» Portland Radio

Uncle Bob Amsberry & Ginny Tyler - Portland Radio Days

(10 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by Craig_Adams
  • Latest reply from semoochie

  1. Sometimes an idea for a radio history changes, once research has been done. Long forgotten, the fact Ginny Tyler, voice actress & Mouseketeer had worked in Portland radio early in her career, using her real name, Merrie Virginia. The idea was to cover Uncle Bob Amsberry's Portland radio history, also in the Mickey Mouse Club cast later. Turns out Ginny Tyler played an integral role with Amsberry in Portland radio. This story made more sense with both of these talented performers. Ginny came to Portland in July 1950 so she is not mentioned until then.

    17 year old Robert Wayne "Bob" Amsberry's first radio performance was on KGW's "Stars of Tomorrow" talent show in 1945 as a singer. On January 13, 1946 Bob was part of Franklin High School's a cappella choir, performing at the George A. White Servicemen's Center. On March 10, 1946 it was noted that Bob played the scarecrow in Franklin High School's presentation of "The Wizard of Oz" on the auditorium stage. At this time Bob was also Franklin student body president. Side note: Later national singing sensation, Johnnie Ray was good friends with Bob at Franklin where they attended 3 1/2 years and performed together on Uncle Nate's "Stars of Tomorrow." Bob Amsberry then attended the University of Oregon.

    By February 1947 Amsberry was heard regularly on KWJJ's "Sammy Taylor, The Record Man" show, doing funny voices. On October 27, 1947 Bob began his own "High School Parade" disc jockey show at 3:30pm on KPDQ. Bob also reported on high school news. By March 1948 Bob was reported doing sound effects on KALE's "Take The Air" talent show. He was described as being a combination of Mel Blanc and Mickey Rooney. By May 1948 Amsberry was working at KGW.

    Then on November 29, 1948 Bob became host of his own children's show he created, called "The Squirrel Cage" on KEX weekdays at 4:15pm. Joining "Uncle Bob" on the show were his friends "Gus" the goose, "Gabby" the squirrel & "Busby" the bee. Bob did all the character voices and also played children's records during the show. The Squirrel Cage theme song was "Big Rock Candy Mountain." The half hour program would catapult Amsberry to Portland radio stardom. KEX was located at "Radio Center" 1230 S.W. Main St. On December 27, 1948 Bob was given a full hour after "The Cinnamon Bear" & "Santa Claus" programs ended. His program reverted back to a half hour format on January 4, 1949 at 4:30pm.

    On April 4, 1949 Bob Amsberry was given an additional weekday morning program called "Amsberry & Company." The 15 minute disc jockey show aired at 7:30am and lasted two and a half weeks! KEX Program Director, Mel Bailey said later about his disc jockey work: "He was the world's worst." On April 7, 1949 "The Squirrel Cage" had special guest Mel Blanc on the program doing many of his voices like Bugs Bunny & Yosemite Sam. Blanc had his own KEX program "Cobwebs & Nuts" in 1933-35.

    June 14, 1949 was declared "Uncle Bob's Day at Jantzen Beach Park." A special one hour live show was broadcast on KEX at 1:00pm from the park. Then Amsberry returned to KEX to perform his regular half hour show at 5:00pm. On Saturday July 9, 1949 KEX began broadcasting "Uncle Bob's Day" half hour show, taped on Tuesday's at 11:45am at Jantzen Beach Park. This continued until August 6, 1949.

    On March 21, 1950 it was announced Bob Amsberry and Bob Rudolph (KEX sales executive. Former KEX Commercial Manager) had formed the company "Uncle Bob's Products" to license their trade name. They had already licensed the "Uncle Bob Toy Stick" which was hard candy with a small toy in the wrapper.

    Beginning on April 12, 1950 Amsberry was part of the supporting cast of Portland Civic Theater's comedy production "Years Ago." "The Oregonian" review said this on April 13th: "Players to watch because of excellent bits of work. Bob Amsberry as Mr. Bagley is a most promising candidate for comedy leads. He is the Buster Keaton type and does some effective work as the gymnasium instructor from the YMCA." Years Ago, had a scheduled four week run, ending on May 6th.

    Also on May 6, 1950 KEX added a Saturday "The Squirrel Cage" half hour at 4:15pm. Tuesday June 13, 1950 was "Kids Day At Jantzen Beach with Uncle Bob." Free admission for kids & adults. On this date Amsberry began his first "Uncle Bob's Talent Quest." The contests were the first of a weekly series of amateur shows at 12 Noon. Any type of talent was acceptable. The Tuesday auditions would be taped for broadcast on Uncle Bob's Saturday show. Jantzen Beach ad: "WIN A Hollywood Trip Via Western Airlines. WIN A Hollywood Television Test. Weekly Winners Get RCA-Victor 45 RPM Record Player."

