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Buckskin Bill, RIP

This won’t mean a thing to most people who read this blog, but if you’re 45 years old or older, and you grew up in the Baton Rouge area, you’ll be very sad to hear that Buckskin Bill Black died this week at age 88 [1].

Bill Black began his television career as a cameraman and floorman. During that time, he wanted to create a television character that children could relate to. Black had worked his way through college as a rodeo clown and was a comic and emcee in army shows during his stint in the Korean War. He knew how to command an audience.

Black conceived of the idea of an Native American Indian scout. It was to be understood that the scout was not a real character, but one who could research and tell stories intended for a young audience. Dressed in buckskins, Black stepped in front of the television cameras and began a brand new show with the greeting “Chickama Scouts!” He became known as “Buckskin” Bill. Tens of thousands of performances later, he earned his place as one of Baton Rouge’s living legends.

Eventually Buckskin Bill created not one, but two children’s shows. Storyland aired weekday mornings at 9am and was geared to smaller children. The Buckskin Bill Show came on later at 3:30 p.m.-just in time for the older school crowd to tune in. In a week’s time, everyone from Cub Scouts to high school seniors appeared with him on the program.

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Over the decades Buckskin Bill Black accomplished much in the way of community service through both his television programs and on his own time. He helped Baton Rouge acquire its first zoo and then raised money to buy its first two elephants.

It is hard to overstate what a big deal Buckskin Bill was to kids in the Baton Rouge area growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. In the clip above, Buckskin performs his final “Monday Morning March.” That music is so, so familiar. My mom told me that when I was very small, I used to put a colander on my head and march around the living room while watching Buckskin Bill. What a kind, loving presence he was on television. He made so many kids happy. Y’all Baton Rouge native readers remember his sign-off? “You’re never completely dressed till you put on a smile.”

Ah, memories. Thanks, Buckskin Bill. You were great.

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Buckskin Bill, RIP"

#1 Comment By Nina On January 11, 2018 @ 9:04 pm

I loved Buckskin Bill–watched him every morning when I was growing up in Plaquemine in the 1970s. Loved the Monday Morning March and the “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda” skit with the puppet. Great memories. RIP, Buckskin Bill.

#2 Comment By charles cosimano On January 11, 2018 @ 9:47 pm

“My mom told me that when I was very small, I used to put a colander on my head”

You see! Even then the seeds of Cosimanian Orthodoxy were being planted.

We all have the one TV children’s show star we remember, at least those of who remember when local television really was local and local news did not bother with some silliness in California. Ours was Frasier Thomas, “big fat, friendly Frasier,” whose character was the Prime Minister to Garfield Goose, a puppet goose who lived in a cardboard castle and thought that was king of the United States. It was Frazier’s job to dress up like the Governor of Canada, or a hotel doorman, and humor Garfield and his family of eccentric puppets.

I swear, when he died, small children all over the Chicago area asked their mothers, “Why is daddy crying?” to be told, “He just lost a good friend from his childhood.”

#3 Comment By Bernie On January 11, 2018 @ 10:21 pm

Oh, Buckskin Bill, rest in peace.

He brought joy to so many; what a wonderful person he was. I remember his closing as being: “And remember, Baton Rouge needs a zoo.” He lobbied for this goal for years and the city finally developed a superb zoo.

Children loved him, as did their parents. He was a model of everything kind and playful in life. He will be long remembered and missed.

#4 Comment By Eliana On January 11, 2018 @ 11:41 pm

I didn’t know Buckskin Bill.

But I knew a few of his brothers…Sheriff John, Engineer Bill, Uncle Archie.

Maybe they’re all together now in that great studio in the sky—they and more like them…who talked and sang and entertained children in simple ways and in simpler days.

They are to be missed.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On January 12, 2018 @ 12:43 am

Kids growing up in Piedmont North Carolina in the 60’s and 70’s all knew the most popular children’s show hosts lived at Channel 2 – the Old Rebel and Pecos Pete. The Old Rebel was a character whose name required no more explanation, and Pecos Pete was a representative of the cowboys of the Old West, complete with rope tricks. Of course, today, neither character would pass TV’s censors. But we remember them with fondness for all the lessons of civility and good citizenship they taught us. We could use them back today.

#6 Comment By Fiestamom On January 12, 2018 @ 6:31 am

In Phoenix during the same time period, we had the Wallace and Ladmo Show on channel 5. In addition to Wallace and Ladmo, there were characters Aunt Maud, Gerald, and Captain Super (all played by the same guy, Pat McMahon). Sadly, none of that show would make it on tv today.

RIP Bucksin Bill, I didn’t know you, but I knew some of your compadres!
To be the winner of a Ladmo bag was a great treat. (Literally, a brown grocery bag with chips, soda coupons, cheap toys- handed out to the studio audience).

#7 Comment By mrscracker On January 12, 2018 @ 7:03 am

I think back in the day there was more local programming at TV and radio stations.
We’ve lost a lot of that to syndicated shows which I think is sad.
My son took me to the Baton Rouge zoo for Mother’s Day a few years ago and we had a great time. I watched one of the staff interact with a rhinoceros and was surprised to see the rhino was more playful than aggressive or grumpy. I learned something that day.

