You can read here about who is Howdy. Victor F. Campbell and E. Roger Muir created and produced the American children’s television series Howdy Doody which features circus and Western frontier themes. From its premiere on NBC on December 27, 1947, until its cancellation on September 24, 1960, it was a staple of American television. It was an early example of children’s television and its success paved the way for countless imitators.
The show was one of the first to use color production at NBC’s Rockefeller Center Studio 3A in 1956 and it was used by NBC then owned by RCA Television to promote the adoption of color television in American households. Along with marionettes of Howdy Doody and Flub-a-dub, there were also Howdy Doody dolls available for purchase. Don Jose and Hector Hamhock Bluster, two other marionettes were Phineas T.’s brothers.
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What is the story of Howdy?
Buffalo while working at Wnbc as a radio host, Bob Smith came up with the idea for Howdy Doody. Howdy Doody was originally just Smith’s radio voice act. On December 27, 1947, Smith made his television debut on NBC’s Puppet Playhouse and his performance was well received sparking interest in the need for visual characters in television.
The show’s puppets were created by puppeteer Frank Paris who was commissioned to make a Howdy Doody puppet. Named after both the famous American frontiersman Buffalo Bill and the host’s birthplace of Buffalo, New York, “Buffalo Bob” was an early nickname for show host Bob Smith. The set’s original intention was a circus tent, but it was quickly altered to resemble a western town. Smith and the puppet both sported cowboy outfits.
Western Americans frequently shorten “How do you do?” to “Howdy doody” or “howdy do” hence the origin of the puppet “star’s” name. The lyrics of the theme song also made use of this expression in its literal sense. Smith, who got his start in the industry as a singing radio personality in Buffalo frequently featured musical segments. Lew Anderson and Robert “Nick” Nicholson were both seasoned jazz musicians and added a lot to the cast.
Demand for Howdy Doody memorabilia emerged alongside the increasing popularity of the character and the show. Already by 1948, customers were requesting Howdy Doody dolls and accessories from toymakers and department stores. When Macy’s wanted to produce a Howdy Doody doll, they contacted the puppet’s inventor, Frank Paris, to inquire about licensing.
Although Paris was the one who originally built the puppet, Bob Smith was the one who got to keep the rights to the character. The two men got into an argument after Paris complained that he wasn’t getting his fair share of the financial benefits. An argument between Paris and the puppeteer occurred about four hours before the show was scheduled to air live and Paris stormed out of the NBC studios, taking the puppet with her. The live program was left without its “star” for not the first time.
What Happened in the Final Episode of Howdy?
Clarabell’s Big Surprise, the series finale, aired on September 24, 1960. The entire hour-long episode was devoted to a retrospective of the show’s greatest moments. At the same time, Clarabell has what he calls a big surprise in the middle of everything. Only Mayor Phineas T. Bluster is successful in keeping the surprise a secret from the rest of the cast, despite their best efforts throughout the show.
But he says as he leaves it’s not going to be easy to keep a secret like this. The truth about Clarabell the mute clown being able to speak was revealed to Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody in the final moments of the show through a pantomime. Bob, incredulously pleaded with Clarabell to prove it knowing that this was their last chance. As the camera began its extreme closeup, an ominous drum roll began and Clarabell turned to face it.
As the music played his mouth trembled. When it finally came to a stop, Clarabell said quietly, “Goodbye, kids.” As the screen went black, a tear dropped from his right eye and the muffled cries of children in the Peanut Gallery could be heard just before the end credits rolled. The credits rolled softly over the darkened set as Auld Lang Syne was played on celeste and then came to an announcement that the following week.
At the same time, viewers could catch The Shari Lewis Show followed by a commercial for the television series National Velvet. It is now possible to buy a colorized video recording of the final airing.
Characters in Howdy
Howdy Doody’s co-stars on this show are The mysterious Heidi Doody, who was later revealed to have saved Buffalo Bob’s life in Africa and was quickly accepted as Howdy’s new sister. As one of the three Bluster brothers, Phineas T. Bluster is the resident skinflint, mayor of Doodyville and Howdy’s archenemy.
- Uncle Petey Bluster is the voice of Phineas
- His brother Don Jose Bluster is the South American Bluster
- To wit: Thaddeus Bluster is Still another member of the Bluster family
- British Bluster sibling Hector Hamhock Bluster
The Crown Princess of Summer Judy Tyler who had previously acted opposite Elvis Presley in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock played the role of Winterspring after it was initially introduced as a puppet. Her role was taken over by a marionette after her untimely death in a car crash on July 3, 1957, at the age of 24. In one episode, “America’s No. 1 private eye” Inspector John J. Fadoozle was revealed to be the anonymous “Mr. X” who had been running against Howdy for president of All the Boys and Girls of America using ballots attached to the wrappers of loaves of Wonder Bread, a major sponsor of the show.
Both Chief Thunderthud and Chief Featherman are Native American characters who help drive home the show’s western theme. J. Cornelius Cobb: Nick Nicholson’s shopkeeper character, who despises clowns. Flub-a-Dub, Captain Windy Scuttlebut and Sandra the Witch: eight animals in one. He looked like a duck but had the whiskers of a cat, the ears of a spaniel, the neck of a giraffe, the body of a dachshund, the flippers of a seal, the tail of a pig and the memory of an elephant.
Puppet figures of various animals: Puppets of animals, including:
- Identical twin bears, named Hyde and Zeke
- To put it simply, Mambo is an African elephant
- Dinosaur, says Tizzy
- Paddle shaped like a gnu
- Tommy Turtle is an unintelligent, slow-talking turtle
People who populate our stories: Several people were also involved, the most notable being. Clarabell was a seltzer-squirting, miming clown who also used a belt with horns on it to convey his messages. Before Lew Anderson took over, he was played by Robert “Nick” Nicholson and before him, Bob Keeshan who later created the children’s TV character Captain Kangaroo.
This was a low-budget show and paying Clarabell at scale would have been out of the question. Before Lew Anderson took over as Clarabell, “Nick” Nicholson played the dual role of J. Cornelius Cobb and Clarabell. The character of Sir Archibald portrayed by Dayton Allen is an explorer. American Indian tribal leader, Chief Thunderthud (Bill Le Cornec). Their name means “kangaroo” in reverse.
The surfer slang term “Kowabonga!” was coined by Edward Kean and popularised by the band Thunderthud. This chance encounter launched Tyler’s career and she went on to star on Broadway and in Hollywood films like Jailhouse Rock in which she famously starred alongside Elvis Presley before her untimely death in a car crash in 1957. Ed Alberian portrayed a character named Gus Gasbags who created balloon animals.
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Doodyville was the name of the made-up city where the characters lived. Comedian Dayton Allen played multiple roles including the aforementioned Ugly Sam, the world’s worst wrestler and Pierre the Chef before becoming a regular on NBC’s prime time The Steve Allen Show.
Cast members especially the astute Dayton Allen and the puppet characters on the Howdy show were known to engage in extensive double-entendre dialogue during off-camera rehearsals. In 1952, Bobby “Nick” Nicholson portrayed Corny Cobb in 1953 and 1954, puppeteer Rufus Rose filled in while Nicholson played Clarabell and finally, Nicholson reprised the role from early 1955 until the show’s conclusion.
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