Andy's Gang was a children's television program that ran on NBC from August 20, 1955, to December 31, 1960. It was hosted by actor Andy Devine and was the successor to the radio and television programs Smilin' Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang, later shortened to Smilin' Ed's Gang. Devine took over the television program when Ed McConnell died suddenly from a heart attack in 1954. He inherited a number of the characters on the earlier show and the sponsor, Buster Brown shoes.
The cast for the programs included:
- Andy Devine
- Nino Marcel as Gunga Ram
- June Foray as the voice of Midnight the Cat and Old Grandie, the witch
- Billy Gilbert as The Teacher
- Lou Krugman as The Maharajah
- Jerry Maren as Buster Brown
- Alan Reed as The Poet
- Vito Scotti in Pasta Fazooli/Rama
- Bud Tollefson as the voice of Tige, the dog
On the original programs, Smilin' Ed McConnell started the show with "Hiya kids" followed by the audience singing the sponsor's song (Buster Brown Shoes) "I got shoes, you got shoes, everybody's got to have shoes, but there's only one kind of shoe for me-good old Buster Brown shoes!" Then Ed said, "Thank you buddies and sweethearts. Good old Buster Brown shoes are on the air out here in Hollywood for another good old Saturday hullabaloo."
Originally, the show was filmed in front of a live audience, but as McConnell's health deteriorated, they used prefilmed children's reaction shots intercut with the studio performance.
The backdrop was a clubhouse. Produced on a very small budget, the show was a success—bringing the Buster Brown advertising characters to life and helping to sell millions of shoes based on icons that had existed for decades. It was also one of the first children's shows filmed in Hollywood.
Music and stories from Smilin' Ed's Storybook were regular features. The show also featured "Gunga, the East India Boy," a serial set in India. Led by The Maharajah, Gunga Ram and his pal Rama set out on great adventures around the village of Bakore in filmed segments.
The most popular segment was the visit from Froggy the Gremlin, who would appear when Smilin' Ed yelled his famous catch-phrase, "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!" This same phrase was later used by Andy Devine.
McConnell died of a heart attack in 1954, and Andy Devine took over the show in 1955.
The show then went to the rough voiced, gentle giant, Andy Devine, who had earlier appeared as Jingles on The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok show with Guy Madison. The studio reaction shots were again intercut and Devine did his segments without a live audience. This also allowed some limited special effects such as when Froggy appeared or disappeared.
The show began with Andy sitting in a big easy chair reading from a book, Andy's Stories, which were illustrated by film clips. Regular characters were Midnight the Cat, Squeeky the Mouse (portrayed by a hamster), and Grandie the Talking Piano. Midnight, a big black cat, would sometimes operate an organ grinder. Midnight would also sometimes say "Nice" in a falsetto meow when asked what she thought about something.
In filmed segments, Gunga Ram was an Indian boy played by Nino Marcel. Gunga (Ghanga Rama during Smilin' Ed's tenure) and his friend Rama (Vito Scotti) helped out the Maharajah.
Comic actor Billy Gilbert regularly appeared on the show and was often interrupted by Froggy or told to do what Froggy wanted. The enraged Gilbert would then chase Froggy until he disappeared. One surviving clip shows Vito Scotti trying to explain singing, while Froggy keeps interrupting or making fun of him; eventually, Scotti tries to grab Froggy but the gremlin suddenly disappears.
Devine closed with, "Yes, sir, we're pals, and pals stick together. And now, gang, don't forget church or Sunday school."
Some of the original filmed programs hosted by Andy Devine have survived, including a few segments filmed in color near the end of the show's run in 1960. Both VHS and DVD home videos have been issued of the programs. Clips of the telecasts are available on several websites. The entire inventory, over a ton of filmed programs and presumably the broadcast rights, are the property of Hubbard Broadcasting, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Buckner & Garcia paid tribute to Smilin' Ed McConnell and Froggy the Gremlin on a 1982 novelty song "Froggy's Lament" about the Sega arcade game Frogger from their album Pac-Man Fever with its lyrics "Hiya kids" and "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!".