Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cartoonist Arthur H. Lindberg (“Lyndell”) and Gulf Funny Weekly –


🙶 Wings Winfair, Speed Spaulding and 
This Wonderful World


🙶 It’s my favorite picture. He made those pastels, the colors were amazing.  As a kid I wanted to play with those pastels, but couldn't ...🙷  – Pam, Lyndell's granddaughter

[1] Mar 26, 1937
The earliest comic book to see the light of day was The Funnies (subtitle: “Flying – Sports – Adventure”), a dime weekly which carried original art and stories rather than newspaper comic reprints. Printing was done by Eastern Color. It ran from January 16, 1929, to October 16, 1930, a total of 36 issues. Each issue had 16 pages of four color material printed on newsprint.

Three years later Eastern Color’s sales manager Harry I. Wildenberg approached the Gulf Refining Company to produce a weekly giveaway, titled Gulf Comic Weekly. The Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries gives the date of the first issue as April 28, 1933. The title changed to Gulf Funny Weekly with No. 5, May 26, 1933. The premium comic was produced until May 23, 1941, ending at 422 issues.

Previously I noted that the lead serial ‘WINGS WINFAIR’ was originally credited to Stan Schendel (writer) and the unknown artist Lyndell. Recently the granddaughter of  ‘Lyndell’ wrote me identifying the unknown artist as Arthur H. Lindberg, well known in his time as a fine artist. He was born September 29, 1895 and passed away on July 23, 1977. Pam H. writes “My older sister is cleaning out her house to sell. It used to be my grandparents house and has been in the family since 1941.  Last night she brought over many portfolios of my grandfather's works... and in it are his cartoons he did as Lyndell.”

[2]
[3]
One other piece of comic art was saved — a Sunday SPEED SPAULDING strip.  Speed Spaulding was a curious strip based on the book When Worlds Collide, by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie, drawn mostly by Marvin Bradley, who would go on to work on Rex Morgan, M.D. The strip was distributed by John F. Dille Co., Chicago and would run under several different artists in the Famous Funnies comic book in the forties. The muddled history can be explored HERE and HERE. Since Arthur H. Lindberg only saved one original example it is likely the Sunday was drawn on speculation and never saw print.

[4] Speed Spaulding, John F. Dille Co., circa 1940
[5] Speed Spaulding, Marvin Bradley, Jan 29 1940
[6] Famous Funnies advertisement, cartoonist unknown, June 1940
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11] July 30, 1937
[12] Aug 6, 1937
[13] Sept 10, 1937
[14] Sept 24, 1937
[15] Oct 8, 1937
[16] Nov 26, 1937
[17]
[18] Lyndell, July 30, 1937
[19] Fred Meagher, July 22, 1938

Wings Winfair and Gulf Funny Weekly HERE

Gulf Funny Weekly Scans courtesy Arthur Lortie.

Coming soon: Pulp Western Illustrator Arthur H. Lindberg

Special thanks to Pam H. 


                                                                                                                           🙷




Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


The Reserved Mastery of Gluyas Williams


by Rick Marschall

Williams is a fairly common surname, in comics and cartoon history no less than in other areas of life. An immediate detour before this week’s “journey” – about the name Williams. I cannot help think of the Bob McDill song “Good Old Boy Like Me” (HERE) with the line Those William Boys, they still mean a lot me: Hank and Tennessee. The fact that it was recorded by Don Williams made it resonate even more.

So the name Williams, or any other name, is not magic, except what the magicians do with it. In cartoon history we have by coincidence three of the greatest exponents of single-panels and social commentary, rough contemporaries – J R Williams, Gaar William and Gluyas Williams.

Today we will visit Gluyas… as I was privileged to do in real life. His drawings are iconic in several ways. The full-page drawings and double-page strip sequences for Life in the 1920s and The New Yorker beginning in the 1930s, are masterpieces. His illustrations of humorous fiction represent his times and especially the “Little Man” school of humor; it is impossible to read, or think of, the great work of Robert Benchley without being reminded of Gluyas William drawings.

He illustrated short humor pieces and books by Corey Ford, Edward Streeter (Father Of the Bride), and others. From the 1930s to the 1950s he drew daily panels for my old friend John Wheeler’s Bell Syndicate. His work was twice anthologized in his lifetime, and in recent years the cottage-industry producer of reprints, portfolios, and frameable prints, Rosebud Archives, issued several volumes (HERE) of Williams’ work – Short Stories; People of Note; The Wide Open Spaces; And So to Bed; and others. My Rosebud partner Jon Barli is working on two more series – the reprints of all of the Gluyas Williams newspaper panels; and thematic compilations of the Williams character Fred Perley, harried suburbanite.
And So To Bed book cover
Gluyas Williams was preceded in the cartooning field by his sister Kate Carew (pen name) who was a popular cartoonist and caricaturist. For a while her celebrity interviews and caricatures in the New York World were promoted on huge New York City buses and billboards. Gluyas attended Harvard; studied art at the famed Académie Colarossi in Paris; and became art editor of the children’s magazine Youth’s Companion.

His path first crossed Robert Benchley’s when he edited the humor magazine Harvard Lampoon in college. He was editing words, and Benchley was an aspiring cartoonist; and Williams’ suggestion that they trade avocations changed history. (At least our favorite corners of history, right?)

He was slow to join The New Yorker, a magazine with which he frequently is associated. Actually – largely forgotten by posterity – in the 1920s many cartoonists and writers initially contributed to TNY out of friendship or sympathy with founder Harold Ross; and in any event and in many ways his magazine was a carbon-copy of Life. Benchley, Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Gluyas Williams, Held’s flappers, S J Perelman: these and other prominent mirth-makers were slow to join Ross’ weekly.

Williams vouchsafed a story to me about an early submission to Ross, who suggested a multi-panel strip about a demolition team arriving at the wrong house. He suggested a woman in the bathtub among funny bits. Williams told me he sent the suggestions back to Ross with the personal note that he found humor in understatement, not slapstick or bawdy gags. He told me he wished he still had the response from Ross, who said that the exchange revised his entire view of humor! This might have been the genesis of the urbane humor for which The New Yorker became famous.

Such an anecdote told by almost anyone else might have had a whiff of hyperbole or self-aggrandizement. Not so with Gluyas Williams. In person, he was as modest and reserved as any member of his cast of thousands.


“The distinguishing aspect of suburban life is the commuter.”
He was so reserved that when Brian Walker and Chuck Green produced a National Cartoonists Society album in 1980, they listed him as “deceased.”

He fulfilled the sad designation in 1982. And by the way, he was born in San Francisco in 1888. In other housekeeping, and a matter of curiosity among cartoon fans, his Christian name was pronounced GLUE-yas: his mother’s maiden name.

His reserved nature and eventual obscurity was confirmed at our first meeting, and many subsequent visits. He was always gracious to me and, more than that, a cordial and frequent correspondent. His letters, to his last days, were written in a patient cursive. He loved talking about his career – again, never bragging – the people he met, student days in Paris, his approach to drawing.

Throughout most of his life he lived in and around Boston. When I first met him he lived in a nursing home in one of the Newton-towns of suburban Boston… not for himself, but to be close to his wife who had grown infirm. The only chat I ever recorded was on an afternoon when building repairs were being done at the old house-turned-nursing home; so it is punctuated with hammering and power saws.

There might be readers who do not know the work of Gluyas Williams. To describe it – and him – I will steal from myself, and articles I did for Cartoonist PROfiles and my old Nemo magazine. Also, R C Harvey quoted me in a Comic Journal piece:

Gluyas Williams did more with less than practically any cartoonist in history. His masterful panel drawings are genre studies, more often than not crowded with figures, and frequently confusion is the mood. No: confusion is the subject; urbanity is the mood....

All of Williams’ characters somewhat nervously floated through the Twentieth century, slightly intimidated by technology and more than a little suspicious of the traps and trappings of modern life that awaited, ready to attack, around every corner.

Perfect were his evocations of personality types and the upper-middle-class milieux that he delineated. But Gluyas Williams’s most stunning accomplishments were as a draftsman. Here was an artist in total command of his media—every pen line is in place, nothing superfluous, yet everything so marvelously expressive.

Here is the doing-more-with-less ideal, aspired to by many cartoonists, in its finest incarnation.... The stark economy in a Williams cartoon came nowhere close to sterility: rather the scenes were vibrant and bursting with personality. Every figure is doing something—and doing something so expressively that you feel a part of the scene. Added to these gifts were Williams’ awesome sense of design, perspective, and composition.

Cover of Rosebud anthology, The Wide-Open Spaces –
The Gluyas Williams Panoramas
I couldn’t have said it better, which is why I am not trying. I can not add to my awe at the talents of Gluyas Williams; he should be on every cartoon connoisseur’s list of favorites. I paused over the word “talents” in assessing the work of Gluyas Williams; he had something that transcended talent. He had instincts in every aspect of an artist’s work I listed above. Instinct scarcely can be taught, and is even more daunting to learn. “What to leave out” has been a goal of uncountable painters and illustrators throughout history.

Choosing and understanding your subjects is always an exquisite discipline whose first rule is to remain modest (there is that word again) and who determine not to wander off looking for new artistic worlds to conquer. Gluyas Williams declined to employ slapstick; to work in other media than pen-and-ink; to accept assignments of rural or urban humor, historical themes, or foreign subjects.

He was at home in America’s suburbs at a time of their rise across the landscape. His goal was not to break into the metropolis, but to be welcome in the suburban neighborhoods of picnics, kids’ baseball games, and social teas.

The final testament to Gluyas William’s mastery of all he chose to survey is his original artwork. I have many pieces, including ones he inscribed to me (like one of his most famous, And So Bed, delineating the myriad diversions of a boy at bedtime) and they are wonders to behold.

Williams was, no surprise, a consummate craftsman. Working on drawing paper of almost porcelain-type surfaces, his pencil lines are sometimes discernible. But they are not the gaggle of sketch-lines that many cartoonists – many superb cartoonists – employed. No, they are virtually as simple and precise as the trademark Williams ink-lines that filled his compositions. And… never a correction. I have never seen a Gluyas Williams original with a paste-over, white-out, or correction.
 
Gluyas Williams, 1975
… besides: who could correct anything in such a cartoonist – from capturing the essence of everyday moments, to creating characters who lived, to depicting it all so perfectly?


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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sunday with Hy Mayer

==
The Sphinx and the Drummer – an 
 Oriental Pipe Dream

New York Journal
Oct 31, 1897
==

Monday, April 1, 2019

That Conference – by Raemaekers




Louis Raemaekers

 ОО


Chicago Examiner, September 27, 1917

ОО

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


Lyonel: Cartoons and Fein Art 

by Rick Marschall


[1] “The White Man”

Bad pun. This is a story about Lyonel Feininger, the German artist born (and died) in America. The son of a prominent musician, Lyonel was born in 1871 and initially studied music himself. In 1887 he moved to Germany, land of his parents’ birth, and only returned to America about 50 years later. He died in New York City in 1956.

An early Cubist, and a founder of the Bauhaus, Feininger is a major name in 20th-century art. But he began his career – and had an extensive career – as a cartoonist and caricaturist. The two pursuits occupied almost exactly equal periods of his life, with a decade overlap in the ‘teens.

As a cartoonist, he drew book and magazine illustrations; humorous, social, and political cartoons; and comic strips. As a close relative of the genres, wooden comic figures he carved and painted were placed in front of his unique, distorted urban scenes and photographed – “The City At the End of the World.” Music and photography were also lifelong pursuits.



[2] Character sketches for Kin-Der-Kids

There have been books and museum exhibitions of Feininger’s works, but he remains generally more respected than familiar beyond a few famous works.

In my collection in the late 1980s I had much of his printed works, including cartoons in German and American magazines, and an original page, and color guide, of Wee Willie Winkie’s World, the fantasy strip he drew for the Chicago Tribune in 1907. (He also drew the amazing Kin-Der-Kids at the same time.) I also own – all this for a book I have yet to produce – the complete run of his Chicago Tribune pages, including the paper’s ads and promotion.

In service of that book I hoped to write, I discovered the location of his grandson. And made it a point to visit him – a nervous pilgrimage for me.



[3] “The Miller and His Wife.” 1907

Danilo Curti lived in a little corner of Italy I had never visited – Trento, capital of the autonomous province of Trentino-Alto Adige, on the Adige River in Südtirol, in the shadow of the Dolomites. The city is a prosperous small town, by feeling, its status of semi-independence the result of proximity to Austria. In fact, similar to Alsace on the German-French border, it has been a part of both Italy and the old Austro-Hungarian Empire through the years. And its streets, native dress, and cuisine display the best of both traditions. 

I secured an invitation from Danilo, and took several trains north, north, north to that mountainous old village. In the town itself I followed narrow, cobblestone streets, aware of old lampposts and wrought-iron signs and decorations on charming old buildings.

Danilo was a shy but gracious host. Lyonel Feininger had three sons, Andreas, a famous photographer; Theodor Lukas (T. Lux), a painter and musician; and the reclusive genius Laurence, father of Danilo. 

It was Laurence who developed a passion for musicology and music history, and became his generation’s foremost authority on music of the 13-17th centuries; especially church music and liturgies, an admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach and an expert on Josquin des Prez and contemporaries. He was the son who secreted himself to Trento, privately researching (and privately financing) his groundbreaking work.



[4] The Church in Gelmerode – a town, and a building, 
to which Lyonel Feininger returned through the years for inspiration.

It was while in Trentino, except for his forays to the Vatican Library, that Laurence became a priest. I am not sure whether before or after his ordination that Danilo arrived on the scene – things happen – but in any event Laurence’s priestly life was devoted to ancient music of the church.

Danilo had, as I had hoped, much of the family archive. Many drawings, clippings, tearsheets, magazines, books, artwork. We spent all afternoon poring over these amazing materials. As it grew late, a friend he invited to join us for dinner, I think a handy translator, called from a couple streets away – I still remember, “Dan-i-LO! Dan-i-LO!” We spent a wonderful meal and evening, the three of us, Danilo recalling family stories about his grandparents and uncles.

He knew little about cartoons… but was learning, and that was part of the reason he responded to my inquiries. Otherwise he was a musicologist like his father (I cannot recall if he went into the priesthood also) and has become a prominent historian.



[5] Political cartoon by Feininger, 1915 – British King Edward in Hell

There was so much much material, including things I would never find elsewhere, that Danilo agreed to arrange for a local photographer to shoot many things we tagged. He presented me with scholarly works of his own, and a couple music-history books by his father; and he loaned me a couple of items, including a rare, early book of fairy tales that Lyonel illustrated. When I returned to the States, I sent him some rare material I had.

Danilo’s scholarly growth has included a recent cartoon-history project, Pencil Strokes: The Great War in Caricature. The exhibition has toured Europe and the world.

With a monumental amount of work, by a monumental talent, having passed in front of me that day, it was difficult to fall asleep. Very conscious of being in (as I have called it) an obscure virtual corner at the top of the world, a fairy-tale vestige of earlier times, where the archives of an influential artist of our age emerged from boxes and trunks… the whole experience was, for me, not exactly rare, but I was grateful for another sweet moment in a Crowded Life in Comics.


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Monday, March 25, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


The Power of Cartoons


 by Rick Marschall

Short and sweet this week.

I came across this drawing when I was a young kid. I was hooked on cartoons and comics from an early age… and I mean cartoons and comics from THEIR early ages too.

I relished being able to meet, or correspond with, Rube Goldberg, Harry Hershfield, Rudolph Dirks, Jimmy Swinnerton, Russell Patterson, Otto Mesmer, C M Payne, and other old-timers. And when I met cartoonists who merely were old, I pumped them for information about older cartoonists they had known. I met Walt Kelly when I was 12, I think; and what did I do but pump him with questions about T S Sullivant. (That evening, he was not in state to chat about much, especially a punk asking about someone who died in 1926…)

I don’t know why I had these tendencies. Perhaps my mother was scared by an antique when she carried me.

However, what sealed my fate going forward was when I discovered this drawing in an old magazine. It was an ad for a cartooning correspondence school (I recently promised readers of my promise to Fantagraphics Books to finish my book about mail-order cartoon courses…)

It was all I needed. Documentary evidence. Proof! One look at this (anonymous) drawing and my path was charted – cartooning, strips, political cartoons, comic books, collecting, research, history, scripting, writing, editing, publishing. What an amazing array of ways to go bankrupt.

I drew my version of the ringleader in this cartoon and begged my mother to buy me a suit just like his. It took an awful lot of persuasion, but I was outfitted. Unfortunately, the most use I ever got from it was on Halloween when, with the addition of a cardboard  monocle, I roamed the neighborhood as Mr Peanut.

Seriously, I did hear of one cartoonist with a similar experience – and I assume equally  as apocryphal. Al Capp told me that when he was young he saw a newspaper photo of Bud Fisher (Mutt and Jeff) leaving on a cruise ship, showgirls hanging on his arm… and he decided right there on a career.

Following a thread, Fisher was a playboy who enjoyed hot and cold running showgirls. The story goes that he met a “countess” of fuzzy nobility, returning to America on one of those cruise ships. He married her. This one, however, he neglected to divorce; and also neglected to see her again for decades; but somehow appeared when his death was announced in the papers.

True or almost true, that is the Power of Cartoons.

***
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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday with George Wunder


Terry and the Pirates
=Star Weekly=
April 30, 1955

=.=

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –



Ketcham If You Can

by Rick Marschall

This week is the birthday of Hank Ketcham (March 14, 1920, in Seattle), and we will light a few candles here for the creator of Dennis the Menace.

He was attracted to cartooning early, as goes the story of many greats. He was an animator, first for Walter Lantz, then on famous features with Walt Disney. In the Navy during World War II he created a pint-sized sailor in cartoons and they made their way from service publications to the Saturday Evening Post. Half Hitch was a hit, and Hank’s entry to post-war success as a magazine cartoonist.

In 1951, as the legend goes, his exasperated wife staggered into his studio and said “Our son, Dennis, is a menace.” Serendipity. A character was born… and did not grow up to be a monstrous success for a generation in the funnies, comic books, merchandising, licensing, a TV series. He didn’t grow up, but he did become all those things.

I had a lot of contact with Hank through the years, from fan letters to serving as his editor at Publishers Newspaper Syndicate. He was blessed with a large number of incredibly talented assistants on and off on his projects, panels, and pages. It was one of my tasks as syndicate editor to scout for new talent on his behalf. He was a tough taskmaster, even through his genial writer / assistant Fred Toole, back in Carmel CA.

At the time Hank lived in Geneva. When I was a kid I would hear cartoonists wonder if Hank was high-hatting everyone by living in Switzerland. But I could tell there was a lot of jealousy there. He tightly controlled and directed Dennis the Menace and, believe me, was exacting before, during, and after taking on assistants. He bought gags, too, for as little as $10 per; but he inspired the best writing and artwork, and he self-edited superbly.

