Buffalo Bob Smith
Buffalo Bob Smith
Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody in 1972
Robert Emil Schmidt
November 27, 1917
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 30, 1998 (aged 80)|
|Burial place||Grave site, memorial garden Pinecrest Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Flat Rock, N.C.|
|Occupation||Television personality, host|
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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 as Robert Emil Schmidt, he attended Masten Park High School, graduating in the same class as historian Richard Hofstadter. Schmidt 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 dropped to second in the Buffalo market. 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 while hosting and producing the daily Howdy Doody show.
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. 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, New York. 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.
After Howdy Doody
In 1970 and 1971, Smith 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 Clarabell. One show, on April 4, 1971, was recorded and released as an LP, on the Project 3 Total Sound Stereo label. It was titled Buffalo Bob Smith Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore East.
Smith had a summer residence in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. He was well-liked by locals and occasionally hosted local events. He owned radio stations WQDY in Calais, Maine, WMKR (now WSYY) in Millinocket, Maine and WHOU in Houlton, Maine.
His other screen efforts include films, Track of Thunder (1968) 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 Henderson County, North Carolina, becoming a member of the 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. Smith died of cancer a few weeks later on July 30, 1998, in a hospital in Hendersonville, North Carolina, just three days before puppeteer Shari Lewis, whose show took over the time slot that Howdy Doody had previously occupied.
- The Associated Press (July 31, 1998). "Former 'Howdy Doody' host dies". The Bangor Daily News.
- "Bulletin insert" (MS Word). Pinecrest Presbyterian Church. August 16, 2009. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-12-27.[permanent dead link]
- 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.
- "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.", nytimes.com, July 31, 1998; accessed August 5, 2015.
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