Buffalo Bob Smith
|Buffalo Bob Smith|
Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody in 1972
|Born||Robert Emil Schmidt
November 27, 1917
Buffalo, New York
|Died||July 30, 1998
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Buffalo Bob Smith (born Robert Emil Schmidt; November 27, 1917 – July 30, 1998) was the host of the children's show Howdy Doody.
Born in Buffalo, New York, he attended Masten Park High School. Buffalo Bob got his start in radio in Buffalo. He started at WGR (AM) but switched from WGR to WBEN's late morning radio slot in 1943, as part of a move which also brought Clint Buehlman's early morning show over from WGR to WBEN at the same time. (The WBEN morning slot had opened when its host, future NBC-TV personality Jack Paar, was drafted into the military.) WBEN was seeking to break WGR's #1 position in local popularity and shaking the position of network-fed Don McNeil's Breakfast Club's grip on ratings for the 9 am time slot was an important part of the plan. WBEN first brought Clint Buehlman's popular early morning show, which ended at 9am, followed by 15 minutes of local news, over from WGR. Then, Buffalo Bob appeared at 9:15 am. Within a period of time, Smith had won the #1 spot in late mornings for WBEN and McNeil tumbled to second in the Buffalo market. Both Buehlman's and Smith's shows were produced by Ed Huber. Smith's popularity in Buffalo won the attention of NBC, which brought him to New York after the war to host early mornings on flagship station WNBC, a post he held through the early 1950s before concentrating on television. For a time between 1947 and 1953 he appeared mornings on WNBC even while hosting and producing the daily Howdy Doody children's show on the NBC television network in late afternoons.
The Howdy Doody Show
The puppet, Howdy Doody was based on a caricature of Mr. Smith's sister, Esther. Esther was employed at Sattler's department store in the drapery department and Howdy was the spitting image of her.
Smith also was known as a singer and musician, appearing on many top shows of the time before and even after becoming nationally known for the Howdy Doody Show. At first it aired on Saturdays, then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and finally, five times a week. It was successful from the very beginning. Howdy Doody was so popular that people gathered in the streets before appliance store windows to watch it, as they did with baseball games and wrestling matches. Howdy's popularity being what it was, it was announced in 1948 that he would run for president of all the boys and girls. Harry S. Truman also happened to be running that year, and he won the election over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. But Howdy did get a great many votes, becoming president of the boys and girls.
He hosted the Thursday evening Gulf Road Show, a comedy/variety show, on NBC-TV during the 1948–49 television season. In 1954, Mr. Smith suffered a heart attack and for a time, he did the show from a studio built in the basement of his home in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He returned to the NBC studio in 1955. The final NBC "Howdy Doody" episode aired in 1960. Later, in 1976, Smith reunited with longtime show producer Roger Muir and several of the original cast to produce a new daily syndicated Howdy Doody show.
In 1970 and 1971, he embarked on a live tour of college campuses. The shows, organized by producer Burt DuBrow, mixed nostalgia with more contemporary humor, such as Buffalo Bob finding a package of Zig Zags (rolling paper) allegedly belonging to Clarabelle. One show, on April 4, 1971, was recorded and released as an LP, on the label "Project 3 Total Sound Stereo". It was titled, "Buffalo Bob Smith Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore East".
He had a summer residence in Grand Lake Stream, Maine, as well as owning radio station WQDY in Calais, Maine. He was well liked by locals, and occasionally hosted local events. He also owned WMKR (now WSYY) radio in Millinocket, Maine.
His other screen efforts include films, "Track Of Thunder" (1968), "Back To The Future III" (1990), and Problem Child 2" (1991), as Father Flanagan. He also made guest appearances on "Happy Days" and "What's My Line," as well as the television specials, "NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration" (1986), and "It's Howdy Doody Time" (1987). After his retirement, Smith retired to North Carolina, becoming a member of Pinecrest Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Flat Rock.
Death and Legacy
He made a live infomercial appearance to promote Howdy Doody Entertainment Memorabilia on July 3, 1998, on QVC. That was his last appearance. Buffalo Bob Smith died a few weeks later on July 30, 1998, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, just three days before beloved puppeteer Shari Lewis, whose show took over the time slot that Howdy Doody had previously occupied.
- "Bulletin insert" (MS WORD). Pinecrest Presbyterian Church. August 16, 2009. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
- Severo, Richard (July 31, 1998). "Buffalo Bob Smith, 'Howdy Doody' Creator, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
Buffalo Bob Smith, a singing piano player and chatty radio disk jockey who created Howdy Doody and then teamed up with the puppet on one of early television's most enduring children's shows, died of cancer yesterday at a hospital near his home in Flat Rock, N.C. Mr. Smith was 80. His remains were cremated. Mr. Smith is survived by his wife, Mildred, to whom he was married for 57 years; three sons, Robin, Ronald and Christopher, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. None of his sons went into show business. Say, kids, what time is it? Buffalo Bob would ask his Peanut Gallery of children ages 3 to 8, gathered in an NBC studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza every afternoon, five days a week, in the late 1940s and 1950s.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Buffalo Bob Smith.|
- Buffalo Bob Smith at the Internet Movie Database
- Buffalo Bob Smith at Find a Grave
- Buffalo Bob
- Buffalo Bob Smith at Hollywood.com
- Howdy Doody Show
- Bob Smith interview video at the Archive of American Television
- musical outtake from Barry Mitchell's 1997 interview with Buffalo Bob Smith on YouTube