    Remember there was no Television in Portland until 1952. July 5, 1950 "Sandy Blvd. Drive-In Theatre" ad: "Cartoon Carnival every Friday. Free Shetland Pony Rides! Bring the kiddies early to enjoy our complete playground facilities. ATTENTION KIDDIES! "Uncle Bob" of The Squirrel Cage Program will be here in person at 8 P.M. to sign your autograph books ... at the Snack Bar."

    On July 17, 1950 KEX introduced a new weekday children's program to follow "The Squirrel Cage" at 4:45pm called "Merrie Virginia" created & hosted by Merrie Virginia Fenton. The 15 minute program featured "fairy stories" as told by Merrie. Since both programs were back to back and produced for children, Uncle Bob & Merrie Virginia most certainly had a lot in common, later working as a duo on many KEX remotes, promotions and programs.

    Born: Merrie Virginia Erlandson, she took the last name Eggers when her mother re-married. Merrie married Lowell Studley Fenton on July 3, 1946. When they moved to Portland, he became a teacher for PPS. Mrs. Fenton later took the stage name Ginny Tyler, working on many Disney productions among others. Mrs. Fenton was a recent graduate of the "University of Washington - School of Drama" where she received a bachelor's degree. She had also attended the "Western Washington College of Education." Mr. & Mrs. Fenton were living in an apartment at 3814 S.E. 26th Ave.

    On Tuesday August 8, 1950 a programming change occurred on "The Squirrel Cage" show. Bob Amsberry was called to active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. after enlisting. In his place was the new "Aunt Merrie Virginia" who introduced two new characters on "The Squirrel Cage" show, "Tinker" and "Sir Percival Penguin." Her three week old "Merrie Virginia" program was taken off the KEX schedule after the August 7th broadcast. Merrie went from five 15 minute shows, to six half hours weekly. Oh, and this was her 25th birthday!

    On November 27, 1950 "Uncle Bob" returned to "The Squirrel Cage" after being released from active duty in the Marines. "Aunt Merrie Virginia" continued on the program as well. The cast of characters now included: "Gabby" the squirrel, "Gus" the goose, Tinker & Sir Percival Penguin. "Busby" the bee, was kicked out of the Cage, possibly as early as Fall 1949. It's unknown where he flew too.

    On Christmas Day 1950 the "Merrie Circle" program debuted, created & hosted by Merrie Virginia, weekdays at 5:00pm on KEX. "Virginia joins with the children in a "Merrie Circle" for a half hour of children's stories in which she portrays all the roles. Children's parlor games will also be a feature." With Merrie's new show now on the air, she left Uncle Bob's Squirrel Cage.

    On February 4, 1951 it was announced a new professional children's theater group was formed called "The Fantasy Fair Players." The first production was "Twenty Mattresses" an adaptation of the fairy tale "Princess and The Pea" written by Merrie Virginia who played the role of Marlawn, the Princess. The first performance was at Benson High School auditorium February 17, 1951 co-sponsored by Portland Junior League & Portland Public Schools. The plan was to take the show on tour to other Oregon cities.

    On Feb 23, 1951 the Sunnyside PTA featured a "Country Fair" and auditorium show by Merrie Virginia, supported by several children with dances and musical numbers. On March 24, 1951 Uncle Bob & Merrie Virginia made an appearance at Meier & Frank's "Bunnyland" from 11am to 2pm on the sixth floor to meet their listeners. Ad: "The Kiddies Will Love The Easter Bunny. He's Alive ... He Talks ... He Walks, He's So-o-o Tall. Come on Girls and Boys ... To Our Gala Kiddies Easter Party. Free Nehi Beverages & Grandma Cookies."

    On May 29, 1951 Robert Wayne "Bob" Amsberry, 23; married 18 year old Beverly Jean Houle at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. Amsberry was living at 5404 S.E. Knapp St. and Houle was at 1405 N.E. 63rd Ave. which were both their parents homes. Beverly was a talented singer. This was mentioned in The Oregonian in 1943. IMDb mentions Beverly won a contest as a Blues singer on "Ted Mack & The Original Amateur Hour" in 1948 when she was 16. It goes on to say Uncle Bob met Beverly at KEX. In 1949 Uncle Nate's "Stars of Tomorrow" talent show moved from KGW to KEX. Beverly probably sang on this show and that's how they met. The couple left on a wedding trip to Southern California. The newlyweds made their new home in Beaverton at 235 S.W. Fairfield in Cedar Hills.

    On June 9, 1951 KEX broadcast the Rose Festival "Junior Rose Parade" at 11:00am with co-hosts Merrie Virginia & Uncle Bob, describing the spectacle. On June 12, 1951 the "Merrie Circle" program announced cookie winners! On July 17, 1951 "KEX Kiddies Party" was held at Jantzen Beach Park, with free admission. Uncle Bob & Merrie Virginia entertained the tykes.

