Children's Variety Show 1955 - 1960
This show has connections that go back to the Buster Brown comic strips that first appeared in The New York Herald in 1902. In 1904, the Brown Shoe Company purchased the licensing rights to the Buster Brown character along with his sidekick dog Tige. Buster Brown was also featured in silent movies and then on radio with the Buster Brown Radio Club. In 1943 the West Coast NBC radio network launched the Buster Brown Gang starring Smilin' Ed McConnell, sponsored by the Brown Shoe Company. This children's variety show transferred to television in 1951. After Ed McConnell's death in 1954, the TV network showed re-runs before deciding to hand the lead role to Andy Devine who launched with the re-named Andy's Gang in 1955.
This weekly show would feature regular characters that showed up throughout the program, each with its own catch phrase and personality. There would be occasional talks by guest presenters - often interrupted by the Froggy the Gremlin. There were also stories or verses by Andy Devine and a regular episodes of "Rhama of the Jungle".
Froggy the Gremlin
Andy would say the magic words: "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!" and Froggy would appear in a puff of smoke usually on top of a grandfather clock!
The gravel-voiced character's main role was to interrupt Andy or whoever was talking and mess up or confuse them. He specialized in puncturing egos of the very pompous guests that appeared.
Catchphrase: "Hiya kids, hiya hiya. Ha ha ha ha ha!"". Repeated phrases like: "He does, does".
Midnight The Cat And Squeaky The Mouse
A curious combination of a scruffy looking cat and mouse (a real cat and a hamster in close-up). Midnight and Squeaky played violin and Midnight the Cat tried to look nice!
An Indian boy who was an elephant trainer. He starred in filmed segments called "Rhama of the Jungle". He would be involved in various Eastern adventures involving his elephant, Teela. (Much of this segment was filmed in color).
Grandee the Talking Piano
A piano that ...talked.
After Ed McConnell
Andy Devine took over the lead after Ed McConnell's death. The renamed Andy's Gang included all the characters from Smilin' Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang. With the exception of Buster Brown and his dog Tige, all the characters had been created by Ed McConnell. The only new element, apart from the new front man, was an increasing tendency to have special effects using slowed down footage, talking animals and plenty of disappearing and re-appearing tricks.
Although Andy's Gang was popular to new audiences, some of the older hands may have hankered after the old days when the program was performed to a live audience of children (as was the original radio show). The decision to ditch the live audience (and dub in a recorded audience) was made towards the end of Ed McConnell's tenure. Andy's Gang was the same, but this time perhaps there were more gimmicks and less laughs.
Probably the most remembered character was the almost wicked Froggy the Gremlin who seemed to dislike any show of pomposity. Many characters - often representing respected fields such as high arts or perhaps authority such as professors - would be constantly interrupted by Froggy who would often talk the guest into saying and doing all the wrong things.