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Buffalo Bob Smith

AKA Robert Emil Schmidt

Born: 27-Nov-1917
Birthplace: Buffalo, NY
Died: 30-Jul-1998
Location of death: Hendersonville, NC
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified
Remains: Cremated

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: TV Personality

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Howdy Doody

Robert Schmidt was required to take piano lessons as a child and took to the instrument, and turned professional at 15 with a part-time job at as pianist and singer on a local radio station. In his late teens he joined the Hi-Hatters, a three-man vocal group fronted by Foster Brooks, and their band toured the country as an opening act for Kate Smith. By the mid-1940s he was working in radio, and in 1947 he was hired as a disc jockey at WEAF, an NBC-owned radio station in New York City, where (with World War II fresh in the audiences' minds) he changed his on-air name from the German-sounding Schmidt to the more American Smith. In addition to other duties at the station, Smith co-starred in a radio show for kids called The Triple B Ranch, and when that proved successful he was asked to create a kid's show for the network's TV stations -- according to legend he got the assignment on a Tuesday, and The Puppet Playhouse debuted four days later. Wearing folksy garb, Smith introduced the orange-haired puppet Howdy Doody in the show's fourth episode. Early episodes reached only six cities (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Schenectady, Washington and New York) but as television caught on the renamed Howdy Doody show became a huge hit among Smith's nationwide "peanut gallery" of baby boomers.

The show's puppet cast included Howdy's nemesis, Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, along with Dilly Dally and Flub-a-dub. Live characters included Princess Winterspring Summerfall, who started as a puppet but was reconceived as human, and Chief Thunderthud, the stereotyped native American whose catch phrase "Cowabunga" was later adopted by Bart Simpson. Until 1953 a young Bob Keeshan played the mute clown Clarabell, frequently spritzing Smith with seltzer. More than 2,300 episodes were broadcast, all live and most beginning with the line, "Say, kids, what time is it?" to which the audience would shout in reply, "It's Howdy Doody time!" Smith provided Howdy Doody's voice, but never worked as a puppeteer himself. The show ended its 13-year run in 1960, but until his death Smith continued making appearances as Buffalo Bob, usually accompanied by a photo-ready stringless Howdy Doody. He briefly returned to television in the syndicated New Howdy Doody Show in 1976, but the program was cancelled after 130 weekday episodes.

Father: Emil Henry Schmidt (coal miner-carpenter)
Mother: Emma Kuehn Schmidt
Wife: Mildred Caroline Metz (m. 1941, until his death)
Son: Christopher
Son: Robin
Son: Ronald

    Endorsement of Wonder Bread
    Endorsement of Campbell Soup
    Endorsement of Colgate-Palmolive (Colgate Toothpaste)
    Endorsement of Hostess Twinkies
    Endorsement of Welch's Grape Jelly
    Heart Attack 1954
    German Ancestry

    TELEVISION
    Howdy Doody Buffalo Bob; voice of Howdy Doody (1947-60)

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    Problem Child 2 (3-Jul-1991) · Father Flanagan

Author of books:
Howdy and Me: Buffalo Bob's Own Story (1990)


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