The Beverly Hillbobbies
(A personal lament…Sort of)
Imagine being seven years old and your dad is the creator of a primetime animated television series set to debut on the ABC Network. It is a show filled with puns and off the wall humor. Imagine that your legal name from your birth certificate is the same as your dad’s. Bob Clampett. Imagine that one of his creations a comic hero named Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent sings your dad’s name, also your name, “A Bob Clampett Cartoon!” in the main titles and before every cartoon. So in effect the audience has both of your names drilled into their brain’s four or five times every week. (Later in syndication this will be a daily drilling).
Now imagine that your dad gets the bright idea to create a Christmas card for the year 1963 parodying the highest rated comedy on television that just happens to use your last name for the name of three of the four primary characters. To explain the whys of it, Paul Henning the creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies” knew Bob Clampett and thought his last name sounded just right for a clan of country bumpkins.
He had to do it! Bob Clampett (Dad) took the iconic photo of the Clampett family and Jethro Bodine riding along in that old jalopy from the main title sequence of the series “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He cut out Buddy Ebsen’s face and Max Baer, Jr.’s face, Donna Douglas’ and Irene Ryan’s and replaced them with our faces. Dad was Jethro. Cecil was on dad’s I mean Jethro’s arm and flipping his lid with the newly released Mattel Beany Cap copter. I was Jed. My mother Sody was Ellie Mae and my sister Ruthy had the supreme honor of sitting in for Granny.
This card also doubled as a birth announcement for my baby sister Cheri who was born the 4th of December 1963. Cheri was fortunate enough to be on the front cover as the angel at the top of the Xmas tree over the tag line, “Something New has been added to…” Dad used that line to great effect in one of his Warner Bros. cartoons, “The Hep Cat”. Back to Cheri, she was also cuddled by the Beany personal appearance puppet in the rocking chair at the top of this monstrose jalopy. At least Cheri got to retain some sense of dignity.
Dad sent these cards out to every single soul that my mom and dad and my sister Ruth and I had an address to send them a Christmas card
For a shy kid looking for anonyminity that Xmas card was the proverbial final straw that brought on the double whammy onslaught of terror induced embarrassment. On Tuesday morning after the cartoons had aired the night before kids all over the school sang me the cartoon theme song, of course hamming up the last line of the lyrics. On Friday mornings after The “BeverlyHillbillies” aired on CBS I’d get called Jed and experience the privilege of listening to kids recreating the twang of the banjo from the show’s theme song. Practically all of the kids had ear splitting high pitched voices. The rest of the week the teasing was spread out 50/50. Frequently kids started their teasing on one show and finished on the other.
It didn’t stop there. When I got old enough to show my I.D. anywhere you show your I.D., I’d get called Jed. People would guffaw just at the thought of that show. Imagine what it must have been like for the real Jethro Bodine all of those years?
The question, “does anybody ever call you Jed?” comes less often now. It’s coming on 50 years. Are the Beverly Hillbillies still playing on TVLand? But I have to tell you nothing would give me more joy than hearing kids singing that Beany and Cecil theme song again. Kids wailing the whole song would be nice but just hearing that last line again would be especially sweet.
Once when asked how he’d like to be remembered my dad answered, “I’d just like to be remembered, period!” That Surname and that little musical ditty has been spliced into a bunch of people’s DNA and makes it awfully tough for those folks to get us out of their heads completely. And for my dad’s sake that is something I really can’t lament.
Left to right; Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr.), Granny Clampett (Irene Ryan), Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) and Ellie Mae Clampett (Donna Douglas).