A Quick visit to Captain Kangaroo

Bob Keeshan played Clarabell on the Howdy Doody Show. In 1955 CBS offered Keeshan his own children’s show, which became Captain Kangaroo. Captain Kangaroo ran from 1955 to 1984. The show spanned many generations of kids during that time.

Keeshan was Captain Kangaroo and every morning I would look forward to seeing The Captain, Mr. Green Jeans, Bunny Rabbit, Dancing Bear, and Mr. Moose. I knew that Mr. Moose was setting the Captain up for the ritual ping-pong drop on the Captain’s head that never got old.

Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum) would have different animals at times to show. He also portrayed the Professor, Greeno the Clown, the New Old Folk Singer, and Mr. Bainter on the show.

The Painter was played by Gus “Cosmo” Allegretti who also handled the puppets and Dancing Bear.

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One one of my favorite sections was the cartoon “Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings” that would appear on some shows. Simon had a magic blackboard and anything he drew became real.

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Mr. Moose could be a slight smart aleck so I did like him. He also hung out with Bunny Rabbit and the Dancing Bear.

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Captain Kangaroo’s place with his cast of characters was a nice place to visit as a kid.

Magic 8 Ball

I was told as a kid that a Magic 8 Ball could predict the future. I bought it hook line and sinker…I was also told by my older sister (8 years older) that snakes bite the second person in a line while I was merrily leading the way hiking in the woods as a 5-year-old…so I caught on pretty quick after I stepped on a snake…didn’t get bit though…but I never let her forget it.

I bugged my mom till she got me the mysterious Magic 8 Ball. I was amazed at this toy…well it wasn’t a toy to me. I thought this was great. So being 5-6 years old I thought I would put it to use… Oh, Magic 8 Ball should I color in the encyclopedias with my crayons? I shook it up and waited for the triangle to give me the answer… “signs point to yes”…those signs must have pointed in a different direction than my Mom… she wasn’t a fan of the Magic 8 ball after that.

Abe Bookman invented the Magic 8 Ball, a fortune-telling toy currently manufactured by Mattel.

During World War II Alfred Carter in Cincinnati had created a tube-like fortune-telling toy. To help him he got his brother in law to help…that would be Abe Bookman. they created a 7” tube device with glass on both ends with a pair of floating dice with responses. It was sold as the “Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune Teller.” Their company was called Alabe Crafts.

The original Magic 8 Ball was tubular and went by the name Syco-Seer. The Magic 8 Ball above. The Syco-Seer metal cylindar above. The Syco-Slate Pocekt Fortune-Teller at right.

Carter died in 1948 and Bookman revised it into a crystal ball but it still didn’t sell really well. Then the Brunswick Billiards company commisioned Bookman to make them one for them shaped like an 8 ball as a promotional giveaway.

After the giveaway was finished Bookman kept producing them shaped like an 8 ball.

The Magic 8 Ball that we have known since then has contained a 20-sided polygon inside a hollow plastic ball, floating in a liquid-filled, 3-inch diameter tube. The liquid largely consists of dark blue ink and alcohol. The predictions, yes, no, or non-committal, appear on each triangular face of the polygon.

Bookman marketed it as a conversation piece, a paperweight and then a toy.

Ideal Toys bought Alabe Crafts in 1971. Next, Tyco Toys bought the ball in ’87. Mattel owns it today and sells one million units a year.

Here are the magical statements of the Magic 8 Ball

  • As I see it, yes
  • Ask again later
  • Better not tell you now
  • Cannot predict now
  • Concentrate and ask again
  • Don’t count on it
  • It is certain
  • It is decidedly so
  • Most likely
  • My reply is no
  • My sources say no
  • Outlook good
  • Outlook not so good
  • Reply hazy, try again
  • Signs point to yes
  • Very doubtful
  • Without a doubt
  • Yes
  • Yes, definitely
  • You may rely on it.




The 50’s Revival in the 1970’s

When the Beatles arrived in 1964, the short hair and car hops of the fifties were going away. The sixties in some ways liberated people from the fifties for better or worse. The crew-cuts and simple times were giving way to Vietnam and the social unrest of the sixties.

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Slowly as the sixties started to come to a close the fifties started to peak in again.

In the late sixties, Sha Na Na started their act and even toured with well-known acts. Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis’s popularity grew and Elvis started to make music again instead of soundtracks with his 1968 comeback special. In 1971 a disc jockey name Jerry Osborne started an “oldies” format on FM radio in Phoenix, Arizona and it was successful and other emulated it around the country.

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In 1972 “Grease” a musical that took place in 1959 debuted on Broadway. In 1973 George Lucas came out with  American Graffiti and boom really started. The soundtrack to American Graffiti peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100 in 1973. Happy Days debuted the following year and fifties music was gaining in popularity.

