Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney!

Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney from Wump Mucket Puppets!

Today is Caroll Spinney’s birthday.  He’s 79 years young!  Those of you not in the puppetry world may wonder who he is.  Perhaps you have heard of the puppets that he’s performed on Sesame Street since 1969.  I am sure you’ve heard of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird.

Little did I know it, Caroll Spinney was entertaining me several years before I watched his puppetry on Sesame Street.  You see, we are both from New England.  He performed as Mister Lion on the “Bozo the Clown” show that aired on Boston TV station WHDH.  I watched it almost every morning.  I remember being upset when my older sister started kindergarten.  Not only was she my first playmate, she watched Bozo with me.   Now we had to walk her to the bus stop BEFORE Bozo was on the air.   Not fair!

Here’s a video of Bozo that I probably watched in 1966:

Then in November of 1969, I  discovered something so wonderful and unique it would capture my imagination for the rest of my life…  Sesame Street, especially Oscar the Grouch!

My father was the morning radio announcer on WCCM in Lawrence, Massachusetts around the time that Sesame Street started.  His show was the usual news updates, weather reports, sprinkled with pop music of the 60’s & 70’s.  My dad knew that we would often have his show tuned in at home and would play “I Love Trash” for me now and then.  It was a special feeling, being 5, to have your Dad play one of Oscar’s songs for you on the radio.

As an adult I have had the pleasure of meeting Caroll several times.  He has always offered very encouraging words to me about my puppetry.  In 2004 I met him at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  I brought along my Cyril puppet to show him.  One of the university staff spotted the puppet as I brought it out of my bag to snap a picture with Caroll and Oscar.  She came up to us and firmly said “No outside puppets!” or something similar.  Caroll turned to her and calmly replied, “It’s okay, he’s another puppeteer with the puppet guild”.

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke at Miami University 2004

Not only has Caroll helped educate and entertain millions of children through his puppetry, he has been the inspiration to many puppeteers, myself included.  Thank you Caroll, have a wonderful birthday.

Want more info about the life and career of Caroll Spinney?  Then you will want to check out the new film that is being made: http://www.iambigbird.com/