My friend Dick Hodgins Jr ghosted the revival of Half Hitch as a strip for King Features, and he attested to Hank as a taskmaster. So did Bob Bugg, whom I knew in Connecticut, when he did the Dennis Sundays – ironically “closing the circle,” because in the 1940s it was Bugg’s style that inspired Hank’s own. The stateside right-hand man Fred Toole was a Christian, and so was Hank, and simply a great guy at every level of contact.



Hank died in Carmel in 2001. His last two assistants are friends who have carried on Dennis the Menace – friends with each other, friends of mine, Christians too… and (after close scrutiny and coaching by the master) terrific legatees of the Ketcham look: Marcus Hamilton on the daily panels; Ron Ferdinand on the Sunday pages.



In my mid-teens I used to hang around John Severin’s studio, and the reserved but earnest cartoonist enjoyed delivering virtual courses, one-on-one, impromptu. He would take down Heinrich Kley books from his shelves, and discuss the drawings; he would give me pointers on anatomy, faces, hands. More than once he pulled out a thick folder of clips of Hank Ketcham’s work. He repeatedly enthused about Ketcham’s lines, yes; but mostly about his eye. What I mean is this – “Ketcham knows what to leave out! He can suggest elements, like kitchen faucets, or things hanging in a garage, and draw the bare minimum… but when you see the drawings you are there!” And he shared clip after clip, some with his own copies in the margins.

Hank, Marcus, and Ron have done sketches for me, too; and I share them here. The Ketcham drawing was an inscription that John Province secured for me; Marcus’s was done during a visit to his studio in Charlotte; and Ron’s is one those terrific annual specialty drawings he produces.



Then… one last keepsake: a photo of two great cartoonists before their names were boldly on our maps of Crowded Lives. Visiting my home in Weston CT around 1982 or so, and in my office, I photographed Jim Scancarelli (before he joined Gasoline Alley, which he has shepherded lovingly and superbly), and Marcus Hamilton before Dennis. How Marcus got the gig is a story in itself: during his illustrator days around 1993 he was watching The 700 Club and Hank Ketcham was a guest. Ketcham mentioned that he was (still!) looking for assistants… and the interview continued.

Marcus knew that his friend Scancarelli had Ketcham’s phone number; he called to Carmel; and soon was flown out for a unique audition. Days in the studio with Hank, sketching, copying, drawing, inking… receiving pointers and “how-to” lessons… and  sketching, copying, drawing, inking, until Hank was happy. Marcus has been drawing the daily Dennis panel ever since.

Captured by the camera down at my desk, we can also see originals on the wall, including the first Pogo; the first and third Blondies; a Harold Gray specialty piece; a Raymond X-9, and such things. (Jim in the first photo; smiling Marcus on the phone.)

Hank, Bugg, Toole, Hodgins, Hamilton, Ferdinand… not a menace among ‘em.

NOTE: In the premier issue of the revived, expanded, full-color NEMO Magazine there will be a feature by Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton about Hank Ketcham’s style, his instructions and tips to them, and side-by-side examples of Hank’s roughs and finishes.


Also: A Short Conversation with Cartoonist Ron Ferdinand (Dennis the Menace) HERE


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Monday, March 11, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


More About Google (Barney, That Is)


by Rick Marschall

We got good response from last week’s essay on Barney Google, from our Yesterday’s Papers Editor John Adcock who remembered his mother’s fondness for the eponymous song; from John Rose who directs the course of Snuffy Smith’s adventures today; and from… Google, or Facebook, or whichever member of the Big Brother League put a hold on Sharing of the article.

Race? Religion? Politics? No boxes were checked, but that means little to Big Brother or Blinky.

Nevertheless time marches on, at least in the Papers of Yesterday, and the little gray cells of memory in this crowded life.

The fond memories of John’s mother made me dig into the archives of another collecting specialty, vintage comics-related songsheets. I have about 200 of these, I guess; and a few can be pinned on Billy DeBeck, the comic genius who created Barney Google, Spark Plug, Snuffy Smith, Sunshine, Bunky, and a cast of thousands.