    On July 23, 1951 Merrie Virginia & Uncle Bob teamed up again for what KEX called a new sensation "Dreamland Playhouse" weeknights at 7:30pm. Created by Merrie Virginia, the half hour imaginative program featured a complete story in five weeknight episodes. "Toby", "Tiny" and "The Genie", searching for "The Land of Elzeebub." Weekly episodes included: "Wishy-Washy Land", "Absolutely Land" & "Gadget Land." Monday August 13, 1951 "Dreamland Playhouse" ad: "Starting tonight, they travel into "The Land of Fate" where everyone is oh---so---superstitious." "The Squirrel Cage" and "Merrie Circle" continued on KEX as well.

    On August 3, 1951 Uncle Bob & Merrie Virginia were Parade Marshals for the Vancouver "Cenaqua Parade." On September 6, 1951 "Dreamland Playhouse" ended it run after the broadcast. By October 1951 Merrie Virginia & husband were living at the "Georgian Terrace" apartment: 2025 S.E. Caruthers St.

    On October 27, 1951 "Fantasy Fair Players" presented "The Emperor and The Chinese Nightingale" in the Benson High School auditorium. The fairy tale was adapted for stage by Merrie Virginia, from the Hans Christian Andersen tale and was played by 24 cast members, led by KEX members: Merrie Virginia, Uncle Bob Amsberry, morning icon Barney Keep, newsman Albert Charles & George Cole (Johnny Rainbow on KEX beginning in 1952). The play would also be performed twice at Jefferson High School on December 7th.

    On November 23, 1951 Uncle Bob Amsberry was Grand Marshal of "The Fairy Tale Parade." With him on the Mother Hubbard's float was Merrie Virginia. Together they dazzled parade onlookers with their antics. Sunday December 16, 1951 ad: "Bring the children to meet Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob Amsberry, your children's favorite radio entertainer, will be in our sixth-floor record department Monday from 11 A.M. 'til 3 P.M., from 7:30 'til 9. He'll make recordings with the children, which you may purchase for Christmas giving... A real thrill for your young fry. Every child will thrill to hear his own voice talking to Uncle Bob. Records, sixth floor. Lipman's."

    On January 4, 1952 the "Merrie Circle" ended on KEX when Merrie Virginia moved to KOL Seattle where she created and co-hosted a new children's program called "Make Believe Island" with Al Priddy. Priddy would later work for KEX, as would Merrie Virginia in 9 months. On January 5, 1952 KEX dropped the Saturday edition of "The Squirrel Cage." January 7, 1952 weekday ad: "4:15pm "Squirrel Cage" your old Pal, "Uncle Bob" with Gus and Gabby in stories and fun."

    On April 13, 1952 Bob Amsberry began a new program called "Sunday School with Uncle Bob" at 9:00am Sunday's on KEX. The 15 minute "show is to bring Sunday School into the homes of children unable to attend regular church classes." The show began the Sunday after Easter.

    On April 23, 1952 Bob Amsberry started yet another show called "Uncle Bob's Star Performers." This was a children's talent show much like Uncle Nate's "Stars of Tomorrow" also on KEX. "Uncle Bob's Star Performers" was 30 minutes and sponsored by "Armour" on Wednesday afternoon's at 5:00pm with his "The Squirrel Cage" show on at 4:15pm. Kid performers were found Saturday mornings at 9:00am at the "Bagdad Theater" during their free shows. July 11, 1952 ad: "Southeast Fred Meyer Opening Continues! See Uncle Bob In Person. KEX Famous Radio Personality, Will audition children for future radio shows --- Friday July 11th at 7 P.M."

    July 15, 1952 Jantzen Beach Park ad: "Tuesday is KEX Kiddies Day! Reduced Prices on All Rides! Rides at 10 A.M. (Free Rides--10 'til Noon with KEX tickets!). BIG KEX SHOW! 2 P.M. Uncle Bob, Johnny Rainbow and The Northwesterners." July 18, 1952 ad: "Hey, Kids! See Uncle Bob in Person. KEX Famous Radio Personality will audition children for future Radio Shows... Fred Meyer Burlingame Store, 7 P.M." On September 3, 1952 "Uncle Bob's Star Performers" broadcast from the "KEX Television Stage" at "The Oregon State Fair", 5:00pm to 5:30pm. At the time KEX and Westinghouse thought they would win FCC approval for the new KEX-TV channel 8.