#8 Comment By PeterK On January 12, 2018 @ 7:57 am

two popular kids show hosts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were Icky Twerp who hosted Slam-Bang Theater and Mr.Peppermint.

Icky introduced us all to the marvels and magic of the 3 stooges. Mr. Peppermint was a kinder and gentler individual

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#9 Comment By Disgusted in DC On January 12, 2018 @ 8:18 am

There was a similar children’s show on WRAL-TV 5 in Raleigh in the 70s called Time for Uncle Paul. Uncle Paul would lead the kiddies around in a march.

#10 Comment By MikeCLT On January 12, 2018 @ 8:27 am

Old habits die hard. I imagine your wife could tell us that you put a colander on your head and march around the living room while watching Donald Trump.

[NFR: So what if I do, mister? I’m telling my own truth. — RD]

#11 Comment By Lance On January 12, 2018 @ 1:24 pm

Sad news. I lived in Baton Rouge in the heart of my elementary school years back in the 70’s and just loved him. One day he announced tryouts for a basketball team called the “LSU Tiger Tots”. I asked my parents if I could try out and somehow made the team, which performed at half-time of high school, College, and even NBA games. Hugely impactful experience for me as a kid, and I owe it to Buckskin Bill 😊. RIP

#12 Comment By Cecile Bush On January 12, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

So last night we got together and we all were doing the Monday Morning March. And Senor Puppet said we should give Buckskin Bill a Viking Funeral but I don’t think John Bel wants a fire on the Capital Lake!
The Ghost of Penny the Elephant said we should make up our minds because she was waiting on the Other Side to escort him to the Pearly Gates and St. Peter was getting upset about the unruly band of angels waiting, wearing their cowboy boots, Indian feathers, and fifty eleven other childhood costumes while waiting for Buckskin to come on over!
And Gabriel wants to know what the heck is going on with everyone playing loudly on Kazoos and making their hand puppets sing MAH-ma-ma-mah! Toot- tooo- De Doo Dah…
We have to get this done, Folks!

#13 Comment By Curt Haring On January 12, 2018 @ 4:03 pm

Up here in Philly, starting in the 50’s, we had Chief Halftown. He was 100% Native American from the Seneca tribe. His children’s show ran for an astounding 48 years on local television. He was beloved to several generations of children, and passed away in 2003.

#14 Comment By Sj On January 13, 2018 @ 11:36 am

I remember Buckskin Bill! His broadcast must have made it to Thibodaux. I also remember watching Johnny’s Follies, which apparently was based in NO, and used a tune from the Pirates of Penzance for its theme song(“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here–here’s to Johnny’s Follies, here’s to Johnny’s Follies–hail, hail the gang’s all here, everybody give a cheer!”.

I was so shocked the first time I watched the Pirates of Penzance and recognized the Johnny’s Follies tune. How sweet and innocent those shows were, and our unjaded childhood selves enjoyed them thoroughly.

#15 Comment By Geoff Guth On January 13, 2018 @ 2:44 pm

[6] wrote:

I think back in the day there was more local programming at TV and radio stations.
We’ve lost a lot of that to syndicated shows which I think is sad.

You can thank deregulation, especially relaxation of local ownership rules. The FCC [7] with the last vestiges of this by no longer mandating that local broadcasters even maintain a local studio anymore. Which, together with consolidation of ownership, ensures that there will never, ever again be a Buckskin Bill.

Back when the FCC was created, in 1934, we thought of broadcasters as a public trust, not a business. That implied a responsibility to the community. Now, it’s just a business, so it’s all about the shareholders. We can thank deregulatory conservatives (in both parties, but especially the GOP) for the current state of affairs.

#16 Comment By Verne Thibodeaux On January 13, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

Rod,
I’m 55, grew up in Morgan City, and have fond childhood memories of Buckskin Bill Black. Thanks for posting this.

RIP Buckskin Bill

#17 Comment By Franklin Evans On January 16, 2018 @ 2:38 pm

What is remembered, lives.

I remember Chief Halftown fondly, along with Sally Starr (a sort of female Roy Rogers) and Soupy Sales because I was 5 years old when we moved from Detroit to Philadelphia.

We also had radio which, while not designed for kids was quite enjoyable. Wee Willy Webber was the local radio host for a variety show, which included episodes of Chicken Man. It was one of many things I shared with my mother. He eventually moved to TV, and while his show wasn’t the same to me, he did a bit where he drew a face on his chin and the camera was set on him upside-down. BTW, he was “Wee” because he was well over six feet tall. 😀

#18 Comment By Hopelin On January 19, 2018 @ 1:02 pm

I’m a 41 year old Baton Rouge native and I very fondly remember Buckskin Bill. My favorite skit/song was the one about self-control. To this day self-control and accountability for one’s actions remain in the top 5 on my list of values to be passed down to children.

RIP Buckskin Bill