Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Life of Daws

It sure is nice—right powerful nice, as Huckleberry Hound might say—to see that Daws Butler got a little bit of recognition in the days when Hanna-Barbera and Kellogg’s teamed up to put some enjoyable half-hour cartoons shows on the air in the late 1950s.

Daws worked steadily when he arrived in Hollywood, but he wasn’t a star. He wasn’t even in the same echelon as Mel Blanc who, besides being the voice of Bugs Bunny, was known for his work as supporting actor in some of the top comedy/variety radio shows produced in California, including Jack Benny’s (Blanc was not in the opening credits, but in the 1950s Benny mentioned his name almost in each each show).

This story comes from the Louisville Courier-Journal of February 15, 1959. Huckleberry Hound had been on the air for about five months and Quick Draw McGraw was still in development. It gives a nice little summary of Daws’ career to that point.

The story claims he “became an animator of TV cartoons.” I don’t know if that’s true, but his panel cartoons did appear regularly in a radio magazine in the late 1940s.

There’s no byline to this story so I couldn’t tell you its origin.

Many Voices Keep Butler In Business
Special to The Courier-Journal
HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 14.—The text voice you hear may very well be the voice of Daws Butler—one of his “thousand voices,” that is.
Butler is heard on a myriad of cartoon commercials on television, and provides several voices, on the popular TV cartoon shows “Huckleberry Hound” and “Ruff and Ready.” [sic]
He has been imitating voices since 1935, and has been fooling the sharpest ears in America.
Entered Contest
Uncomfortably shy when in high school in Oak Park, Ill., Butler forced himself into an amateur contest as a kind of self-imposed therapy. He did imitations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Rudy Vallee, both of whom were imitated by more people than any other subjects at that time.
“It worked,” Butler says. “I found it easier to appear before people in a ‘life-of-the-party’ bit if I was appearing as someone other than myself.”
Butler teamed up with two other kids who did imitations, and they formed an act that played around Chicago. The trio wound up with a date at the famous old Blackhawk Restaurant, and Butler found himself in show business.
Forgot Ambition
“I forgot my ambition to be a cartoonist and commercial artist,” he recalls. “I decided I already was a professional entertainer, so I stayed with it.”
During the heyday of radio. Butler studied voices and played the parts of many men in dramatic productions. He likes to recall a solo performance when he played every voice in a radio play which had a dozen characters.
World War II took Butler out of show business for four years. When he returned, he joined with Stan Freberg in 1948 and the two of them did the first television puppet show, a local series on the West Coast.
“We worked the puppets,” says Daws, “did all the voices, and ad libbed like crazy because we had no scripts, and no time to memorize them if we had had them.
Remember Recording?
“We drove directors and cameramen crazy, because when they looked at the scripts and listened to the show, they couldn't find their places in the play.”
The show was successful and made a name for Freberg. The two then collaborated on Freberg's first successful recording, which sold over 1,000,000 copies. Remember “St. George and the Dragnet”?
After this, Butler got back to his first love, cartooning, and became an animator of TV cartoons. He writes and does the voices for over 200 commercial cartoons seen on TV today.
On the N.B.C. show “Ruff and Ready,” Butler is not only the voice of Reddy, but also speaks for Harry Safari, Killer Diller and Pinkie the Elephant. On the companion show, “Huckleberry Hound,” he plays Huck, Yogi Bear, Mr. Jinks and Dixie. Both programs are made by Hanna and Barbera Productions especially for television.


  1. I suppose to your off-the-street reporter, especially in 1958, "animator" could mean everyone who has anything to do with the creation of an animated cartoon. I've certainly never heard that Daws animated anything. "200 cartoons?" I guess if you counted all the episodes of RUFF & REDDY and the first season of HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, you might come close, possibly with a little rounding up--and of course, QUICK DRAW McGRAW might have been in production by then, and the total may have been higher than that, actually. Articles like these used to run in the TV sections of Sunday papers (back in the days when those were needed to know when stuff was on) with color illustrations in the days when color promotional art wasn't very usual, so they were a big deal to kids like me who loved cartoons. Still, it's interesting that the contributions of the main voices of Hanna-Barbera seem to have been so well-recognized that I knew them at age seven because of the first Colpix soundtrack albums with Daws and Don's pictures on the back. Perhaps "illustrated radio" made this imperative; Daws and Don talked a WHOLE lot more in an H-B cartoon than Mel Blanc had to in most Warner cartoons. It was impossible to not notice the voice artists. As a seven-year-old, of course, I was completely unaware of any of the voices being imitations, even if that fact was pointed out on the bios on the back of those albums, being too young to have seen THE HONEYMOONERS, or to have heard Andy Griffith's records or to have heard any radio shows, but I seriously doubt it would've mattered to me at all.

  2. Wow. The reporter couldn't even bother to name-check Time for Beany. And Daws repeats his fallacy about working sans scripts on that program.

  3. Yowp, I too had read somewhere that Daws had started out wanting to be an illustrator of some sort. Great article.I can't ever get enough stories about Daws.