• Steven Heller

Plunk Your Magic Twanger!

Andy’s Gang ran on NBC-TV from  August 20, 1955 to December 31, 1960. It’s host, the gravel-voiced, portly namesake of the show, Andy Devine (a.k.a. Jingles on the Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok Show – “hey, Wild Bill, wait for me!”), shared the stage with Froggy the Gremlin, Midnight the Cat (who played violin) and Squeeky the Mouse. Squeeky was actually a hamster who sometimes flew airplanes. June Foray, a veteran of Rocky and Bullwinkle shows, was the voice of Midnight and others.


Andy’s Gang always showed cut-a-ways to a studio audience full of loud screaming kids. Oh how I wanted to be one of those kids. Devine sat on a big stuffed chair and read stories to his adoring brood. He would also show movies and skits that illustrated the stories.


Devine was very quotable. Among the most known brand-phrases were “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!” (an expression later used by male teenage baby-boomers to suggest carnal engagement). Froggy would appear saying “Hi Ya, Kids, Hiya, Hiya, Hiya!” Andy ended each show with his signature “Yes, sir, we’re pals, and pals stick together. And now, gang, don’t forget church or Sunday school.”


I met Andy when I was six. He was 46, big and imposing. At the time he was playing Cap’n Andy Hawks in an outdoor performance (at Jones Beach) of the musical Show Boat with words by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. I was escorted backstage by a family friend, who played the show’s leading man, Pete. I was so terrified seeing the imposing Jingles/Andy in real life (rather than tiny on the black and white screen), I hid behind my dad’s legs. When I timidly peered around, Andy bent down as far as his girth allowed, and said in his unmistakable gravel, “Hiya Kid! What’s new?”


Still  cowering, I managed to squeak out “nnnnnice,” which was Midnight the Cat’s signature catch-word.


Peering down over his trademark stomach, Andy responded: “That’s good, kid, real good.”


(Don’t forget to watch the links, kids.)


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