Captain Kangaroo is an American children's
television series which aired weekday
mornings on the American television network CBS for nearly 30 years,
3, 1955 until December 8, 1984, making it the longest-running nationally
children's television program of its day. In 1986, the American Program
(now American Public Television, Boston) integrated some newly produced
into reruns of past episodes, distributing the newer version of the
series until 1993.
The show was conceived and the title character played by Bob Keeshan,
the show on "the warm relationship between grandparents and children."
portrayed the original Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show when
on NBC. Captain Kangaroo had a loose structure, built around life in the
House" where the Captain (the name "kangaroo" came from the big pockets
in his coat)
would tell stories, meet guests, and indulge in silly stunts with
regular characters, both
humans and puppets.
The show was telecast live to the East Coast and the Midwest for its
first four years
and broadcast on kinescope for the West Coast, as Keeshan would not
show live three times a day, and was in black-and-white until 1966. The
May 17, 1971
episode saw two major changes on the show: The Treasure House was
renamed "The Captain's Place" and the Captain replaced his navy blue
coat with a red
coat. In September 1981, CBS shortened the hour-long show to a
retitled it Wake Up with the Captain, and moved it to an earlier time
slot; it was later
moved to weekends in September 1982, and returned to an hour-long
format. It was
canceled by CBS at the end of 1984.
In the early years of the series, Keeshan wore make-up in order to look
suitably old for
the character, but the show ran for so long that by the end, he was
wearing make-up to
Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo and The Town Clown
Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum as Mr. Green Jeans, the New Old Folk Singer, Percy,
Backwards, Mr. McGregor, and Mr. Bainter the Painter
Cosmo Allegretti as Mr. Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose (both of which he
created), Dennis the Apprentice, Miss Frog, Mr. Whispers, Dancing Bear,
Clock, Uncle Ralph. He was the voice of Aniforms puppet TV Fred (a
on-screen puppet that appeared behind the blackboard in the Treasure
was the artist behind the Magic Drawing Board.
From left: Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, Captain Kangaroo, Grandfather
Moose, and Mister Green Jeans.
Sam Levine as The Banana Man; the character was created by Adolph Proper
Bill Cosby as himself, the host of the Picture Pages segment (1980–1984)
Debbie Weems as Debbie (1973–1977); she also provided the voice for the
character Baby Duck
James Wall as Mr. Baxter (1968–1978)
Carolyn Mignini as Kathy and other female roles (1981–1993)
John Burstein as Slim Goodbody (1976–1980)
Bill McCutcheon as Mr. Homan (1965–1966)
Dr. Joyce Brothers as herself for three seasons
Among the special guests who made periodic appearances were:
Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop
Mister Rogers, who appeared in a 1975 episode, where he and the Captain
restore an old gramophone
Mary Kay Place
A cartoon starring a funnel-capped shape-shifting boy named Tom Terrific
was part of
the show in the 1950s and 1960s. Tom had a sidekick named Mighty Manfred
Wonder Dog, and a nemesis, Crabby Appleton. Other cartoons included
which was developed by veteran game show announcer Gene Wood, then a
staffer (who also sang the cartoon's theme song).
The Canadian-British cartoon Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings
appeared in the
1970s, featuring a child with magic chalk who could create all sorts of
creations in short adventures (the original version featured a British
Keeshan's voice was dubbed onto the cartoons for their US airing).
The UK-produced cartoon Ludwig, about a magical egg-shaped robot, was
included about that time. The cartoon's musical score consisted of
selections from the
works of Beethoven.
Also appearing in the 1970s was The Most Important Person, a short
five-minute segments on the importance of life; and The Kingdom of Could
Be You, a
short series of five-minute segments on the importance of careers and
the work world.
There was also a cartoon series called The Toothbrush Family. Based on
family of hygiene utensils as the name suggests, they would embark on
based in the bathroom, like water skiing in the tub, or rescuing friends
caught in the
drain. Episodes were generally a couple of minutes each.