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A spin-off from Happy Days Laverne and Shirley, also set in the fifties, was a huge success and still is syndication to this day. In 1974 the 50s era movie The Lords of Flatbush with the pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler of Happy Days.

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In 1977 Sha Na Na started a variety show…unfortunately I remember this…

In 1978 two big fifties era movies were released. Grease and American Hot Wax which featured performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Styles seem to recycle every 20 years or so but in the 1970s the fifties revival was really strong. Maybe it was a want for a more simpler time.

The 1972 London Rock and Roll Show

Eddie Cochran 50s Guitar Hero

I got to know Eddie Cochran’s music through The Who. The Who covered Summertime Blues and I wanted to know where that came from…I read about his influence on the Beatles but never heard anything from him until the mid-eighties when I bought one of his compilation albums.

Eddie Cochran was a huge influence for the up and coming British guitar players of the sixties. Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Lennon, and Pete Townshend. He was huge in the UK. He was one of the big 50s guitar heroes. He broke through with the song “Summertime Blues” in 1958 that peaked at #8 in the  Billboard 100 and he also did well with C’mon Everybody. He was never really big in America… he was a bigger star in Europe.

He didn’t use his guitar as a prop like some did…he played it and played it well. He also worked as a session musician. He helped bring rock guitar along in more ways than just his playing. He was one of the first to modify his pickups and he did away with the wound G string on the guitar. He replaced it with an unwound string which made it easier to bend. Many future musicians were paying attention, sitting on the front row of his British tour.

His influence can be heard throughout rock and roll…It was because Paul McCartney knew the chords and words to “Twenty Flight Rock” that impressed John Lennon to asked Paul to become a member of the Quarrymen.

During a British tour in 1960, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Sharon Sheeley (Eddie’s fiancé), and tour manager Pat Thompkins were in a taxi. They were leaving a show in Bristol, England to go to the London Airport…the taxi hit a lamp post and Eddie was thrown from the car and suffered a head injury and died in a hospital. He was only 21 years old. Gene Vincent received injuries to his already bad leg and walked with a limp after the crash. Eddie was the only one to die.

Sharon Sheeley was a songwriter. She wrote Ricky Nelson’s first hit “Poor Little Fool” and a couple of songs (Love Again and Cherished Memories) for Cochran.

There are a couple of stories about Eddie’s Gretch guitar. A 13-year-old Marc Feld met Cochran outside the Hackney Empire, a theater in the London borough of Hackney, where Cochran had just played a concert. Cochran allowed the boy to carry his guitar out to his limousine. Later Marc Feld would be known as… Marc Bolan of T Rex.

After the crash the guitar was impounded at a London police station…a young policeman used it to teach himself how to play. That policeman’s name was David Harman, but he would soon change his name to Dave Dee and help start a band called Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich…One of the soon to be British Invasion bands.






Bill Haley and His Comets

I’ve always liked Bill Haley and His Comets. I liked the pattern of his vocals and the tone of his guitar. He is sometimes referred to as one of the Fathers of Rock and Roll. Happy Days where I discovered Bill Haley and also Fats Domino.

Haley was blinded in his left eye as a child due to a failed operation. Haley later adopted his distinctive spit-curl hairstyle to distract attention from his blind eye. The hairstyle caught on as a 50s-style haircut.

Bill Haley is overlooked constantly. He was one of the firsts to play Rock and Roll but he didn’t exactly have the Elvis look. He was 30 in 1955 but looked much older. He looked like someone’s dad playing rock and roll but he had some of the iconic songs of the 1950s.

In 1953 he recorded the song “Crazy Man, Crazy” and it peaked in the charts at #15. It is said by some to be one the first rock and roll songs. In 1954 came the breakthrough song “Rock Around The Clock” that went to number 1. Other hits included “Shake Rattle and Roll” and “See You Later, Alligator” that was a hit in 1956.

His popularity started to decline in America with the emergence of Elvis but he was huge in Europe when he toured there in 1957. They had many more top twenty hits in the UK than in America.

A self-admitted alcoholic, Haley fought a battle with alcohol well into the 1970s but he and his band continued to be a popular touring act. He enjoyed a career resurgence in the late 1960s with the rock and roll revival movement. “Rock Around the Clock” recharted again in 1974 at #34 on the Billboard 100.

Haley was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1980 and he passed away on February 9, 1981. Haley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Over 100 musicians were in the Comets from 1952-1981 and The Comets kept touring until the 2000s…

Rock Around the Clock

One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, rock
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, rock
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
Put your glad rags on and join me, hon’
We’ll have some fun when the clock strikes one
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight
When the clock strikes two, three and four
If the band slows down we’ll yell for more
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight
When the chimes ring five, six and seven
We’ll be right in seventh heaven
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight
When it’s eight, nine, ten, eleven too
I’ll be goin’ strong and so will you
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight
When the clock strikes twelve, we’ll cool off then
Start a rockin’ round the clock again
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’til broad daylight
We’re gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight

Al Kooper: Backstage Passes Backstabbing Bastards

This is an autobiography of Al Kooper. Al has worked with many people in the music industry. He was a songwriter, musician, producer, A&R man and everything in between.