    On October 2, 1952 Merrie Virginia returned to KEX from KOL Seattle after 9 months, with the reappearance of her program "Dreamland Playhouse." The program which originally aired weeknights with co-star Uncle Bob, returned as a once a week presentation on Thursday's at 7:30pm with Merrie Virginia, solo. This half hour show continued with characters "Toby, Tiny and The Genie, in fascinating stories of make-believe."

    On October 6, 1952 the "Merrie Circle" starring Merrie Virginia returned to KEX Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays at 5:00pm, in a 15 minute format. (Uncle Bob's show on Wednesdays). On November 28, 1952 KEX broadcast the "Fairy Tale Parade" from 2:30pm to 3:00pm with Barney Keep describing the parade and Bob Amsberry giving commentary.

    On December 13, 1952 "Fantasy Fair Players" presented "The Golden Goose" at the new Lincoln High School. KEX cast members included: Merrie Virginia, Johnny Rainbow, Barney Keep & newsman George McGowan. This presentation was repeated at Lincoln on March 28, 1953. Both times Bob Amsberry was noticeably missing from the KEX cast. Since Merrie Virginia's return, they rarely appeared or broadcast together.

    On December 20, 1952 Airmen at "Portland Air Base" acted as "Big Brothers" during a Christmas Party at the base for 42 orphans. KEX Radio Stars Johnny Rainbow & Merrie Virginia entertained the youngsters with a performance of favorite stories. Santa arrived in a red jeep, siren blasting.

    On April 13, 1953 Meier & Frank saluted "Oregon Products Week" with entertainment in the Restaurant on the Tenth floor at 7:00pm. Among the entertainers was Merrie Virginia representing "Grandma's Cookies" her sponsor. "KEX Radio Star, told a tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes" to delighted small fry's holding down front row seats." This continued on April 14th, 15th & 18th on the second floor 2:00 to 4:00pm. "Merrie Virginia -- Grandma's Cookies -- KEX Radio Star, will appear personally in our "Girls' Shop."

    On April 15, 1953 Bob Amsberry became a father when Kelly Wayne Amsberry was born. On June 13, 1953 Uncle Bob was Grand Marshal of the Rose Festival's "Junior Rose Parade" broadcast on KEX 11:00am to 11:30am.

    On June 25, 1953 "Dreamland Playhouse" broadcast its final story. The following day "Merrie Circle" aired for its last time. Merrie Virginia was never able to get "Merrie Circle" back to its original half hour time period, or have it broadcast five days a week. It's unknown what officially occurred but since both programs ended in June, it's surmised the shows were cancelled and Merrie Virginia, later known nationally as Ginny Tyler, was cut loose. But this is not the end of her fairy tale.

    On July 23, 1953 it was "KEX-Armour Kiddie Fun Day At Jantzen Beach! Get Your Free Ticket At Your Grocery Store." "BIG KEX SHOW at 11 O'Clock With Uncle Bob." There was yet another "KEX Kiddie Day at Jantzen Beach" on August 27th. This one at 2:00pm was for "Uncle Bob's Star Performers" where two bicycles would be awarded for the best acts.

    In October 1953 Merrie Virginia was visiting with friends at KOMO Radio in Seattle when Fred J. Patterson, KOMO Program Director, having heard of her programs on KEX, asked her to audition for a children's show, for the forthcoming KOMO-TV. They loved her audition, so on December 11, 1953 Merrie began playing the part of Mother Goose on Seattle's newest television station. "Mother Goose of Magic Island" was seen weekdays at 5:00pm and on Saturdays. In 1956 the program won a Billboard Magazine Award. She left for Hollywood in 1957 and was later an adult Mouseketeer on "The Mickey Mouse Club" among many other Disney characters she portrayed and recorded.

    On November 20, 1953 "Uncle Bob of Radio fame" presented a special show during Interstate Fred Meyer Shopping Center grand opening week celebration. On December 30, 1953 "Uncle Bob's Star Performers" was reduced from 30 to 15 minutes. In the time slot a new 15 minute program simply called "Uncle Bob" began at 5:00pm. It's not known what this program was about but one would surmise it was kid oriented. On March 24, 1954 "Uncle Bob's Star Performers" came to its end. Additionally the "Uncle Bob" show that ran ahead of it, was also cut. Uncle Bob's old war horse, or should I say old chipmunk "The Squirrel Cage" continued at 4:15pm into its 6th season.

    On July 17, 1954 Jantzen Beach Park began a series of Saturday Kiddies' Day's with a "Juvenile Talent Quest" "See Uncle Bob and Roy Gordon's Free Talent Show -- 2 P.M." Uncle Bob was not looking for talent but was on hand as Star M.C. Roy Gordon was a well known Hollywood talent scout. "Talent will be selected for a big TV show this Fall."