A silent cartoon in the 1970s named Crystal Tipps featured the
adventures of a young
girl. Later reruns were narrated by the voice of Mr. Moose. Another
The Wombles was also featured.
The Red & Blue shorts from Italy were also shown.
The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo, featuring a family of sea
featured as well.
Re-runs of the CB Bears and Undercover Elephant, as well as Motormouse
Autocat (of the Cattanooga Cats) were shown in the 1980s Saturday
"Good Morning Captain!"
Beginning in 1974 and continuing through the decade, the show would open
different people wishing the Captain "good morning." Many of the
non-celebrities, but some featured stars from TV shows, most of which
CBS, such as The Bob Newhart Show and One Day at a Time, as well as
characters with a connection to the network, including William Shatner
Nimoy, dressed as Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock; characters from the
cartoons; and Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The montage
mornings' would always end with the Captain himself returning the
greeting before the
opening credits ran.
Other regular features included The Magic Drawing Board and the
Stories" sessions, which introduced kids to stories such as Curious
George, Make Way
for Ducklings, Stone Soup, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. The
Pickles books were also featured.
Puppeteer Cosmo Allegretti (left) with actor Dick Shawn, 1977.
Allegretti played many
roles on the program.
Songs included Little Mary Make Believe, Guess Who I Am, Little Black
There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, Erie Canal, Horse in Striped
Littlest Snowman, Daniel the Cocker Spaniel, and many more. On the first
every month the Captain would have a birthday cake for all of the
birthdays that month.
Keeshan also had a recurring role as "The Town Clown", a pantomime piece
place in and around the exposed wagon home of a tramp-like circus clown.
character of Clarabelle that he played on Howdy Doody, the Town Clown
Favorites on the show were Grandfather Clock (voiced by Cosmo Allegretti),
Hippo and Dancing Bear.
Dancing Bear was mute and only appeared in short subject features. He
waltzes to background music.
One of the show's long-running gags was the "Ping Pong Ball Drop",
instigated by the
telling of a joke (usually a Knock-Knock joke) by Mr. Moose in which the
would include the words "ping pong balls". At the mention of those three
shower of ping pong balls would be released from above on the Captain.
The show would very often have simple black light theatre segments
utilizing paper or
cardboard cutouts. A notable recording of a popular song, such as Judy
Decca recording of Over the Rainbow (from The Wizard of Oz), Mary Martin
Never Never Land (from the original cast recording of the musical Peter
Danny Kaye singing Inchworm (from the Decca recording of the songs from
Christian Andersen) would be heard while the cutouts played on the
by a concealed puppeteer. On other occasions, full-fledged hand puppets
"perform" to the song being played (as in the case when a hand puppet
Spanish clothing performed to a recording of tenor Allan Jones singing
Familiar props included a mockup of a talking cathedral-style radio that
simply called "Radio". Keeshan would turn the large knobs on "Radio" to
conversation going. Reminiscent of the old Atwater Kent cathedrals,
"Radio" had a
rather interesting conversation with a smaller transistor radio in one
show. Also featured
was a huge Colgate toothpaste box with a large windup or clockwork key
on the side.
Keeshan turned the key to play a jingle ("Colgate Fluoride M-F-P/Helps
Cavity/And it Tastes Great, Naturally!") for the show's sponsor, Colgate
The original theme song to Captain Kangaroo (titled "Puffin' Billy") was
1955 to 1974. It was an instrumental, written by Edward G. White. The
from a British stock music production library known as the Chappell
Library which was sold through a New York agency called Emil Ascher. The
original title referred to a British steam locomotive. This tune was
used on other
programs on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, two years before
Kangaroo, it served as the wrap-up music for an episode of the radio
Fortune called "Murder Among the Statues". In its native United Kingdom,
famous as the theme to the weekly BBC radio program Children's
1952 to 1966, and is still widely recognised by the post-war generation.
