Family & Companions
As host of the wildly popular and influential children's program "The Howdy Doody Show," Buffalo Bob Smith became a consistent presence in the lives of millions of American children. With Howdy Doody and their friends in Doodyville, USA, he appeared on NBC for 13 seasons, broadcasting more than 2,500 live shows. In attendance each day was the Peanut Gallery, a live studio audience full of children. Buffalo Bob, so named for his hometown of Buffalo, NY, was seldom seen without his trademark fringed western suit and Howdy at his side, even in later years as they toured the country during a Howdy Doody revival. A favorite among baby boomers (or "alumni" as Smith preferred to call them), "The Howdy Doody Show" symbolized an innocent and ideal era, with the genial host as hero. Their revival, a reaction both to the tumultuous world of the late 1960s and the nostalgic longing of their vast audience, was started when a student at the University of Pennsylvania contacted Smith in 1970, inviting Smith to perform for graduate students at the school, most of which were kids he reached through television for so many years. This performance led to many more--at over 500 colleges and universities. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody also did a stint in Germany in 1972, performing 50 shows for American troops stationed there, under the auspices of the USO.
A talented musician, Smith was encouraged by his parents to perfect his piano playing. By age 15, he was working professionally in radio, primarily as a pianist and singer, and even did a stint as a member of the Hi Hatters, a vocal group that also featured future character player Foster Brooks. At 17, Smith was invited to join the act of singer Kate Smith (no relation), serving as both pianist and master of ceremonies. Before finding fame with "The Howdy Doody Show," Smith created "Triple B Ranch," a children's radio program, and voiced a character named Elmer who frequently said "Howdy doody." Elmer's favorite phrase soon became his name, as this radio character was transformed into TVs ' red-haired, freckle-faced marionette with whom Buffalo Bob would always be associated. During the early run of "The Howdy Doody Show," the smiley, wavy-haired Smith also kept up his radio career with an hour-long early morning show on NBC radio. On a 1949 broadcast, he ran into a bit of trouble with executives: As a joke, Smith reported that a spaceship had landed in Virginia. While creating nothing like the hysteria that surrounded Orson Welles' 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast, some listeners were very alarmed, particularly those in Virginia and he received a stern reprimand. The busy Smith also simultaneously hosted the daily variety program "The Bob Smith Show" (NBC, 1948-49).
The pressures of daily live television and Smith's many other projects soon took their toll on his health; he suffered a heart attack in 1954. Determined that the show still go on, he broadcast segments of "The Howdy Doody Show" from the basement of his home in New Rochelle during his months of recovery. NBC even built a set for him, and it was explained to the audience that Buffalo Bob was on a secret mission in Pioneer Village. Howdy Doody remained in the Manhattan studio with the Peanut Gallery, while other characters, like Clarabell and Trapper John, would sometimes travel to Smith's home and do the show from there. The Peanut Gallery interacted with Buffalo Bob via the Super Talkascope, through the magic of television. When "The Howdy Doody Show" went off the air in 1960, Smith left his place in front of the camera and moved on to business ventures including the ownership of three Maine radio stations, a liquor store, and dabblings in real estate. In the 80s and 90s, Smith appeared on many TV specials always celebrating the legacy of "The Howdy Doody Show." including "NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration"(1986). He and Howdy were the subject of "It's Howdy Doody Time: A 40-Year Celebration" (syndicated, 1987) and the pair introduced the children's programming tribute at the 22nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in 1995.
In 1991, Smith and his wife Mildred moved to Flat Rock, NC where he concentrated on golfing and fishing. Buffalo Bob's last public appearance with Howdy Doody was in November 1997.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Began working professionally in radio at age 15 (date approximate)
Joined Kate Smith's vaudeville act in Buffalo as a piano player and master of ceremonies (date approximate)
Hosted the daily NBC live children's program "The Howdy Doody Show", broadcasting over 2500 shows
Announced on his national morning radio talk show that a spaceship had landed in Virginia, causing minor alarm among listeners
Suffered a heart attack; hosted "The Howdy Doody Show" from a specially made studio in the basement of his New Rochelle, NY home while recovering
Was invited to the University of Pennsylvania to do a show, starting the 1970s "Howdy Doody" revival which included a college tour
Did 50 USO shows with Howdy Doody for American troops stationed in Germany
Made featured appearance on "NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration"
Appeared in a syndicated special "It's Howdy Doody Time: A 40-Year Celebration" marking the anniversary of the first "Howdy Doody Show"
Moved to Flat Rock, NC to concentrate on golf, occasionally appearing at events with Howdy Doody
Introduced the salute to children's programming on the 22nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards