Whenever you meet a “baby boomer” from the Chattanooga area, a few questions always come up. “Where did you go to school?” “Remember all that air pollution?” And, this one: “Were you ever on the Bob Brandy Show?”
Back in the 1960s, we all loved singing cowboys. In the grand tradition of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, our local singing cowboy had legions of fans. Bob Brandy (shortened from Brandenburg) was one of WTVC Channel 9’s first hires. When the station was preparing for its first broadcast from Signal Mountain, the owners knew they would be competing with the already-established WDEF Channel 12 (CBS) and WRGP Channel 3 (NBC). It was February 1958, and the Channel 9 area license had been transferred from Rome, Georgia to Chattanooga. The owners knew Chattanooga would provide more viewers (and thus, more ad dollars) than Rome. WTVC was affiliating with the third-place ABC network, so this new station would need someone to get the city’s attention.
Enter Bob Brandy. He had started a kids show in Columbus, Georgia a year earlier, and had developed a strong following. Along with his wife Ingrid, his horse Rebel, and a steady diet of cartoons, Bob welcomed scout troops, school groups and Sunday School classes. Sponsors furnished prizes to give away, and Bob provided the fun and games. In the early days of live TV, Bob Brandy faced the camera for an hour each afternoon as the kids got home from school.
Bob’s show soon found an eager audience. The other channels had also offered kids shows (Channel 12’s “Mr. Chickaroonie” and Channel 3’s “Alex and Elmer” are well-remembered), but they had faded by the early 1960s. Sponsors like Chattanooga Bakery (Moon Pie) and McKee Bakery (Little Debbie snacks) quickly saw the benefits of Bob giving away their goodies to kids who sat on Rebel and threw a ball into a barrel. When Bob needed a break, he’d toss it to a Three Stooges comedy or a Popeye cartoon. Once or twice a day, the Bob Brandy Trio (usually consisting of Tonny Allen, Rome Benedict and Charlie Chambers) would perform a cowboy song.
Wife Ingrid, of the thick German accent, the tightly-coiffed blond hair, and the shapely figure, would help Bob interview the kids. One widely quoted story, which was apparently seen by everyone in the Tennessee Valley, recalls a day in which some mischievous 10-year-old boys were laughing uncontrollably while Bob was trying to talk. He wanted to find out what was going on, so he asked them what was so funny. One kid looked Bob right in the eyes and said, “Charlie farted!” You can’t beat live television.
Prior to WTVC’s move to downtown in 1966, Bob’s show aired from Signal Mountain. Keep in mind that on snow days, the kids couldn’t make it to the studio. He had to do an hour of live TV, with no audience. It didn’t faze him a bit. That’s the sign of a true pro.
My friend Gary Wordlaw got his first job as a teenager at WTVC, working on the studio crew. He told me that Bob’s show ended five minutes before the local news came on, from the same studio. He remembers scooping and mopping some of Rebel’s droppings, under the hot lights, just moments before anchorman Gil Norwood started reading the news. Gary stayed in the TV business for forty years, but thanks to Rebel, his first job made a really -strong- impression.
Those of us who never got to be on Bob’s show were often fortunate enough to see him in our hometown. On Saturdays, Bob took his show on the road, complete with Rebel, the musicians and the prizes. I remember when they visited Bryant (Alabama) Jr. High School. That was the biggest show to hit Bryant, well…ever. What do I remember the most about it? I did mention Ingrid was shapely, right? Even more so, in person.
Bob’s show began slipping around 1970, so WTVC moved it off the weekday schedule. It bounced around on weekends for a couple of years, from late Saturday morning, to early Saturday morning, and even on Sundays for a few weeks until Bob decided to sing “Happy Trails” once and for all.
Bob continued his day job, selling commercials for WTVC, eventually becoming the station’s sales manager. It turns out Bob was a top TV ad salesman through the show’s entire run, no doubt using his fame to his advantage. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy some time on the “Bob Brandy Show?” For the next thirty years, until his death in 2003 (he was 72), Bob stayed loyal to WTVC. Even after retirement, he was a consultant for the station.
I got to know Bob a little bit late in his life. He was not in good health, but he always smiled when someone told him they grew up with him. It brought back memories of a more innocent time. These days, the mere mention of his name brings a smile to those who tuned in each afternoon. I think he’d like that.
Here’s a YouTube video from WTVC’s 50th anniversary special in 2008, featuring Dr. Shock, Miss Marcia, Don Welch, and a brief clip of “The Bob Brandy Show.”
I’m proud that Bob’s show is featured on the cover of my book “Chattanooga Radio and Television.” Order the book by clicking here:
Please share your memories of The Bob Brandy Show in the comments section below.