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.
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.
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.