It was later
used in the Enid Blyton parody Five Go Mad in Dorset and in a number of
adverts, including a Captain Sensible spot. The "Puffin' Billy" theme
played as the
opening of each episode, with the music continuing until the Captain
hung his large ring
of keys on a nail (which seemed to act as a switch to turn off the
music). If the
Captain's keys ever slipped off the nail, the music would begin playing
In 1957, lyricist Mary Rogers penned lyrics to the tune, creating a
newly titled Captain
In 1974, a new theme song titled "Good Morning, Captain" was composed
Kangaroo, written by Robert L. Brush. As the new theme used similar
elements from the original theme, Edward G. White's name was added to
credits. However, due to copyright issues, the song was later
re-recorded without the
portion of "Puffin' Billy" featured in the first version.
During the brief Wake Up With the Captain era, a theme titled "Wake Up"
For the show's final two seasons and the later PBS run, Schoolhouse Rock
Lynn Ahrens (who composed and performed a few Captain Kangaroo songs
wrote a new theme, entitled "Here Comes Captain Kangaroo".
The theme song for All New Captain Kangaroo used the opening notes and
part of the
melody of the original theme as its introduction.
While Captain Kangaroo was still in planning stages, CBS executives had
the idea of
hiring Al Lewis, a kids' show host in Cincinnati (ABC was running
Lewis's show at that
time), to host their show, but Lewis's managers refused to release him
contract. Lewis's local kids show went off the air in Cincinnati a year
Kangaroo left CBS.
Keeshan and Bunny Rabbit promote an auto seat belt campaign, 1970.
For the first three months, Captain Kangaroo was only seen on weekday
From then until 1968, the show was also seen on Saturday mornings,
except in the
1964-1965 season, when it was replaced by a Keeshan vehicle called Mr.
After 1968, the show was again seen only on weekdays. Except for
news coverage, notably the three-day continuous coverage of the
assassination of John
F. Kennedy in 1963, and a few shows that were 45 minutes, the show aired
a full 60
minutes on weekday mornings until 1981. It was broadcast in color from
1966 onward. The time slot for the show was from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M.,
after which the networks would allow some affiliate stations to air
The audience of children could never compete in the ratings with such
entertainment/news shows as The Today Show, although Captain Kangaroo
Emmy Awards three times as Outstanding Children's entertainment series
1978–1979, 1982–1983 and 1983–1984. But in the fall of 1981, to make
for the expansion of CBS Morning News, the Captain was moved to an
slot of 7 a.m. and cut to 30 minutes, sporting the new title Wake Up
with the Captain.
In the fall of 1982, it returned to an hour format, but was moved to
at 7 a.m. Eastern Time and 6 a.m. in other time zones. Reruns from the
were offered to CBS affiliates to run Sunday morning in place of the
offered before, but most declined. One-third of affiliates no longer ran
the show at all
after 1982, and it was again reduced to a half-hour in the fall of 1984.
the reduction of his program for the second time, Keeshan chose to step
down at the
end of 1984, after his contract with CBS expired.
Just over a year later, in 1986, Captain Kangaroo returned in reruns on
stations, with funding from public television stations, School Zone
and from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. American
Television, then known as the "Interregional Program Service",
distributed the show,
along with Britder Associates (Keeshan's production company), and the
Company, owned by former WPBT station manager Dale Riehl.
The show was on the air for 29 years, making it one of the
children's program series. Sesame Street, insulated from the Nielsen
ratings wars, holds
the record at over 40 years, and still airs. Several of the original
Sesame Street writers
and producers were hired from the Captain Kangaroo staff to help produce
the new program when it went on the air in 1969.
The original director of the program was Peter Birch, who helmed the
program for its
first 25 years. Producer Jim Hirschfeld took over as director following
attack in 1980 and continued directing, as well as producing throughout
the rest of the
show's run, including the new segments inserted into the PBS reruns,
until it went off the
air in 1993.
The cast of Captain Kangaroo also hosted the CBS coverage of the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade for several years in the 1960s.