    On November 26, 1954 KEX presented the new program "Uncle Bob Visits Santa" Monday thru Saturday's at 4:30pm. The 15 minute show followed "The Squirrel Cage" featuring Santa reading kids letters with Uncle Bob. The show was sponsored by Meier & Frank. Kids could either mail letters to: "Santa Claus; KEX; Portland, Oregon" or "Santa Claus; Meier & Frank's; Portland 4, Oregon." Or kids could save a 3 cent stamp by leaving the letter in special "Santa Mailboxes" at Meier & Frank. On November 30th you could see Uncle Bob in person with Santa in Meier & Frank's Restaurant, 10th floor at 4:00 to 5:30pm. Each youngster was given a free gift. It was never stated who played Santa on KEX, so it must have been old St. Nick!

    On December 2, 1954, 26 year old Bob Amsberry began his first television show, co-hosting with 56 year old Janet Baumhover on KOIN-TV. The 25 minute program was originally called "Open House" and aired at 12:05pm. It was an interview show with "Portland's most interesting people." Co-host Janet Baumhover was a well known radio actress, having been on KALE's "Heart of The Legend" series in 1946 and KGW-KEX's "Covered Wagon Days" in 1935-36. The title "Open House" was only used for its premiere. The show was renamed "Visitin' Time" on Dec 7th and seen on Tuesday's & Thursday's. Dec 14th's "Visitin' Time" had guest Margaret Montag, showing how to make medallions and Christmas Tree decorations.

    On December 7, 1954 Bob Amsberry became a father again to his second boy, when Kevin Layne Amsberry was born. On December 20, 1954 KEX began clearing it's block programming in the afternoon, making way the disc jockey. Moon Mullins & Bob Blackburn were placed on either side of "The Squirrel Cage" and "Uncle Bob Visits Santa." Uncle Bob's programs were the only ones still standing. On Christmas Eve "Uncle Bob Visits Santa" ended its seasonal run. On New Years Eve 1954 Uncle Bob, Gus and Gabby held there last radio get together. "The Squirrel Cage" would not see 1955. Kids no longer had to imagine their favorite shows. They could just turn on the TV to see them. KOIN-TV's "Mr. Moon" or KPTV's (NBC) "Howdy Doody."

    On January 3, 1955 KEX moved Bob Amsberry to a 15 minute slot at 11:45am just before "Paul Harvey News & Comment." The show was called "Uncle Bob" but having the show at a time when kids were in school leads one to believe this was not a kiddie show. Nothing was written to say what Bob's show was about. One thing was clear, the KEX party for Bob was over. Radio was changing.

    January 10, 1955 "Behind The Mike by Francis Murphy" column excerpt: "B. Mike: Does Moon Mullins own KEX? He must because I can't see why he would be on so much. They keep replacing all the good programs. I always listened to the mysteries and dramatic shows and "Party Line" and even "Uncle Bob." But now all we get is Moon Mullins. If TV is replacing radio, I can sure see why because a little of Moon Mullins goes a long way and I for one would like to see the sun for a change. I seldom voice an opinion, but from now on, give me TV.--MRS, DAVID ALLEN, Portland."

    On January 30, 1955 KEX's "Sunday School with Uncle Bob" aired its last kid sermon. On February 3, 1955 "Visitin' Time" was over for Bob Amsberry & Janet Baumhover. They left the KOIN-TV program after the broadcast, which continued with new hosts. On March 18, 1955 Bob Amsberry's last remaining KEX show "Uncle Bob" ended its run. Once again, there was nothing written on what happened.

    Bob Amsberry remembered his KEX buddy George Bruns who had been KEX Musical Director in the late 40's. George Bruns was now one of three Disney Musical Directors, having co-wrote (music) the song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett." The ballad was just heading down the chart after spending 5 weeks at number one, when Amsberry made his phone call. Bruns recommended Amsberry to Disney when they began a talent search for "The Mickey Mouse Club."

    Amsberry remembers: "The next day or so Disney sent me a telegram inviting me to come down to Hollywood for a tryout. I didn't think twice. I grabbed the telephone and sent a wire saying I'd be on the next plane." When Amsberry arrived at Disney Studios in May 1955, they asked him to write a couple of songs as samples. Disney liked his songs, so Bob Amsberry became a Disney employee. Bob & wife Beverly began renting an apartment in North Hollywood.

    On July 17, 1955 Bob Amsberry appeared for the first time on network television, as an announcer on a commercial during the live 90 minute special "Dateline: Disneyland" dedicating "Disneyland" amusement park on ABC-TV (KLOR). On July 30, 1955 Bob Amsberry began his first network radio program. "Moppets & Melodies" was heard Saturday's at 11:05am on the "ABC Radio Network" and on KEX. The half hour show consisted of a panel of four children discussing children's records, word game contest and a department called "Advice to Parents." Uncle Bob hosted.

