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Smiling Ed's Gang

Froggy the Gremlin appeared on the Buster Brown show every Saturday, first on radio, and then on TV. Smilin' Ed McConnell was the first host on both radio and TV on Smilin' Ed's Gang, and then Andy Devine appeared on the TV shows in Andy's Gang. If you turn the volume up and be patient, you'll hear Smilin' Ed as he sounded at the start of his shows. On this page I have some information about Smilin' Ed from two different sources.

Smilin' Ed McConnell's Daughter

The first is from an e-mail I received from Ed McConnell's daughter. Here is what she said about the start of the show:

Hello --- It's good to know that somebody still remembers the Buster Brown Show even if you can't remember Smilin' Ed McConnell who was my dad . It upsets me that Andy Devine who only did a few shows gets more recognition for it than my father who did it for several years and created all of the characters with the exception of Buster Brown and Tige . As a matter of fact , the whole McConnell family was involved and I remember sitting on the piano bench with my dad in Chicago before the radio shows started discussing various aspects of Froggy . If you're really interested in hearing just how Froggy came into being , let me know and I'll clue you in .
Cheers --- Jane Cozart (nee McConnell)

(Note from Michele: I wrote and asked for more information.)

Hello Michele --- O.K., here's how Froggy got himself born. My dad had just got the contract to do a kids' radio show for Buster Brown and they left it up to him to come up with the format. The cat , mouse and piano were easy but he felt that he needed a different character that was totally alien to anything that had been done so far. This was during the early part of World War 2 and we lived in Chicago at the time where there were lots of air force ( both American and Canadian). The going joke among them, if anything screwed up on one of the planes, was that "a gremlin did it." Ha ! Now we have a character that could be made to be mischievous ( although generally harmless ) and was already in the American lexicon. The problem was trying to figure out what he looked like. No amount of collective "brain wracking" in our family could come up with it. Time was running out so Dad decided that frogs were humorous and he'd give him a gravelly  voice and let it go at that. There's something about "Froggy trying to "hurt the Eskimos"  and I can't remember that one. Froggy was supposed to just be somebody ( very much like my dad and I ) who was always stirring things up in a silly way to keep life interesting. Froggy, my dad and I all delighted in " puncturing pomposity." Jane aka The Wiched Witch of The West  (or just plain WWW)

(Note from Michele: I wrote and asked for more permission to add her e-mails to my web site.)

Yes , you have my permission to use it in your update . Drop me an email when you do so I can check it out .     
Cheers ---   Jane   WWW

TV Guide Article

The other source of information I have about Smilind Ed's Gang comes from an issue of TV Guide, February 5, 1954, pages 20-21, in an article titled "The Pied Piper of TV: 'Smilin' Ed' McConnell has Charmed Young Ones for 28 Years." Because the article is fairly short, I will quote it in its entirety below and include the three pictures in it (you may click on the pictures to get a larger version):

The Pied Piper of TV

'Smilin' Ed' McConnell

has Charmed Young

Ones for 28 Years



One of the least-publicised yet most looked-at television shows currently on the air is Smilin' Ed's Gang, a Saturday morning children's entry on ABC which has exceeded its sponsor's fondest dreams.

The show started on radio 12 years ago under the sponsorship of a shoe company. Since that time, the company has almost quadrupled its business (from $8,000,000 to $30,000,000), has built seven new factories and has established so many dealerships that it takes a certified public accountant to keep up.

The Gremlin Helps

The entire advertising budget has been alloted to Smilin' Ed's radio and television program for years now. What's the secret?

The show's success lies in the drawing power of 61-year-old Ed McConnell, who has been on the air for 28 years, sponsored every minute of the time. His formula is simplicity itself: he tells stories. These he augments with Froggy, the exasperating gremlin; Midnight, the musical cat; Squeaky, the mouse, a hamster and a few other assorted characters.

Indians Brown, Indians Red

With television, the emphasis of his program has shifted somewhat to the filmed dramatization of Ed's famed stories based on the jungles of India, as well as some of North American Indian life in days gone by.

Responsible for this latter day secret is a former advertising man, Frank Ferrin. Ferrin, a quiet-type genius, originally sold the sponsor on using McConnell to tell stories and sell shoes. Then, he sold McConnell on the idea of using film to help tell his stories.

When TV came along, Ferrin put the show on film immediately, making this the oldest continuous film show on television, now in its fourth season. He sent a camera crew to India for a full year. With it, for three months, went young Nino Marcel, who plays the part of Gunga Ram, the young hero of Smilin' Ed's Tales.

In Hollywood, Ferrin merely matches the jungle film with studio shots and it takes an expert to tell where one ends and the other begins.

As for the miracle man himself: Ed McConnell, son of an Atlanta, Ga., minister, started out as an evangelist song leader. He later developed his singing talents in vaudeville.

On a visit to an Atlanta radio station in the early 1920's, he was literally pushed on the air by the station manager, frantic because the talent scheduled for the next hour had failed to show up. Ed has been on the air steadily ever since that time.

The future seems just as secure as the past for Smilin' Ed's Gang. With color television at hand, Ferrin and McConnell are exchanging congratulations because every foot of film they made for the program is in color. The boys are ready for almost anything.

For more information about Smilin'Ed, see Remembering Smilin' Ed by Ronald L. Smith.

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  Page last updated 08 Jul 2009.
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