This clip is hosted by the 1970s Bob Keeshan. But The Banana Man was around in the earlier incarnations in the 1960s also.
It turns out that the man I saw on Captain Kangaroo in the 1960s was NOT the original Banana Man. According to one source, “The Banana Man was an American vaudeville character originally created by Adolph Proper (c. 1886--December 17, 1950), who used A. Robins as his stage name. After Proper's death, Sam Levine adopted the character, and appeared on the television programs Captain Kangaroo and The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1950s and 60s.”
Here is some footage of Adolphe Proper, who became the original Banana Man under the stage name of A Robins, from a 1939 Red Skelton short called Seeing Red.
Interestingly, this 1939 calls the character a “walking music shop.” No bananas to be seen. Also, the nestled boxes ascend to a Tower-of-Babel configuration at the end, not set into a train line.
There is also a brief inclusion of The Banana Man in the 1947 Betty Grable film, Mother Wore Tights.
In this short clip, you can hear the “lee-dee-dee” singing and the “WOOWWWWW” that you also hear in the Captain Kangaroo clip. After showing the CK clip to my kids, they NOW understand why they’ve heard me say that falsetto “WOOWWW” all of THEIR lives.
As a late-blooming Baby Boomer, it is perhaps symptomatic that MY memories of The Banana Man are of a second-generation guy on Captain Kangaroo. But ANY Banana Man is a wonder. The softest spot in my heart is for the version exemplified on CK, who may have been played by Sam Levine.
For some more info on THE BANANA MAN, there is at least one website out there that you can scrounge, http://facweb.furman.edu/~rbryson/BananaMan/index.html
See you next week!