Voice Actor- Dallas McKennon

One of my favorite things in life has always been listening to records. As a child my mother would reward me for doing my chores by taking me the big Sears and Roebuck store in downtown Birmingham. Once in the record section I would cruise through the vinyl till I got to the children’s corner. There I would buy a 45 RPM of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, or the long forgotten Super Dupers. About 90% of what I had was from Disneyland Records. The person that I heard on those Disneyland Records was a man called Dallas McKennon. The final taxi has taken another great voice actor.

Dallas McKennon 89 is voice that you may have heard during a trip to your favorite Disney location. Just before you get on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride, you would hear “Hold on to your hats and glasses! This here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” That recorded voice was that of McKennon.

McKennon will be heard in several Disney films including Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Lady & the Tramp, and 101 Dalmatians.

When CBS decided to make an animated series out of the popular Archie comic book, they chose McKennon to voice the main character of Archie. The show debuted in September 1968 and aired, in various forms, until 1978.

In the 50’s McKennon hosted a children’s TV show and was asked to voice a new stop action animated short about a green clay humanoid figure and his many adventures. The show was called Gumby and it ran a total of 233-episodes. I still love watching these and hearing McKennon’s one of a kind voice.

If you still do not know who Dallas McKennon is you may remember him from his live action roles. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds will recall the cook who yells, “Don’t throw that match!” in the gas station scene where the birds attacked people outside the restaurant . On the Daniel Boone TV series with Fess Parker, he had a recurring role as Cinncinatus, the old storekeeper. He was also in the Elvis Presley move Clambake.

PODCAST: Muppet Babies & Scoopy-doo Animator- John Ahern

Animator, director and producer John Ahern, winner of a 1988 Daytime Emmy Award for Muppet Babies, took his Final Taxi at 74.
Ahern worked on everything from  G.I. Joe to the New Scooby-Doo Movies, Speed Buggy, The New Tom & Jerry Show, The Super Friends  and BraveStarr.

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I Think We Are All Bozos On This Bus- Larry Harmon

When I was growing up in Alabama we had several local shows that were made for children. Two that I can remember were the Cousin Cliff Show and Sergeant Jack . Both were adult men who played a character that interacted to the children in the studio audience and showed cartoons between the segments when they were talking to the kids. (Most of the cartoons were Popeye with a Three Stooges shorts thrown in as well.)

It was years later that I found out this format was being used all around the world. I love talking to people who lived outside the US and seeing what the names of their local children’s entertainer was.

One the first to establish this format was Larry Harmon, who portrayed frizzy-haired Bozo the Clown for years and licensed the character to dozens of TV stations around the United States.

Larry Harmon has taken his Final Taxi at 83.

Bozo the Clown was created in 1946 by Alan W. Livingston who produced a children’s storytelling record-album and illustrative read-along book set for Capitol Records. The albums were extremely popular and the character became a mascot for the record.

In 1956, Larry Harmon, one of several actors hired by Livingston and Capitol Records to portray Bozo at promotional appearances, formed a business partnership and bought the licensing. Harmon had the vision and drive to take advantage of the growing television industry and make a better future for Bozo. He renamed the character “Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown” and with his Larry Harmon Studios cranked out 156 five-minute Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown cartoons for syndication. He provided the voice of Bozo in the series.

“Bozo the Clown” was mostly a franchise as opposed to being syndicated, meaning that local TV stations could put on their own local productions of the show complete with their own Bozo. By the late 1960s, Harmon had licensed local Bozo TV shows in nearly every major U.S. market, and across the world in places as far away as Thailand, Greece and Brazil.

Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1925, Harmon grew up in Cleveland. A University of Southern California alumnus, he was its only freshman to win the title of drum major. He led the Trojan Marching Band in the first televised coverage of the Rose Bowl Parade in the mid-1940s.

“I started out to be a doctor,” he once said. “I love medicine. I always did.”

“I did radio, big band, and when I came out to California, motion pictures and TV. Deciding between medicine and theater was a tough decision.”

Harmon first assumed the Bozo character by answering a casting call to make appearances as a clown to promote Capitol’s Bozo records. Harmon helped solidify the Bozo look, which combined orange hair, a bulb nose, and a red, white and blue costume.

Bozo’s last appeared on TV when a version of the series ended its 40-year run on Superstation WGN 9 in Chicago in 2001. I remember watching that last episode. As an adult I still enjoyed seeing Bozo on Sunday morning with my kids before heading out to church. It was still special to me.

“I felt if I could plant my size 83AAA shoes on this planet, (people) would never be able to forget those footprints,” Harmon once reflected. I won’t forget them.