We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
The Cry Goes Up
Buck Biggers: Top Dog
Observe a moment of respectful silence, if you will, for a Georgia boy who made good: William Watts “Buck” Biggers, who passed away Feb. 10 at the age of 85. And let’s follow that moment with a loud, rousing sing-along of the theme from his best-known contribution to our popular culture: Underdog.
When criminals in this world appear
And break the laws that they should fear
And frighten all who see or hear
The cry goes up both far and near
For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Buck Biggers was himself no underdog. Born in Avondale Estates, he was a high-school wunderkind who went on to Emory University law school and, by the age of 20, was in New York City working his way up through the ranks at the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency. Eventually given the prestigious General Mills account to supervise, he and his team devised animated ads for selling Kix, Trix, Cheerios and other breakfast cereals to kids. Then, in 1960, he and his collaborator Chester “Chet” Stover launched Total TeleVision, a production company that created original animation series into which cereal commercials could be implanted.
Biggers’ first success was King Leonardo and His Short Subjects, a Saturday morning series for NBC that focused on Leonardo Lion, the inept but loveable ruler of Bongo Congo, and his capable chief of staff, a skunk named Odie O. Cologne (whose voice was a ringer for actor Ronald Colman’s). Other segments in the half-hour featured The Hunter, a Bluetick detective with the drawl and stentorian bray of a Dixiecrat senator, and Tooter, a naïve young turtle sent on time-traveling adventures by a Merlin-like wizard.
“Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome, time for this one to come home,” Wizard would incant when Tooter invariably got into trouble.
Like Underdog, which premiered on NBC in 1964, King Leonardo had a wonderfully clever theme song that stuck forever in the heads of many of the kids who watched it.
Here comes Leonardo, Leonardo Lion
King of Bongo Congo, the hero lion of iron.
Where Leonardo travels, his subjects all go too.
There’s Odie O. Cologne who’s loyal and true blue.
I say there’s the booming Hunter, and wily witty Fox
And Tooter who brings fun to you from Wizard’s magic box.
Biggers had originally moved to New York hoping to become another Hoagy Carmichael or Cole Porter. Tin Pan Alley shrugged, thus his taking that lowly mail room job at Dancer Fitzgerald. But the extent of his musical gift is evident in the catchy lyrics and music he wrote for those two series and for another TTV hit, Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales, which revolved around a penguin voiced by Don (Get Smart!) Adams.
Biggers co-wrote episodes as well – more than 500 scripts over the years for characters as diverse as the shy, self-effacing Underdog and the bloviating Commander McBragg. And he had a Dickensian knack for naming characters, from Underdog’s beloved Sweet Polly Purebred to Tuxedo’s walrus sidekick Chumley to villains like Riff Raff and Simon Bar Sinister.
Though his name may be less familiar than that of Jay Ward, Biggers’ creations rank just slightly behind Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle in the pantheon of original TV cartoons. His work entertained millions in their heyday and left an indelible impression on quite a few aging kids who remain, like Odie, “loyal and true blue.”
Drizzle, drazzle, drome, Mr. Biggers.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Responding to criticism that its soft drinks contribute to epidemic obesity in America, and that it hooks kids on the sugary sodas like Bill Cosby giving away Quaalude Jell-O shots to kindergarteners, and that it has funded research to confuse Americans about how horrible soft drinks are for human health, the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. said it is thinking doing something – but probably not. “Sure, we could recall all 600 billion soft drinks Americans drink on an average day, and you could make the case that these sugar-packed sodas contribute to the nation’s appalling weight gain, in the same way you could Read on →
Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same. I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called "Evocateur" -- when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about. On the nationally syndicated show that he and MTV mastermind Bob Pittman concocted, Mort made Jerry Springer look like a Nelson Mandela and Rush Limbaugh sound like Fr Read on →
Grandpa was not a storyteller. It was only later, when Grandma wasn’t around, that he told me a few stories about his life and parents. He never talked about the hard times during the Great Depression, but he said enough to encourage me in later life to research his family history. When he died all of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s personal things, letters and photographs were given to my older cousin because she was the only granddaughter. By the time I became interested in our family history everything had been thrown away except some old photographs. I started the long and frust Read on →
Wall Street likes it simple: promote bull markets; avoid bear markets. But there's now an elephant on Wall Street, and few are daring to talk about it. In you hadn't noticed, the market has been essentially flat for a year; that is until it cratered last week, losing 18 months worth of gains. Unlike the crash of 2008, there's no obvious smoking gun. I'm no economist, but I've been reading the economic tea leaves for quite some time. On July 13, 2015, Paul Gilding published a riveting article in Australia's REnewEconomy titled "Fossil Fuels Are Finished -- The Rest Is Just Detail." We're Read on →