Eddie Kean

Writer / Composer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half-hour interview, Eddie Kean (1924-2010) talks about his background growing up in a musical household. He discusses his early years as a songwriter, which led to his meeting Bob Smith and working as a writer on Smith's radio show. He describes in great detail his subsequent work as the sole writer for Howdy Doody for over seven years, which starred Smith as "Buffalo Bob." Kean talks about the launching of the show in 1947 as Puppet Playhouse and how it grew from a weekly to a daily program. He recalls some of the series' memorable characters (and the performers who played them) including: "Clarabell," "Mr. Bluster," "Chief Thunderthud," "Princess Summerfall Winterspring," "Flubadub," and "Howdy Doody" himself. He describes the series as a "soap opera" for kids and discusses such memorable storylines as the "Howdy Doody for President" campaigns and the "Mystery of the Four Ls." He speaks about the music he wrote for the show, including the memorable theme song and such instructional songs as "You Don't Cross the Road With Your Feet." He describes how he used to gauge the reaction that the show was getting by reading fan letters and also by anonymously sitting in the screening room in which the children's parents sat during show time. He also discusses the licensing for the show, the talented cast and crew, and the series' impact. He speaks in detail about the legacy of a single word he created for "Chief Thunderthud" — "Kowabunga"— which has since outlived the show as a catchphrase in various forms (usually spelled "Cowabunga"), notably by "Bart Simpson" on The Simpsons. He talks about leaving the show that he felt was running him down (a daily grind of "type-puff-phone-coffee") and running the cast down as well. Kean also discusses writing for The Gabby Hayes Show during his years on Howdy Doody and such series as Going Places subsequently. He speaks about his later pursuits including entertaining as a piano player. Karen Herman conducted the interview on November 3, 2005 in West Bloomfield, MI.

All views expressed by interviewees are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the Television Academy.

"'Howdy Doody' was actually a soap opera for kids with a cliffhanger every night, just not the kind to keep a four-year- old, which was the median age of our audience, awake at night."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Eddie Kean on "Clarabel the Clown" played by Bob Keeshan on Howdy Doody
02:59
Eddie Kean on writing Howdy Doody theme song
03:34
Eddie Kean on the beginnings of Howdy Doody
05:00
Eddie Kean on the heavy merchandizing and sponsorship of Howdy Doody
03:25
Eddie Kean on inventing the word "kawabonga" on Howdy Doody
08:11
Eddie Kean on working with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody
02:04
Full Interview

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Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on attending Camp Paradox; on his early years as a songwriter, and on collaborating with a partner
On the beginnings of Howdy Doody; on tailoring his songwriting to television, specifically Howdy Doody
On writing the Howdy Doody theme song; on the heavy merchandizing and sponsorship of Howdy Doody

Chapter 2

On the Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery; on "Clarabel the Clown" played by Bob Keeshan on Howdy Doody; on the characters on Howdy Doody
On writing the character of "Howdy Doody" on Howdy Doody and on "Mr. Bluster" voiced by Dayton Allen; on Bob Keeshan as "Chief Featherman" and "Chief Thunderthud" played by Bill Le Cornec on Howdy Doody; on Judy Tyler as "Princess Summerfall Winterspring" on Howdy Doody
On "Flubadub" played by Dayton Allen on Howdy Doody; on where he got his inspiration to write for Howdy Doody; on working with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody

Chapter 3

On his personal and professional relationship with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody; on the Christmas Eve massacre (a labor dispute) and how in impacted Howdy Doody; on Howdy Doody producer E. Roger Muir
On Howdy Doody producer Martin Stone; on Howdy Doody director Bob Rippen; on Howdy Doody puppet maker Scott Brinker
On the music of Howdy Doody; on including educational material in the scripts and songs of Howdy Doody; on "Clarabel" squirting people with his seltzer bottle on Howdy Doody
On parents' reaction to Howdy Doody; on what made Howdy Doody so popular with the children

Chapter 4

On celebrity guests on Howdy Doody; on the show's legacy; on leaving the show
On writing for The Gabby Hayes Show; on his post-Howdy Doody work
On coining the word "cowabunga" on Howdy Doody

Chapter 5

On meeting Robert Goulet who was a Canadian host of Howdy Doody; on his friendship with Bob Demme, father of director Jonathan Demme; on his children loving The Patty Duke Show and arranging for his children to meet Patty Duke
On meeting Ronald Reagan; on advice to aspiring writers and on his writing style; on career achievements and regrets and how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Gabby Hayes Show, The

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Writer Eddie Kean on working on The Gabby Hayes Show
01:37

