"'Howdy Doody' was actually a soap opera for kids with a cliffhanger every night, just not the kind to keep a four-year- old, which was the median age of our audience, awake at night."
About This Interview
Eddie Kean (1924-2010) was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in West Bloomfield, MI. Kean talked about his background growing up in a musical household. He discussed his early years as a songwriter that led to his meeting Bob Smith and working as a writer on Smith's radio show. He described in great detail his subsequent work as the sole writer for Howdy Doody for over seven years, which starred Smith as "Buffalo Bob." Kean talked about the launching of the show in 1947 as Puppet Playhouse and how it grew from a weekly to a daily program. He talked about some of the series memorable characters (and the performers who played them) including: "Clarabell," "Mr. Bluster," "Chief Thunderthud," "Princess Summerfall Winterspring," "Flubadub," and "Howdy Doody" himself. He described the series as a "soap opera" for kids and discussed such memorable storylines as the "Howdy Doody for President" campaigns and the "Mystery of the Four Ls." He talked about the music he wrote for the show, including the memorable theme song and such instructional songs as "You Don't Cross the Road With Your Feet." He described how he used to gauge the reaction that the show was getting by reading fan letters and also by anonymously sitting in the screening room in which the children's parents sat during show time. He also discussed: the licensing for the show, the talented cast and crew, and the series impact. He spoke in detail about the legacy of a single word he created for Chief Thunderthud— "Kowabunga"— which has since outlived the show as a catchphrase in various forms (usually spelled "Cowabunga"), notably by Bart Simpson on The Simpsons . He talked about leaving the show that he felt was running him down (a daily grind of "type-puff-phone-coffee") and running the cast down as well. Kean also talked about writing for The Gabby Hayes Show during his years on Howdy Doody , and such series as Going Places subsequently. He talked about his later pursuits including entertaining as a piano player. B-roll consisted of photos from his Howdy Doody years and some recent Howdy Doody merchandise, as well as some other personal photographs. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on November 3, 2005.