From the late 1950s, the Schwinn Bicycle Company made use of children's
programming to expand its dominance of the child and youth bicycle
company was an early sponsor (from 1958) of Captain Kangaroo. The
was enlisted to sell Schwinn-brand bicycles to the show's audience,
typically six years
old and under. At the end of each live Schwinn marketing promotion, Bob
would intone, "Prices slightly higher in the South and in the West". The
program was deemed successful by Schwinn, and the company increased its
share of child and youth bicycles throughout the 1960s.
The marketing program continued through the 1971 season, when the
Commission's Staff Report, Guidelines on Advertising to Children,
against Schwinn's on-air marketing practices using the show's host. In
Schwinn and the show's writers altered the format in 1972. The Captain
insisted that his viewers purchase a Schwinn, but instead made regular
consultations of a new character, Mr. Schwinn Dealer. A 1973 internal
news article concluded that the show's child audience had difficulty
Schwinn's sales pitch from that of the show.
Rock musician Frank Zappa wrote a composition named "Mr. Green Genes" on
album Uncle Meat and a sequel, "Son of Mr. Green Genes" on his album Hot
This led to the urban legend that Zappa was the son of Hugh Brannum, who
Green Jeans, a myth Zappa officially dispelled in his 1989
autobiography, The Real
Frank Zappa Book, as did Keeshan in his 1996 autobiography, Good
Many popular songs make reference to Captain Kangaroo, including the
Brothers' 1965 hit song "Flowers on the Wall", the "Weird Al" Yankovic
Brady Bunch", the Bloodhound Gang's "Your Only Friends Are Make
In 1997–1998, a sequel revival series tentatively titled The All New
was attempted by Saban Entertainment. John McDonough played the Captain
version, which was shot in Tampa, Florida. Keeshan was invited to appear
as a special
guest called "The Admiral," but after seeing sample episodes, he
declined to appear or
have any association with the new incarnation. It ran
for one season
and inspired a spin-off show, Mister Moose's Fun Time.
In 2011, the trademark for "Captain Kangaroo" was acquired by The Cashin
Co. In a blog, the Captain is portrayed by Pat Cashin.
^ "Classic TV Shows - Captain Kangaroo, Tom Terrific and Mighty Manfred
Wonder Dog". Fiftiesweb.com. December 8, 1984. Retrieved November 12,
Jump up ^ "Bob Keeshan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved
Jump up ^ "Keeshan, Robert James."The Scribner Encyclopedia of American
Ed. Arnold Markoe, Karen Markoe, and Kenneth T. Jackson. Vol. 7:
Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2007. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
Jump up ^ "Toon Tracker's Fred From Channel One Page". Toontracker.com.
Retrieved November 12, 2012.
Jump up ^ "The Banana Man". Facweb.furman.edu. November 24, 2003.
November 12, 2012.
Jump up ^ Bruce "Charlie Johnson. "Bruce Johnson: Charlie The Juggling
Charliethejugglingclown.com. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
^ Jump up to: a b c Petty, Ross D. "Pedaling Schwinn Bicycles: Lessons
Leading Post-World War II U.S. Bicycle Brand". Babson College, MA
(2007), p. 6.
Retrieved November 12, 2012.
Jump up ^ Petty, Ross D., Pedaling Schwinn Bicycles, pp. 5–7
Jump up ^ "Was Mr. Greenjeans Frank Zappa's father?". The Straight Dope.
November 11, 1985. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
Jump up ^ "The New Captain Kangaroo!". Clownlink.com. May 21, 2011.
November 12, 2012.
Jump up ^ "Captain Kangaroo". Captainkangarooshow.blogspot.com.
November 12, 2012.
Robert James "Bob" Keeshan (June 27, 1927 – January 23, 2004) was an
television producer and actor. He is most notable as the title character
of the children's
television program Captain Kangaroo, which became an icon for millions
during its 30-year run from 1955 to 1984.
