Teddy Bear Picnic
By ice rivers
I was born in 1946 before the popularization of teevee. We were the first family on our block to have a television. Up until that time, I was all about radio. The first tune I remember from my infantile radio days came from a radio show called Big John and Sparky.
The haunting melody and lyrics were the theme song for this influential radio show. Big John was a cowboy and Sparky was a talking dog. We baby boomers were literal babies and we were listening. We were innocent and full of wonder.
Along with Big John and Sparky another famous character emerged Froggy the Gremlin who had his own catchphrase "hiya, hiya, hiya" when he appeared. Of course, I had no idea what a catchphrase was at the time but I laughed in delight every time Froggy used it.
See, right from the start, we're always susceptible to catch phrases.
Big John and Sparky developed an even more well known catch phrase used to start trouble or get out of trouble. Froggy had a magical, musical instrument of some kind that he called his twanger. He could play tricks with it. The phrase was usually said by Froggy but was just as often said to Froggy. When Froggy said it, the twanger would cause mischief but when someone said it as a command to Froggy "Pluck your magic twanger Froggy" it was usually a request for Froggy to use his magic to save his friends from a scary situation that the Twanger and the Frog had generated in the first place.
Every so often Big John and Sparky would venture into the woods (where teddy bears picnicked) like the time they went into the woods looking for honey and came in contact with a bear who was not a teddy bear although he was also not on cocaine. Big John and Sparky were on their guard and got the honey that they were after exemplifying courage and bravery.
A lot of Boomers still have a lingering fear of the "woods" and were terrified by the Blair Witch Project which was/is basically a lost in the woods story.
Big John and Sparky stayed on the radio until 1958. By 1958, I and kids like me were blown away by television and characters like Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo and Matt Dillon even by Wild Bill Hickock and his partner Jingles played by Andy Devine who was the original voice of Froggy the Gremlin. Radio faded away for awhile except for popular music, payola and ball games.
Guys like Limbaugh and Stern were listeners at home not provocateurs on the air.
Big John, Sparky and Froggy disappeared from our boomer culture except for our memories which are sparked by the Tune Teddy Bears On Parade or The Grateful Dead.
Members of the Grateful Dead were children around the same time that I was and surely were influenced by Teddy Bears Picnic. One of the symbols for the band that you might see on a passing Cadillac is a series of dancing bears. The Dead played Teddy Bears' Picnic back in the Garcia Days to suggest the innocence and childlike wonder that the Dead often produced in their live concerts.
Innocence and childlike wonder.
So long ago.
If you can't find Teddy Bears' Picnic just play any Dead song to get in the mood for a Dylan song who also I'm sure listened to Big John and Sparky when he was a chld full of wonder.