    On October 3, 1955 "The Mickey Mouse Club" premiered at 5:00pm on ABC-TV (KLOR). The show used one of Amsberry's songs "Friendly Farmers" on the broadcast. Uncle Bob played many characters including "Bob-O" the official Mickey Mouse clown of "The Mickey Mouse Club." The program was airing 60 minutes, five days a week. It's surmised Amsberry needed to spend all his time on the program so ABC Radio's "Moppets & Melodies" ended on October 8, 1955.

    On November 20, 1955 it was announced Disneyland would be the theme of the Rose Festival: "The 1956 Portland Rose Festival will become a "Disneyland In Flowers." Walt Disney Productions, Inc. will give assist in the design of floats, decorations and settings and will provide stars and personalities." On May 31, 1956 Bob Amsberry brought his wife and his two children, back to Portland for a visit. Amsberry was back! But this time as Mouseketeer "Bob" as it said on his official shirt. Joining him was Jimmie Dodd with 9 of the 16 Mouseketeers including: Cubby O'Brien, Karen Pendleton, Darlene Gillespie, Lonnie Burr & Doreen Tracey.

    On June 4, 1956 Bob Amsberry was a guest on KEX's "Coffee with Kay West." On June 7th (KPTV) & 8th the Rose Festival presented "Night In Disneyland" at Multnomah Stadium. Jimmy Dodd, M.C. with the Mouseketeers. Darlene Gillespie was the outstanding singer among others. Bob Amsberry, Ring Master of the Disneyland Circus. On June 9, 1956 Jimmie Dodd & Bob Amsberry were co-Grand Marshal's of The Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, carried on KGW, KOIN, KEX, KPOJ, KOIN-TV, KLOR.

    August 8, 1957 "Behind The Mike by Francis Murphy" column excerpts: "Bob Amsberry talented Portlander who has been working for the Walt Disney studios since May 1955 arrived in Portland a few days ago on leave of absence, says he'll be up here until the middle of October. He'll probably be seen on local TV and Radio in interim." Amsberry had left his wife and kids in Hollywood. Bob had moved back in with his parents at 5405 S.E. Knapp St. in Portland.

    August 26, 1957 "Behind The Mike" column excerpt by Francis Murphy: "Wandered up to the RAT club meeting Friday in the Mural room. Talked to Bob Amsberry, who's on leave from Disney studios and has upcoming afternoon show on KGW-TV in Portland. Says Bob: "I've moved from a Mouse club to a RAT club." By this time, Amsberry was pending a return to Disney studios in the Spring of 1958, to film another series for Disney.

    On October 21, 1957 Bob Amsberry began a disc jockey show called "Amsberry" on KEX from 6:00pm to 8:00pm weeknights. November 8, 1957 KEX ad: "There's a SOUND Difference on KEX. Radio 1190's "Big 33" music policy highlights the tunes everyone wants to hear most, determined by accurate, up-to-the-minute weekly surveys of local preferences. On KEX Portland's top radio personalities---Barney Keep, Russ Conrad, Bob Blackburn, Bob Amsberry, Al Priddy---present a listenable variety of pop music, not dominated by monotonous, limited audience fads. Remember the SOUND difference next time you turn on your radio. Music proved most popular in Portland by public demand is on Radio 1190, KEX." This ad ran again on 11-15-57.

    On Thursday November 21, 1957 "Robert W. "Uncle Bob" Amsberry, 29, Northwest radio and TV personality of Mickey Mouse Club fame, was killed early Thursday morning when his sports car plunged from the highway three miles East of Gresham and sheered off a telephone pole. Amsberry was alone in the car, a 1956 Ford Thunderbird, traveling East on Highway 26, according to reports of investigating officers, who were called to the scene at 3 a.m.

    He was pronounced dead on arrival at Providence Hospital. Police said the car traveled 330 feet before coming to a halt with the top of the car and the right front door torn off. Amsberry's body was held in the car by a safety belt." His death announcement article, appeared on the front page of "The Oregonian" November 22nd with his picture. In section 3, page 13, Radio-TV page, KEX had placed the ad that had run November 8th & 15th.

    November 23, 1957 - The Oregonian: "Investigation by the Multnomah County Sheriff's office has revealed that the automobile accident which took the life of radio and television star Robert W. "Uncle Bob" Amsberry early Thursday was caused by a blowout of the right front tire. Excessive speed and blowout of the tire while the car was still on the pavement caused loss of control. According to a report by Capt. Gordon Auborn. Amsberry was able to keep his Ford Thunderbird upright as it veered off the highway until it struck a telephone pole.

