Buffalo Bob Smith and “Howdy Doody”

A tip of the hat today to TV legend Buffalo Bob Smith (1917-1998)!

Buffalo native Robert Emil Schmidt started out in local radio in the early 1940s. His upstate success was so great, that he was brought down to host on WNBC in New York, which is where he first introduced his most famous creation Howdy Doody, which was initially just a voice, because, ya know, radio.

The TV version of his popular children’s program The Howdy Doody Show ran from 1947 to 1960. Howdy, and a number of other characters were marionettes, and there were costumed human performers as well, such as Clarabelle the Clown, initially played by Bob Keeshan, later to become famous as Captain Kangaroo, and Ugly Sam, played by Dayton Allen.

The show, which mixed circus and western themes, featured a studio audience of kids called “The Peanut Gallery” and an opening song set to the tune of “Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay.” After its cancellation, Smith mostly worked the nostalgia angle for the next several decades. The first place I ever saw him, in fact, was on an episode of Happy Days!

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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