An Introduction to Burr Tillstrom

Creator of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie"

Right: The curator and his son Nick Samuels with Burr Tillstrom and Kukla and Ollie. You'll find the story behind this 1980 photo below, along with some "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" links.

The first time I saw Burr Tillstrom in person was on a Saturday early in 1948 when the Kuklapolitans were making a personal appearance at the Lyon and Healey music store in Evanston, Illinois. I was seven years old at the time.

The last time I saw Burr Tillstrom in person was on a Saturday early in 1980 when the Kuklapolitans were taping their "Crisis at the Egg Plant" Easter special in studio A in the Merchandise Mart. My son Nicholas was seven years old at the time.

Though Burr had not had a regularly-scheduled television program for roughly a twenty five years, his periodic specials were religiously watched in our home. My son was just as enchanted by the Kuklapolitans as I had been a generation earlier.

I therefore took Nick to work that Saturday so he could see his television friends in the flesh (unfortunately, Fran Allison was ill at the time and did not appear in "Crisis at the Egg Plant"). During the lunch break (held in studio Q, a smaller studio, originally designated studio B, adjacent to studio A), we sat at Burr's table with Monte Newman, vice-president and general manager of WMAQ-TV. Monte had brought a still camera with him---it sat on the tavle as we were eating.

When lunch was completed, Burr turned to Nick and asked, "How would you like to have your picture taken with Kukla and Ollie? Meet us in studio A. We'll be right there."

Nick, Monte (with his camera) and I rushed across the hall to the "Crisis at the Egg Plant" set. Moments later, Burr, Kukla and Ollie arrived. And Monte shot the photo you see above.

Several years later, following Burr's death, I had occasion to interview Fran Allison. I showed her the photograph. She autographed it on the back.

The links below will tell and show you more about these remarkable performers.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
Audio and video downloads
About the Curator

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Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to