“Barney 
Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes” arguably is the most famous comic-character related song. In 1923 Billy Rose and Con Conrad composed it, and it was a popular tune performed and recorded in new versions until at least the 1950s. In those days, cartoonists and syndicates did not profit from such productions – it was regarded as promotion, rather, until the early 1930s – but DeBeck profited in other ways. America sang and whistled this song, and still does, even if Spark Plug the horse is virtually forgotten.

The lyrics are:
Barney Google, with his Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes.
Barney Google had a wife three times his size.
She sued Barney for divorce,
Now he's living with his horse.
Barney Google, with his Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes.

– and about three dozen other verses added through the years. A partial list of those who performed and recorded the song:


Georgie Price, 1923; Great White Way Orchestra (vocal: Billy Murray), 1923; Ernest Hare & Billy Jones, 1923; Frank Williams,1923; Missouri Jazz Hounds (vocal: Arthur Hall), 1923; Haring's Velvetone Dance Orchestra (instrumental), 1923; Selvin's Orchestra (instrumental), 1923; The Badgers (instrumental), 1923; Harry Blake and Robert Judson, 1923; Ed Smith, 1923; Master Melody Makers,1923; Thomas & West,  1923; The Georgians (instrumental), 1923; Les Steven's Clover Gardens Orchestra  (instrumental), 1923; The Two Gilberts, 1924; Charlie Ventura & His Bop For The People, 1949; Joe “Fingers” Carr and Pee Wee Hunt, 1956; The Andrews Sisters, 1958; The Sauter-Finegan Doodletown Fifers, 1958; Frances Faye, 1959; Mitch Miller and The Gang, 1962. There are also recordings by Mel Blanc (on the piano!), Spike Jones, Eddie Cantor, The Firehouse Five, The Buffalo Bills, and Dorothy Provine. Gyp Rosetti sang it before getting murdered in the last episode of Boardwalk Empire. I will suppose that Dave van Ronk, Leon Redbone, and R Crumb have performed it too.

Billy DeBeck was prolific. Several strips and many characters. When he discovered the dialects and traditions of Appalachia, he became a virtual expert and scholar on the ways and words of those mountain folk; Snuffy Smith speaks in authentic, not stage-words. DeBeck did invent phrases that entered the English, or rather the American, language: “Sweet mama,” “horsefeathers,” “heebie-jeebies,” “hotsy-totsy,” “doodlebug,” “time’s a-wastin’,” and possibly “Great balls o’ fire.”

I never met DeBeck, but through the years have stories about the colorful cartoonist. From Fred Lasswell, of course, who succeeded him during World War II. From Zeke Zekely, assistant on Bringing Up Father. And from Ferd Johnson, who drew Moon Mullins for years. These three artists were the assistants of, respectively, DeBeck, George McManus, and Frank Willard. When the “big boys” would golf or carouse, the assistants did the work… and then golfed and caroused themselves.

Ferd remembered DeBeck as a “dapper little guy.” To complete the circle from the previous column, I share a self-caricature of DeBeck from when Barney was just about “hitting” in Chicago… when he transferred his own mail-order cartooning lessons to the aegis of the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. Many “name” cartoonists were to study there, and, later, teach there. One of the last was a cartoonist I knew in the ‘70s, Art Huhta.


OK, let’s share a gallery of the dapper little guy’s great creations, via songsheet art. The first, however, is not by him, despite the signature. Pirate cover art for a stage show.


The rest of the songsheet covers are roughly if not precisely chronological:







As part of a continuity – featuring a secret society whose password was “OKMNX” (which turned out to mean nothing more than “OK; ham and eggs”) – Debeck and King Features offered membership cards. The response was so great that applicants received letters apologizing for delays.


A great legacy. But songs and songsheets were just a part. In my Crowded Life, I also have skimmed the surface, as a collector, of toys, figurines, board games, reprint books, and more delightful effluvia. Sometime to be shared here. Time’s a-wastin’!


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