Grass Roots, which somehow seems fitting for a band that was created out of thin air!