Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Jim Backus WTAM

I bought this 45 in a lot of 45s. As soon as I put it on, I recognized the voice from a TV show. It was Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island- a character played by Jim Backus. He was also the voice of Mr. Magoo. Gilligan's Island ran from 1964 to 1967... my first thought was that he probably came from radio.Sure enough, James Gilmore Backus began his radio career in the Cleveland area in the 1930s. At that time in the 1930s, acting did not mean just vaudeville, it meant radio. He started acting at University School and in plays at the Hanna Theater. His had a knack for comedy and managed to find wok on 1100 WTAM-AM.

He went to New York for a big part in the play "Too Many heroes." After that run ended he stayed in New York and did work for CBS and NBC. He playd Bullard, a re-ocurring character in The Great Gildersleeve, an NBC program that ran from 1941 to 1957. He did bit parts in episodes from the radio series Suspense. He was also a regular on radio's The Alan Young Show, as Eastern Seaboard snob Hubert Updike III. Thurston Howell III is a carbon-copy if this earlier character. For CBS, he played another similarly snobby and vain character named "Hartley Benson" on the The Mel Blanc Show.

He never went back to radio, but kept doing voice work. He did a couple novelty records. In 1958 Jubilee records actually had a top 40 hit with his song Delicious!. Mostly stuff that only his mother, and Doctor Demento could love. He was the voice of god on a prog-rock album called "Truth of Truths." He also has some spectacularly profane blooper reels.