    The report showed that there was pavement-caused denting of the right front rim. Tracks of the wheels as they passed over the shoulder of the highway showed that the right front tire was already flattened out as it started leaving the highway. There were also pavement scratches on the hubcap which had been torn off. If the tire had not blown until the car actually crashed, the soft dirt where it hit and skidded could not have caused the marks on the rim."

    On Monday November 25, 1957 services or "Robert W. "Uncle Bob" Amsberry were held at the Chapel of "Mt. Scott Funeral Home" at 10:00am, 4205 S.E. 59th Ave. Vault interment was at Willamette National Cemetary. On November 29, 1957 KEX ran yet another of the same ad, mentioning Amsberry as one of "KEX Portland's top radio personalities" maybe in his honor. On December 5, 1957 "The Oregonian" Estate Probated "Robert W. Amsberry at $10,000. The following day "The Oregonian" showed "Amsberry" on KEX 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

    Mel Bailey, KEX Program Director in 1958 remembered Bob Amsberry and The Squirrel Cage. "I suggested we try a kid's program. I thought it was as corny as all get-out, but we tried making him Uncle Bob. We went out and bought kid's records and he suggested we name the show the Squirrel Cage. It got the most phenomenal ratings ever received on a local radio station."

    KEX debut: Weekday's 4:15pm to 4:45pm beginning on Nov 29, 1948.
    Moved 4:00pm to 5:00pm (hr. format) Weekday's on Dec 27, 1948.
    Moved 4:30pm (back to half hr. format) Weekday's on Jan 4, 1949.
    Moved 5:00pm to 5:30pm Weekday's on April 25, 1949.
    Moved back to 4:30pm Weekday's on Sept 12, 1949.
    Moved back to 4:15pm Weekday's on Nov 25, 1949.
    Added Saturdays to Weekday's at 4:15pm on May 6, 1950
    Moved back to Weekday's at 4:15pm on Jan 7, 1952.
    Moved 4:00pm to 4:30pm Weekday's on Sept 13, 1954 to Dec 31, 1954.

    KEX debut: Weekday's 7:30am to 7:45am beginning on Apr 4, 1949 to Apr 20, 1949.

    KEX debut: Saturday's 5:00pm to 5:30pm beginning on July 9, 1949 to Aug 6, 1949.

    KEX debut: Weekday's 4:45pm to 5:00pm beginning on July 17, 1950 to Aug 7, 1950.

    KEX debut: Weekday's 5:00pm to 5:30pm beginning on Dec 25, 1950 to Jan 4, 1952.
    Returned Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri., 5:00pm to 5:15pm (15 min. format) on Oct 6, 1952 to June 26, 1953.

    KEX debut: Weeknight's 7:30pm to 8:00pm beginning on July 23, 1951 to Sept 6, 1951.
    Returned Thursday's 7:30pm to 8:00pm on Oct 2, 1952 to June 25, 1953.

    KEX debut: Sunday's 9:00am to 9:15am beginning on Apr 13, 1952.
    Moved 10:15am to 10:30am Sunday's on Nov 16, 1952.
    Moved 9:05am to 9:15am (10 min. format) Sunday's on July 12, 1953.
    Moved 8:15am to 8:30am (back to 15 min. format) Sunday's on Dec 13, 1953.
    Moved 7:45am to 8:00am Sunday's on March 7, 1954.
    Moved 12:30pm to 12:45pm one Sunday on May 9, 1954.
    Moved 10:00am to 10:15am Sunday's on May 16, 1954.
    Moved 10:05am to 10:15am (10 min. format) Sunday on May 30, 1954 to Jan 30, 1955.

    KEX debut: Wednesday's 5:00pm to 5:30pm beginning on Apr 23, 1952.
    Moved to 5:15pm to 5:45pm Wednesday's on Dec 9, 1953.
    Moved to 5:15pm to 5:30pm (15 min. format) Wednesday's on Dec 30, 1953 to Mar 24, 1954.

    KEX debut: Wednesday's 5:00pm to 5:15pm beginning on Dec 30, 1953 to Mar 24, 1954.
    Returned Weekday's 11:45am to 12:00pm on Jan 3, 1955 to Mar 18, 1955.

    KEX debut: Weekday's & Saturday's 4:30pm to 4:45pm beginning on Nov 26, 1954 to Dec 24, 1954.

    KOIN-TV debut: Tuesday's & Thursday's 12:05pm to 12:30pm beginning on Dec 2, 1954 to Feb 3, 1955.

    ABC Radio debut: Saturday's 11:05am to 11:30am beginning on July 30, 1955.
    Moved 9:30am to 10:00am Saturday's on Sept 17, 1955 to Oct 8, 1955.

    ABC-TV debut: Weekday's 5:00pm to 6:00pm beginning on Oct 3, 1955 to July 1957.

    KEX debut: Weekdays 6:00pm to 8:00pm beginning on Oct 21, 1957 to Nov 20, 1957.