Keeshan also played the original "Clarabell the Clown" on the Howdy
Keeshan was born in Lynbrook, New York. After an early graduation from
Hills High School in Queens, NY in 1945, during World War II, he
enlisted in the
United States Marine Corps Reserve, but was still in the United States
surrendered. He attended Fordham University on the GI Bill.
Network television programs began shortly after the end of the war.
Howdy Doody, an
early show which premiered in 1947 on NBC, was one of the first.
January 3, 1948, Keeshan played "Clarabell the Clown", a silent
who communicated by honking several horns attached to a belt around his
horn meant "yes"; another meant "no". Clarabell often sprayed Buffalo
Bob Smith with
a seltzer bottle and played practical jokes. Keeshan gave up the role in
1952, and was
By September 21, 1953, Keeshan was back on the air on WABC-TV (New York
City), in a new children’s show, Time for Fun. He played Corny the
Clown, and this
time he spoke. Later that same year, in addition to Time for Fun,
Tinker's Workshop, a program aimed at preschoolers, with him playing the
Developing ideas from Tinker's Workshop, Keeshan and his long-time
Miller submitted the concept of Captain Kangaroo to the CBS network,
looking for innovative approaches to children's television programming.
the show, and Keeshan starred as the title character when it premiered
on CBS on
October 3, 1955. Keeshan described his character as based on "the
relationship between grandparents and children." The show was an
and he served as its host for nearly three decades.
From left: Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, Captain Kangaroo, Grandfather
Moose, and Mister Green Jeans.
Recurring characters included his sidekick (and fan favorite) Mr. Green
by Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum) and puppets such as "Bunny Rabbit" and "Mr.
The New York Times commented: "Captain Kangaroo, a round-faced,
mustachioed man possessed of an unshakable calm ... was one of the most
characters television ever produced."
Keeshan also had a Saturday morning show called Mister Mayor during the
season. Keeshan, in his role as the central character in both Captain
Mister Mayor, heavily promoted the products of the Schwinn Bicycle Co.,
directly on-air to his audience. By 1972, Keeshan had introduced
on Captain Kangaroo to recommend Schwinn products, Mr. Schwinn
to the Federal Trade Commission ruling against children's show hosts
their sponsor's products during their programs after 1969.
Keeshan suffered a severe heart attack on July 13, 1981, which pushed
the start of
a revamped version of his show back to at least mid-August. Keeshan
heart attack just moments after stepping off a plane at Toronto
He had come to the city to accept a children's service award.
Keeshan underwent triple-bypass surgery and received an estimated 5,000
wishes from fans.
Following the heart attack, Keeshan received three Emmy awards for
Performer in 1982, 1983, and 1984. Despite these accolades, Keeshan's
shortened from its hour-long format to a half hour in 1981, to make room
expansion of the CBS Morning News lineup. The program was retitled Wake
the Captain, and was moved to a new 7 AM time slot. At the start of
1982, the show
was rescheduled to an even earlier slot of 6:30 AM. In the fall of 1982,
CBS installed it
as a weekend-only hour offering, and two years later, in the fall of
1984, the show
became a Saturday half-hour entry.
Tired of CBS's constant reductions of his show, Keeshan left Captain
his contract with the network ended in December 1984, just nine months
shy of the
show's 30th anniversary. By 1987, repeats of the show were airing daily
on many PBS
Keeshan's show was given a farewell of sorts with Captain Kangaroo and
prime-time network TV special that aired in 1985.
After Captain Kangaroo ended, Keeshan hosted 1985's CBS Storybreak,
featured animated versions of children's literature. Keeshan appeared in
sequences for the animated stories, showcasing the book versions and
similar books for the viewers to seek out. In 1987, Keeshan founded
Solutions with former Tennessee Republican Governor Lamar Alexander. The
company provided day-care programs to businesses.
Keeshan lived on Melbury Road in Babylon Village, Long Island, New York
moving to spend the last 14 years of his life in Norwich, Vermont,
became a children's advocate as well as an author. His memoirs, entitled
Morning, Captain, were published in 1995 by Fairview Press. He was a
advocate against video game violence and took part in congressional
hearings in 1993.
