Facts About the Beloved "Captain Kangaroo" Show
If you're of a certain age, you probably have fond memories of certain TV shows from when you were a kid. One of the biggest innovators in children's television is Bob Keeshan, also known as Captain Kangaroo. Captain Kangaroo ran for 29 seasons on CBS, making it one of the longest-running children's shows of all-time. Do you know everything about Captain Kangaroo? Well, here are some facts that you may or may not know! Let's get started
The creator of the Captain Kangaroo show was Bob Keeshan. He was the original Clarabell The Clown on the seminal television show, The Howdy Doody Show in the 1950s. He created Captain Kangaroo in 1955, and it stayed on the air in some form until 1992.
Keeshan wanted to create a show that captured the "warm feeling between grandparents and grandchildren". The show had a very loose structure, but there were several recurring elements. We'll talk about those a bit later in the article.
Captain Kangaroo premiered on CBS-TV on October 3rd, 1955. During that time, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the Billboard number one song was "The Yellow Road Of Texas" by Mitch Miller, and the song "Rock Around The Clock" was released only three months before.
Interestingly enough, there was another show that premiered on the same day. The Mickey Mouse Club was premiering on ABC. That makes two pioneering kids' shows happening on the same day. Captain Kangaroo premiered with Bob Keeshan and Hugh Brannum, who played Mr. Green Jeans.
The Lion Cub
One notorious backstage incident involved Brannum. A lion cub had been brought onto the show for a segment on baby animals. Mr. Green Jeans was petting the lion cub when it bit him. However, Brannum was a pro.
Brannum didn't flinch. He stuck his hand in his pocket and kept going. He never broke character and no one even knew about the injury until after the show was over. The show was live at that point, so there was no way to "re-do" it afterward.
Speaking of Mr. Green Jeans, a longstanding rumor said that he was the father of pioneering musician Frank Zappa. That's because Zappa included a song called "Son Of Mr. Green Jeans" on his 1969 album called Hot Rats.
The rumor is completely untrue, of course. Brannum did have one son, but his name wasn't Frank, and he certainly didn't write the kind of lyrics that Mr. Zappa wrote. It's a fun rumor to contemplate though. Zappa died in 1990, but his autobiography never mentioned anything about Mr. Green Jeans.
After Captain Kangaroo went completely off the air in 1992, there were a number of attempts to revive it, even after Keeshan's death. One notable one happened in 2011 when professional clown Pat Cashin bought the rights to the show and the character.
Unfortunately, the show never got off the ground because Cashin couldn't get funding. He had performed as Captain Kangaroo live a few times, but suddenly died in 2016, which left the show in limbo. It wasn't the first or last time that there was an attempted revival though.
Captain Kangaroo was one of the first children's shows to have a racially integrated cast. James Wall was a stage manager at CBS News. Captain Kangaroo was produced in a studio right down the hall from the news.
He persuaded the show's producers to allow him to portray a new character, Mr. Baxter, in 1968. He stayed with the show until 1978. Sadly, Mr. Wall passed away in 2010 at the age of 92. The episode when he made his debut is considered to be a landmark in television history!
Fred Rogers, host of the show Mister Rogers's Neighborhood, and Bob Keeshan were very good friends. They did several crossover episodes for each other's shows. One of these, on Mister Rogers's Neighborhood, even involved Captain Kangaroo taking a trip to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
Sadly, Fred Rogers and Bob Keeshan died within a year of each other, in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Both were known for their kind, gentle shows. Both were also fierce advocates for children and children's programming on television.
Was Captain Kangaroo A Captain?
Another longstanding rumor about Bob Keeshan was that he was a war hero who fought alongside actor Lee Marvin. Supposedly, both men fought side-by-side at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. One version of the story has Keeshan and Marvin being two of the men raising the flag in the famous photo.
This is another case of an untrue story gaining a life of its own. While Lee Marvin did indeed fight in the Battle Of Iwo Jima, Bob Keeshan did not. Keeshan himself stated in 1997 that he had enlisted too late to see any combat.
The First Revival
The first revival of Captain Kangaroo happened in 1997. The Saban Company, who was known for the creation of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was behind this revival. Captain Kangaroo himself was played by actor John McDonough.
The show didn't last long. Keeshan was not happy about the attempted revival and went on record to say so. Reviews of the show were not positive either, so it was canceled after one season. Keeshan was especially unhappy that Saban was behind it, telling Knight-Ridder News Service, "They could do a fine program, I don't know...It's just that I've never seen them do a quality program."
When Captain Kangaroo was canceled in 1984 by CBS, the show moved to PBS. Keeshan had long been unhappy with CBS's decisions regarding the timeslot of the show. He was also very unhappy about the decision to cut it back to a half-hour format.
He explained this to the Chicago Tribune, saying, ''In the Midwest, we often were played at 6 in the morning, which was ridiculous. So I informed CBS that when my contract was up we'd be seeking a home elsewhere.''
The iconic theme song to Captain Kangaroo was called "Puffin' Billy". It was used from 1955-1978. It was not originally written for Captain Kangaroo. The song was composed by Edward White, and it was a song about a train on the Isle of Wight.
Later on, in 1974, the theme song was changed. The new theme, "Here Comes Captain Kangaroo" was composed by Lynn Ahrens. Lynn Ahrens was behind many of the songs of another classic children's show of the 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock.
Mr. Schwinn Dealer
In the 1950s, commercials were integrated into television shows. The hosts of the show would often push products directly, rather than having a separate commercial break. There were rules on advertising during children's programming, but someone had to pay the bills.
To get around the rules, a new character named "Mr. Schwinn Dealer" was introduced in 1972. Schwinn Bicycles. became a sponsor of the show in 1958, and eventually stopped sponsoring it in 1973. The Federal government got involved in 1971 when they released the report Guidelines on Advertising to Children.
The Second-Longest Children's Show
Captain Kangaroo was shown in some format from 1955 - 1993. The later episodes on PBS were mostly reruns, but it was still on the air. That means it was on for 38 years, and it only ranks behind two other kids' shows in the US.
Those two shows are Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1967 to 2007. (It's still on the air in reruns occasionally.) and of course, Sesame Street, which began in 1972 and is still on the air nearly 50 years later.
Mr. Spock And Captain Kirk
The famous intro to Captain Kangaroo featured different people and children saying "Good Morning, Captain" all in a brief montage. Most of the time, the people in this segment were just people that CBS filmed outside the studio.
However, sometimes there were some celebrities involved, usually people from other CBS shows of the time period. In one memorable appearance, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy made one of their first post-Star Trek appearances in the montage. This was in 1976, three years before the first movie!
Bob Keeshan's grandson, Britton, was the youngest person to ever climb the seven tallest mountains in the world. When his grandfather died in 2004, Britton was preparing for a climb of Mt. Everest, which is the tallest mountain in the world.
When he reached the summit, he buried a picture of his grandfather at the top of the mountain. That means there is a picture of Captain Kangaroo on the top of Mt. Everest! Bitton completed the Seven Summit climb when he was only 22 years old.
Those are some of the facts behind Captain Kangaroo. This was one of the all-time great children's shows and hopefully, you learned something new. If you did, please share it with your friends! Thanks for reading!