Friday, July 4, 2008

R.I.P. Bozo the Clown

This morning's paper carried the news that Larry Harmon, who gave Bozo the Clown his human form, died Thursday, 3 July. I consider it pretty amazing that the news rates coverage by the BBC. Or maybe not, since Bozo got started in audio form in 1946 - the year that defines the start of the Baby Boom.

Bozo the Clown and I go way back. Above is a picture of the cover of a record album in my collection.

Interestingly, the production date for this album appears to be contemporaneous with Larry Harmon being hired to play Bozo on a record promotion tour. The record itself features the voice of Pinto Colvin. The AP story contains a reference to "the last 52 years" that places Harmon's original hiring in 1952, the copyright date on this record album.

I say "gave Bozo his human form" because (according to Wikipedia) Bozo was only played by Colvig (with a different hair style) on a local Los Angeles TV station for a few years starting in 1949. It was Harmon who took the character national and recreated the look of the cartoons you see in this record album as well as earlier ones.

The logo in the upper right corner shows that Bozo was still "The Capitol Clown" at that time. Harmon did not buy the copyright to Bozo until later in the 1950s.

What made this a "Record Reader" is that the two 78-rpm discs inside were synchronized to the text in the book that was inside the album. You turned the page each time Bozo honked his horn.

If you are old enough, you probably remember film strips that worked the same way.

Unlike the Dr. Seuss books and other "early reader" books, the print is small and the words can be big. It was clearly meant to be used with a parent guiding you through the words as you heard Bozo and others tell the story.

A sample:

And on July 4th, what better selection than the Firecracker Song ...

Looking back at this, it seems a bit odd that one of the Three Duck Brothers appears to be female or (less likely) of an unrelated species. An early attempt at inclusive marketing?

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