In addition, he joined with parents groups in the 1980s who protested
shows based on then present toys on the market, like He-Man and
felt that toys turned into TV shows did not teach children anything
about the real world.
He also made a rare film appearance in The Stupids in 1996.
Keeshan was an adopted member of the Dartmouth College Class of 1942,
an honorary doctorate from the College in 1975. Le Moyne College, a
arts college in Syracuse, New York, awarded him a Doctor of Humane
honoris causa, in 1983. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the
New Rochelle in 1985, after having served for several years on its board
of trustees. In
1997 he received an honorary doctorate from Middlebury College, which
attended by his grandson Britton Keeshan, for his work in children's
In the 1990s, Keeshan expressed an interest in bringing back a new
version of Captain
Kangaroo to television as a gentler and kinder answer to the violent
children's television. Despite having sponsors and television stations
lined up, Keeshan
was unable to obtain permission to go ahead from ICM, the company which
rights to Captain Kangaroo.
Keeshan died in Windsor, Vermont, on January 23, 2004 at age 76. He was
by three children, Michael Derek, Laurie Margaret, and Maeve Jeanne. His
wife of 45
years, Anne Jeanne Laurie Keeshan, died February 25, 1996. Keeshan's
grandson, Britton Keeshan, became the youngest person at that time to
the Seven Summits by climbing Mount Everest in May 2004. He carried
of his grandfather on that ascent, and buried a photo of the two of them
at the summit.
Keeshan was buried in Saint Joseph's Cemetery in Babylon, New York.
Keeshan received many awards, including:
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Alfred University, 1969
Five Emmy Awards (1978, 1981–1984)
Three Peabody Awards (1958, 1972, 1979)
National Education Award, 1982
Induction into the clown hall of fame, 1990
American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award, 1991
Induction into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame,
An urban legend claims that actor Lee Marvin said on The Tonight Show
that he had
fought alongside Keeshan at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February–March,
However, Marvin not only never said this, but had not served on Iwo Jima
been hospitalized from June 1944 until October 1945, from wounds
received in the
Battle of Saipan), and Keeshan himself never saw combat, having
enlisted too late
to serve overseas.
^ Jump up to: a b Severo, Richard (January 24, 2004). "Bob Keeshan,
Star of TV's 'Captain Kangaroo,' Is Dead at 76". The New York Times.
April 26, 2010.
^ Jump up to: a b Keeshan, Bob
Jump up ^ Bob Keeshan; Captain Kangaroo, the first Clarabell the Clown.
Jump up ^ Info on Mr.Keeshan's involvement with"Time For Fun"and
Workshop" can be found in "The NYC Kids Shows Round Up"section of the
Party" website at www.tvparty.com
Jump up ^ Petty, Ross D., Pedaling Schwinn Bicycles: Lessons from the
Post-World War II U.S. Bicycle Brand, Babson College, MA (2007) Article
Jump up ^ Petty, Ross D., Pedaling Schwinn Bicycles, p. 6.
Jump up ^
Jump up ^
Jump up ^
Jump up ^ Bruni, Frank (February 9, 1997). "Are They Dead Yet? Well, Yes
No.". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
Jump up ^ http://jcp.proscenia.net/publications/articles_mlr/walsh/corporations.html
Jump up ^ "Bob Keeshan, Creator and Star of TV's 'Captain Kangaroo,' Is
76". The New York Times. January 24, 2004. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
Jump up ^ Ruibal, Sal (June 2, 2004). "Keeshan spans globe to honor
'Kangaroo'". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
Jump up ^ "Alfred University, Honorary Degrees, 1960-1969".
Jump up ^ Zec, Donald. Marvin: The Story of Lee Marvin. New York: St.
Press, 1980, ISBN 0-312-51780-7, p. 217.
Jump up ^ Urban Legends Reference Pages: Captain Kangaroo and Lee Marvin
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