A while back we watched the most recent Muppet movie (the one with Jason Segel and Amy Adams – which we liked, by the way), and that got me to thinking about when I first saw the Muppets. In the early Sixties I liked Jimmy Dean's hit song "Big Bad John" (little boys on school playgrounds liked singing it because you could drop your voice down as low as you could get it on the "Big Bad John!" part). So when the musical/comedy/variety program THE JIMMY DEAN SHOW premiered on ABC in 1963, naturally enough I watched it. My dad liked country music, and he enjoyed the series, too, because singers such as Roger Miller, Buck Owens, and George Jones appeared regularly on it.My favorite guest star, though – and this falls into the "variety" area – was Rowlf the Dog, a wisecracking puppet operated and voiced by a young puppeteer named Jim Henson. Henson's "Muppets" had been around since the mid-Fifties, appearing on various local TV shows, but THE JIMMY DEAN SHOW was their first national appearance. And Rowlf never failed to crack me up. I always looked forward to his appearances. He's long since been shoved aside as the star of the troupe, of course. While I like Kermit as much as anybody, I'll always have a soft spot for Rowlf.
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