His book is well written and Al uses humor all the way through.

A few of his career highlights are helping to form Blood, Sweat, and Tears, playing the organ on “Like a Rolling Stone” (although he didn’t know how to really play organ), organized the Super Sessions with Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield, found and signed a band while in Atlanta named Lynyrd Skynyrd. While in Atlanta he started a record label called “Sounds of the South” in conjunction with MCA records.

He goes over working with Lynyrd Skynyrd and how their first three albums were recorded and why they parted company. Another band that he signed was Mose Jones who was going to be his Beatles type group to counterpoint the Lynyrd Skynyrd Stones sound for his label. Mose Jones ended up being ignored my MCA.

There is so much musical history this man was involved in…he makes light of getting called Alice Cooper on many occasions.

In Al Kooper’s words 

Let’s clear the air.
This is not a book by or about Vincent Furnier (né Alice Cooper.) It is a book by and about Al Kooper. If you don’t know who Al Kooper is, that’s fine. But don’t let that stop you from perusing these eye-opening accounts of encounters with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Gene Pitney, The Royal Teens, Bill Graham, Quincy Jones, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Mike Bloomfield, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Harrison, Miles Davis, The Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all the other wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with over the last forty years.

What was really interesting to me is he shared the same manager (Stan Polley) as Badfinger and was able to get out of his clutches with at least some of his money intact. I picked the book up cheap and I really have enjoyed it. I would recommend this to music fans. Many funny stories and he is such a talented musician.

Another quote from Kooper on the Like A Rolling Stone Session… Tom Wilson was the producer who knew Kooper didn’t normally play the organ.

Thirty seconds into the second verse of the playback, Dylan motioned toward Tom Wilson. “Turn the organ up,” he ordered. “Hey, man,” Tom said, “that cat’s not an organ player.” Thanks, Tom. But Dylan wasn’t buying it: “Hey, now don’t tell me who’s an organ player and who’s not. Just turn the organ up.” He actually liked what he heard!

Al Kooper and Bob Dylan

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George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, and Al Kooper


Jimi Hendrix and Al Kooper


Al Kooper…he wanted to set the record straight


some Leave It To Beaver moments

Last winter I binge watched some Leave It To Beaver episodes. I remember watching them as a child in the afternoons in syndication. My wife and I were watching them and I was thinking to myself it would probably not age too well. I was pleasantly surprised.

The show really had some good writers. They caught kids being kids and it holds up today minus the cell phones, video games, and modern distractions. They do catch how kids think and feel and also parents. Yea sometimes it could be a little too perfect but the writers would surprise me… Eddie Haskell. The name has lived on beyond the show. Everyone knows an Eddie Haskell.

In one episode the boys are playing basketball and June Cleaver is making sandwiches for them all. Eddie tells Mrs.Cleaver that he is allergic to mayonnaise. June doesn’t like Eddie and it’s clear in this episode…what does she do? She loads Eddie’s sandwich up with mayonnaise.

In another episode, the Cleavers get new neighbors and the wife of the neighbor kisses Beaver…Eddie tells him the husband is going to get Beaver back for kissing his wife. Later on, Beaver asks Ward a question about kissing women. This was more for the adults.

Theodore Cleaver: Dad, you’re a married man, aren’t you?
Ward Cleaver: Yeah, I think we’re safe in assuming that.
Theodore Cleaver: And Mom’s a married woman, isn’t she?
Ward Cleaver: Oh, yes.
Theodore Cleaver: Have you ever kissed any other married woman besides Mom?
Ward Cleaver: Well… now, Beaver, why would you ask a question like that?
Theodore Cleaver: I’m just wondering.
Ward Cleaver: Well, actually son, No.
Theodore Cleaver: I guess you were scared to, huh?
Ward Cleaver: Yeah, that’s as good a way as any to sum it up, I guess.
Theodore Cleaver: I guess a guy could get in a lot of trouble doing that, huh?
Ward Cleaver : [a wistful smile crosses Ward’s face]  He sure could.

The Beaver had a great friend in Larry Mondello. Larry was on the show for a few seasons and then left. Larry would sometimes leave Beaver holding the bag but for the most part, he was good to him. On the other hand, his friends Gilbert and Whitey would trick the gullible Beaver. Again we have all known Gilberts and we have all had a Larry Mondello friend.

This show gets made fun of at times but after watching some as an adult…it is a solid and well-written show and the choices they make work for today also.

My favorite episode? In The Soup… Whitey again tricks the Beaver into climbing into the Billboard soup bowl.

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