ONE OF THE FIRST RADIO SHOWS I REMEMBER LISTENING TO WAS THE BUSTER BROWN GANG, starring Smilin' Ed Mc Connell. He entertained his Saturday morning listeners by singing and playing the piano accompanied by a number of unusual sidekicks. My favorite, like most children, was Froggy the Gremlin, who got into all kinds of trouble that I wouldn't, or couldn't, dream of - being the good little girl that I was. Mc Connell's other featured friends were Midnight the Cat, who was very nice; Squeaky the Mouse; and Grandie the Piano, who added emphasis to appropriate words with a loud plunk on his keyboard.
The show was loud and boisterous, from the opening bar of the sponsor's song:
I got shoes. You got shoes
Why, everybody's got to have shoes
And there's only one kinda shoes for me
Good ole Buster Brown Shoes!
- to Grandie's final "plunk."
The Buster Brown Gang was a comic strip until it was purchased by the shoe company and made into a radio show. The comic strip was printed between the years 1933 and 1973 and offered radio and TV premiums by the sponsor until 1956. The key trademark for the shoe company as well as the show was Buster Brown;* and, without exception, every kid could tell you that Buster lived in a shoe.
Half of the thirty-minute Mc Connell show was devoted to stories of life on the frontier, treks through jungle, Robin Hood in Merry England, Sabu the Elephant Boy, or my favorite, the Genie of the Jug. The other half was pure Mc Connell and company. He chatted and sang with his guest-of-the-day and his imaginary friends. Often to the delight of the radio audience, the guest would explode in anger and run off stage due to taunts by the mischievous Froggy.
The Gremlin always made a grand entrance. Mc Connell would shout, "Plunk your Magic Twanger, Frogg-ee!" and the imaginary Gremlin would become visible to the studio audience as well as the radio audience--well, you had to be a kid. Froggy's manner of speech was to constantly repeat himself. "Now I'll sing my song. I will; I will."
Click on the arrow (above) to hear the February 26, 1949
episode of Smilin' Ed & Gang.
The show made the jump to TV in 1950 and continued its run after McConnell died in 1955 with Andy Devine as its host. But in my opinion, seeing the cast of characters took away the magic and fun of the show I had loved. I didn't watch it on TV.
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Various premiums were offered by the show's sponsor, the Buster Brown Company. There follows a list of the premiums and the years in which they were introduced.
1. School tablet, 1946
2. Secret Agent Periscope, 1947
3. Bandanna, 1947
4. Rubber Froggy's doll, 1945
4. Froggy Paper Mask, 1947
5. 1947 Ring or Neckerchief Slide (with Buster and Tiger pictured)
6. 1949 Tab Buttons of Buster and Tiger (shown),Froggy, Midnight, and Squeaky
|8. Froggy Paddle Ball Game 1947||9. Froggy Glider, 1946|
Buster Brown was played by Little Person Jerry Marin* who also played the Lollypop Kid in the 1939 movie classic "Wizard of Oz." (He's the one who hands a lollypop to Dorothy.) To this day, Marin continues to make appearances at Wizard of Oz Festivals around the country and can be prompted quite easily to slip into his Buster Brown role.
|Hi! I'm Buster Brown.
I live in a shoe.
Here's my dog, Tige.
He lives in there too
* Marin died in May of 2018 at the age of 98.
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