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Andy’s Gang began as Smilin’ Ed’s Gang in 1950, sponsored by the Buster Brown Shoe Company. Ed McConnell, a white-haired bear of an uncle, played host, read from storybooks, sang and played the piano, talked to a collection of puppet animals and introduced movie segments like Ghanga Rama, the Elephant Boy.
When Ed died in 1954, Andy Devine – a veteran second banana in movies and a ubiquitous character actor – took over.
His sets were always strangely dark, and the gravelly-voiced Andy spent much of his time on air with Froggy the Gremlin, whom he would exhort to “plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!” amid puffs of smoke.
Among the human sidemen were Alan Reed (later the voice of Fred Flintstone) and Billy Gilbert (consummate sneezer and classic veteran of Laurel and Hardy shorts). The puppets’ voices included that of June Foray, certainly the most talented of female voices in cartoons and children’s television.
Andy’s Gang‘s appeal to young audiences and immediate success provoked a proliferation of puppet shows.
Midnight, the cat
Tige, the dog