Dr. Jan Younger to speak about Buddy Walker 2010.06.09

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

ginnivan.jack__buddy2.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

When Dr. Jan Younger thinks about the days of Fayette’s Ginnivan tent show, he knows there are a lot stories to be told.

In 2001, he met with the child star of the show—the late Bud Walker—and he came away thinking there were probably four doctoral dissertations that could be written about Buddy Walker.

Dr. Younger, the recently retired chair of the Heidelberg College honors program, will attend the Fayette Arts Council’s annual meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Opera House. The title of his talk is “Reflections on Bud Walker, the Ginnivan Tent Show and a Life Remembered.”

Bud Walker’s parents performed with the Ginnivan Dramatic Company and little Buddy grew up with the show. Eventually he became a big part of the show, thanks to Jack Sexton.

Sexton traveled with Norma Ginnivan’s company starting in 1934 and he took a liking to four-year-old Buddy, who was already finding his place as a drummer.

Working with Sexton, Buddy took on the persona of Bozo the Clown, a cigar-chomping hobo who delivered the punch lines to Sexton’s role as the straight man.

An article published in Billboard magazine that year stated, “The youngster puts his punch in lines in a manner that is remarkable for one of his age and has the poise and assurance of a veteran trooper.”

The magazine later described Buddy as “America’s youngest professional drummer,” since he played with the pit band during performances.

Jack Sexton went on to become known as Jack Sterling, a popular name in radio, and he later served as the host of “The Big Top” television show.

Buddy turned the tramp act into a one-man show before leaving in 1942 and focusing on his education, about the time the tent show business began its collapse.

Fayette Arts Council president Tom Spiess invited Dr. Younger to talk a little about himself—as a Presidential Scholar, he’s interviewed figures including Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher—about his studies of Mark Twain, and about Fayette’s Buddy Walker.

Some members of Walker’s family are expected to attend the program and guests are invited to offer recollections.

• To help with planning, Arts Council members suggest that guests make a reservation by calling 419/237-3111 or 237-3091.

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