When I was a kid in the 1960's, Bozo the Clown was a must-see program. I didn't find out until much later that practically every major city in the U.S. had its own "Bozo," or that the clown didn't actually get his start on television, but on records.
In 1946, Alan Livingston of Capitol Records conceived of the clown as a narrator of a children's record. The disc ended up a major seller, which naturally led to equally successful sequels. By 1949, Livingston got the idea of making Bozo a TV personality. Pinto Colvig (right), best known as the original voice of Disney's Goofy and who voiced the clown on Capitol's records, became the first to actually portray Bozo, over KTTV-11 in Los Angeles. This venture, too, proved to be an enormous success, and Livingston wound up hiring various "Bozos" specifically for personal appearances. One of these was Larry Harmon, who eventually pooled his resources, bought the rights to the character from Capitol, and turned Bozo into a marketing juggernaut.
It was Harmon's idea to create Bozo programs unique to each major city. In Chicago, home of the longest-lasting Bozo program, the clown was portrayed by Bob Bell, then Joey D'Auria. Stu Kerr took the part in Baltimore (left), and Frank Avaruch in Boston.
If the Bozo on the right reminds you of a certain famous Today Show weatherman, it's no coincidence: for a time, Willard Scott was Washington D.C.'s clown.
Anybody out there ever own this punching bag clown? I did - and it's still available!
After 60 years, Bozo remains a viable commodity, despite his absence from daily or weekly television. In 2003, Bozo returned to his audio roots with a CD release entitled "Get Down with the Clown." For more on Bozo's history, as well as the merchandise seen here, visit Clown-Ministry.com at http://www.clown-ministry.com/History/bozo-clown.html.
Oh, yes: for the story behind a certain encounter between Bozo and a rather rude child - one that may or may not be apocryphal - go here: http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/bozo.htm