    References: Billboard Magazine, Broadcasting Yearbook, IMDb, The Oregon Journal, The Oregonian, West Seattle Herald, Wikipedia.

    Posted on January 4, 2013 - 07:18 AM #
  2. Sterling work once again, Craig! Thank you so much...

    Posted on January 4, 2013 - 07:57 PM #
  3. Thanks Mark!

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 10:14 AM #
  4. UPDATE: Just found this from the April 4, 1949 Broadcasting Magazine. Bob Amsberry was one of the featured personalities in the weekly "Radiorama" picture page with this caption: "Bob Amsberry, KEX Portland, Ore., m.c., feels he is developing a split personality with his two shows Early Bird and Squirrel Cage."

    This is the first I've read about his "Early Bird" program on KEX. Nothing mentioned, connecting him to the show in The Oregonian. "Early Bird" pre-dates the "Squirrel Cage" program by 6 months. It's a mystery as to what this show was about. "Early Bird" went through some name changes as well. See schedule below:

    KEX debut: Weekday's 6:00am to 6:30am beginning on May 31, 1948 to Oct 29, 1948.
    KEX Weekday's 6:00am to 7:00am on Nov 1, 1948.
    Moved 6:00am to 6:45am Weekday's on Dec 13, 1948 to Mar 18, 1949.
    KEX Weekday's 6:00am to 6:45am on Mar 21, 1949.
    Moved 6:00am to 7:00am Weekday's on Sept 12, 1949 to Sept 23, 1949.

    Barney Keep's program "Keep Smiling" replaced "Early Bird" September 26, 1949.

    Uncle Bob ad linked below, seen with two classic KEX mic's. The picture dates back to 1949 and was always used in ads until he left for Hollywood in 1955:

    Posted on January 8, 2013 - 05:51 AM #
  5. 77dx

    new electron
    Posts: 3

    Fascinating stuff. I remember seeing Uncle Bob in person at Lipman's some time around Christmas 1949. You mention that the theme for the Squirrel Cage was "Big Rock Candy Mountain." At some point, however, the program used "The Swiss Woodpecker" as a theme. Recorded by Les Paul, it was Paul's version of a Hawaiian instrumental originally titled "Maui Chimes:"

    At the program opening, a fanfare lifted from another recording (I suspect either Nat Cole's or Vaughn Monroe's recording of "Ballerina") was spliced onto the front of the "Swiss Woodpecker." The tune was used unadorned at the close of the program.

    Posted on December 1, 2013 - 07:15 AM #
  6. semoochie

    vacuum tube
    Posts: 4,960

    Somehow, I missed this thread last January. It seems ironic that virtually the only person in the world to wear a seatbelt, may have died because of it! Here is some more information on Ginny Tyler: &

    Posted on December 1, 2013 - 03:50 PM #
  7. 77dx: Thanks for that information. Just as in Television, some Radio show theme songs changed from season to season. The theme information found was not part of an over all written history, it was mentioned in 1948. Uncle Bob also had so many radio shows, you could be remembering one of those.

    Posted on December 1, 2013 - 10:27 PM #
  8. 77dx

    new electron
    Posts: 3

    Actually, it was through this thread that I learned Bob Amsberry had other shows. I knew only of his "Squirrel Cage" program to which my sister and I were avid listeners weekday afternoons from 1948 through about 1951. I remember being quite delighted on one occasion when he identified the "Swiss Woodpecker" and played it all the way through in response to listener requests. A few years later I purchased a copy when it became available on a 45 rpm E.P. I'm sure clicking on the link I previously cited will bring a smile of recognition to the face of most of my contemporaries. LOL

    Incidentally, I have a broadcast quality recording of the late Blaine Hanks interviewing Bob Amsberry on KOIN's "Come and Get It" program some time in the mid-1950s. It was among several "Come and Get It" shows that Blaine generously shared with me a couple of years ago. I had originally thought the recording was made around 1958 but that would have been impossible considering Uncle Bob's demise in 1957. From what I gathered from this thread, it was most likely 1956. Amsberry was still in the employ of Disney but had returned to Portland to take part in some Rose Festival activities. Uncle Bob and his wife were both guests on the program.

    Reading your discoveries and recollections is always a pleasure. Keep up the great work.

    Posted on December 2, 2013 - 09:21 AM #
  9. What a tragic ending. Bob was on several of the musical numbers on the MMC. and he was on one of the serials too.

    Posted on December 4, 2013 - 08:35 PM #
  10. semoochie

    vacuum tube
    Posts: 4,960

    Jimmie Dodd's untimely death is somewhat legendary, but I've never heard anything about Bob's death among Mouseketeer circles!

    Posted on December 4, 2013 - 09:13 PM #

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