Howdy Doody

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Eddie Kean on the beginnings of Howdy Doody
05:00
Eddie Kean on tailoring his songwriting to television, specifically Howdy Doody
01:11
Eddie Kean on writing Howdy Doody theme song
03:34
Eddie Kean on the heavy merchandizing and sponsorship of Howdy Doody
03:25
Eddie Kean on the Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery
04:35
Eddie Kean on "Clarabel the Clown" on Howdy Doody
02:59
Eddie Kean on the characters on Howdy Doody
04:11
Eddie Kean on writing the character of "Howdy Doody" on Howdy Doody and on "Mr. Bluster" voiced by Dayton Allen
05:17
Eddie Kean on Bob Keeshan as "Chief Featherman" and "Chief Thunderthud" played by Bill Le Cornec on Howdy Doody
02:13
Eddie Kean on Judy Tyler as "Princess Summerfall Winterspring" on Howdy Doody
02:42
Eddie Kean on "Flubadub" played by Dayton Allen on Howdy Doody
02:32
Eddie Kean on where he got his inspiration to write for Howdy Doody
02:29
Eddie Kean on working with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody
02:04
Eddie Kean on his personal and professional relationship with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody
03:38
Eddie Kean on the Christmas Eve massacre (a labor dispute) and how in impacted Howdy Doody
04:25
Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody producer E. Roger Muir
01:58
Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody producer Martin Stone
02:37
Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody director Bob Rippen
01:49
Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody puppet maker Scott Brinker
01:38
Eddie Kean on the music of Howdy Doody
06:16
Eddie Kean on including educational material in the scripts and songs of Howdy Doody
02:54
Eddie Kean on "Clarabel" squirting people with his seltzer bottle on Howdy Doody
01:01
Eddie Kean on parents' reaction to Howdy Doody
01:25
Eddie Kean on what made Howdy Doody so popular with the children
00:50
Writer Eddie Kean on celebrity guests on Howdy Doody
06:21
Eddie Kean on coining the word "cowabunga" on Howdy Doody
07:55
Eddie Kean on people's reaction when they find out he worked on Howdy Doody
00:52
Eddie Kean on the legacy of Howdy Doody
01:22
Eddie Kean on leaving Howdy Doody after seven years
01:41
Eddie Kean on inventing the word "kawabonga" on Howdy Doody
08:11
Eddie Kean on meeting Robert Goulet who was a Canadian host of Howdy Doody
04:08

Patty Duke Show, The

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Eddie Kean on his children loving The Patty Duke Show and arranging for his children to meet Patty Duke
07:42

Super Circus

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Eddie Kean on writing for Super Circus hosted by Jerry Colona
04:46
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Eddie Kean on the heavy merchandizing and sponsorship of Howdy Doody
03:25

Characters & Catchphrases

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Eddie Kean on coining the word "cowabunga" on Howdy Doody
07:55

Pop Culture

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Eddie Kean on writing Howdy Doody theme song
03:34
Eddie Kean on coining the word "cowabunga" on Howdy Doody
07:55

TV Theme Songs

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Eddie Kean on writing Howdy Doody theme song
03:34

Television Industry

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Eddie Kean on the heavy merchandizing and sponsorship of Howdy Doody
03:25
Professions

Music Professionals

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Eddie Kean on his musical style
00:46

Writers

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Eddie Kean on advice to aspiring writers
00:29
Eddie Kean on his writing style
02:34
Genres

Children's Programming

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Eddie Kean on writing music for Howdy Doody
05:00
Eddie Kean on writing for Howdy Doody
29:02
Eddie Kean on writing for Howdy Doody
28:31
People

Dayton Allen

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Eddie Kean on writing the character of "Howdy Doody" on Howdy Doody and on "Mr. Bluster" voiced by Dayton Allen
05:17
Eddie Kean on Bob Keeshan as "Chief Featherman" and "Chief Thunderthud" played by Bill Le Cornec on Howdy Doody
02:13

Patty Duke

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Eddie Kean on his children loving The Patty Duke Show and arranging for his children to meet Patty Duke
07:42

Gabby Hayes

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Writer Eddie Kean on working on The Gabby Hayes Show
01:36

Bob Keeshan

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Eddie Kean on "Clarabel the Clown" played by Bob Keeshan on Howdy Doody
02:59
Eddie Kean on Bob Keeshan as "Chief Featherman" and "Chief Thunderthud" played by Bill Le Cornec on Howdy Doody
02:13

E. Roger Muir

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Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody producer E. Roger Muir
01:58

Ronald Reagan

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Eddie Kean on meeting Ronald Reagan
02:53

Bob Smith

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Eddie Kean on working with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody
02:04
Eddie Kean on his personal and professional relationship with Bob Smith on Howdy Doody
03:38

Martin Stone

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Eddie Kean on Howdy Doody producer Martin Stone
02:37

Judy Tyler

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Eddie Kean on Judy Tyler as "Princess Summerfall Winterspring" on Howdy Doody
02:42

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