Cowboy Bob, Janie on reunion trail with CD

Friday, December 14, 2007
Cowboy Bob and canine sidekick Mr. T. Rusty O'Toole

For more that two decades, Bob Glaze graced our TV screens each afternoon with a combination of tales, songs and laughter. We were introduced to such friends as Freckles, Windjammer, Skye and his trusty sidekick Tumbleweed. You may not know the name Bob Glaze; you may remember him as Cowboy Bob.

Glaze portrayed the lovable cowboy for more than 20 years at WTTV 4 in Indianapolis and this weekend he will be teaming up with another television legend, Janie Hodge, to meet fans and sign copies of their newly remastered Christmas album of 1968 in Nashville, Ind.

After Glaze began working for WTTV in June of 1966, he worked his way onto one of the station's most beloved shows, Popeye and Janie.

"I met Janie and I ended up worming my way onto her show. I thought that maybe her ukulele could use a little backup so I came on with my guitar and we started singing together," Glaze said.

It was actually Janie who suggested they combine their efforts and produce a Christmas album. The idea was suggested in 1967 shortly after Glaze joined the Indianapolis station and a year later production began.

When the idea was mentioned, Glaze had an ace in the hole. He had written a Christmas tune a few years prior and thought it would be good for the album. He spoke about the creation of the song, acknowledging the fact that it wasn't wintry conditions that got him in the mood.

"I had written a Christmas song just for the fun of it while I was living in Bloomington," Glaze recalled. "It was a hot August afternoon on a Sunday and the sun was beating down. I was at one of the stone quarries south of Bloomington. I happen to have some paper and a pen in my car, so I grabbed them. It's funny how you get an idea and you just have to write it down, so I wrote it down for a Christmas song, then I took it back to my apartment in Bloomington later that day and got my guitar and put it to music.

"I just wanted to do a Christmas song," he said.

In an age of music superstores, the distribution for the album was quite humble. Glaze and Janie financed the album themselves and as he recalled with a laugh, it was a selling out of the back of your van type of thing.

"To this day, people come up to us at these appearances and people will bring us their albums and show them to us and have us re-autograph them or autograph them for the first time."

The idea for a remastered CD was the brainchild of a one of Glaze's business partners, Peggy McClellan of Producers Plus. When Glaze came into possession of some of the original albums unopened, it was McClellan who suggested re-releasing the album as a CD.

After hearing the first burns of the new CD, Glaze was impressed with what he and Janie had accomplished.

"I probably hadn't listen to the album in 15 years and when I heard the burn on CD, it was like "Oh my goodness"," Glaze commented. "You have to understand that we recorded that in a garage in real time recording. It was what you hear is what you got and what you got is what we did.

"So it was quite exciting to hear. It's very simple, it's very low tech but it's very meaningful," he added.

After appearing with Janie and Mary Ellen Reed at WTTV, Glaze was given the opportunity to host his own show that would replace Reed's Lunchtime Theater. Ideas were kicked around for the theme of the show, with station executives even suggesting Bob being a clown. He informed them he didn't do clowns but being born and raised in Oklahoma, Glaze thought a cowboy would be a perfect fit. After nailing down the character, Chuckwagon Theater was born.

Being influenced by the cowboys from the past, Glaze recognized there were a couple of essentials he needed to perfect his cowboy alter ego. Every cowboy has their trusty steed and Glaze recalled that Roy Rogers had a dog, so Cowboy Bob was in search of a sidekick and he only had to look next door to find her.

A neighbor of Glaze's had a litter of puppies and he acknowledged his wishes for a male, much to his good fortune and ours, a female was delivered.

"He put this little puppy in my hands and I just melted," he recalled. "She was incredible. She was the runt of the litter and she turned out to be the smartest of the bunch. She was an incredible dog. That was Tumbleweed.

"She sent me on the path to dogdom," he joked.

When asked about his feelings of being a recognizable personality when the show was at its height of popularity, Glaze unexpectedly voiced the uneasiness he felt being in front of the camera at times.

"You know it was an odd feeling. Realizing that every day when I went to work that there would be other people watching me do my job. It felt really strange," he said. "I'd have butterflies in my stomach every time I would do it. Honestly, I just felt like I wanted to be me. I didn't want to be anything else but me."

That desire to be himself helped endear him not only to the multitudes of children that watched the program but to their parents and a loyal following of high school and college students. He also mentioned he believed the show benefited him more than he did it.

"The very first decade, the 1970's, was the most exciting because it was live. The mistakes you saw were live."

It was that live broadcast that brought about a change in Glaze's life. One instance when the camera came back to him, he was caught smoking and the station was inundated with mail from children asking him to quit smoking. That was when it hit home for him.

"It brought about a catharsis where I just said it would be hypocritical for me to continue doing this," he commented.

The downside to the live broadcast was the lack of archiving. Most shows produced at the local level, due to costs and facility restriction, were unable to be archived for future generations.

"They didn't automatically record every program. A lot of the stuff was live, so it went out and it was gone -- it was in the ether, man. It was gone."

With the lack of local programming and the influx of prepackaged formats, Glaze believes stations are missing the boat.

"It's all packaged stuff but I suppose it's more cost-effective. The beauty of what we did is, today they talk about thinking outside of the box. We got out of the box. The kids would know us on TV and then they would also see us all around the state doing personal appearances. So many times they'd ask, "How did you get out of the TV?" You know, how sweet is that?"

When asked of what he believed his impact was with the show, Glaze spoke of the many people who still come up to him today, recalling moments from Chuckwagon Theater and later Cowboy Bob's Corral. He voiced genuine appreciation for his fans and their loyalty to a show that has been off the air for 18 years.

"I think what I did was valuable," he commented. "I think those we much simpler times but I think it was something that is a shame it's gone. I think it helped. The character I tried to portray was that of a surrogate. A brother or a father for some of these kids because some of them probably didn't have a lot of guidance. I just knew what I felt in my heart would be good for the kids. A little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of fun, combine it together and it seemed to pay off.

"The beauty of it, was my style, not being a Bozo, not being silly, being just down to earth was that the parents enjoyed watching with their kids," he added.

His years not only affected his professional life but also his personal. Glaze met his wife of 32 years, Gail, shortly after beginning production on Chuckwagon Theater.

Glaze graduated from Culver Military Academy and years later became part of rowing team that includes Greencastle resident Bob Evans of Collins/Evans Real Estate. Glaze recalled that years ago Evans contacted various Culver Alumni to put together the squad.

"I graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1960 and Bob graduated in 1955. He is one wonderful man," Glaze said. "Eleven year ago he sent out a feeler via email and he was trying to put together a rowing team up at Eagle Creek of Culver people and that's how I met him and we've been rowing ever since. I admire him a great deal.

"You're going to rust out before you wear out, that's my attitude," he commented.

Cowboy Bob and Janie will be signing copies of the Christmas album, "Christmas time with Janie and Cowboy Bob', tomorrow at the Lotus Petal Cinema in Nashville, Ind.

And Cowboy Bob would like to remind everyone of one final thing before he leaves.

"Don't forget to take your nap, keep smiling and remember if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all."

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  • Oh my gosh!! I didn't think we would ever hear from this man again! Good for Bob! What an interesting story. Many of days I sat down and watched him on his show. The article forgot to mention Sourdough the singing bisquit,lol. I remember recently a bunch of us were trying to remember the horses name and no one could recall it. Sorry about that "Windjammer"!!

    Another memory is the Popeye and Janie show! They have been off the air how long? Oh man, I'm old.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Sat, Dec 15, 2007, at 6:11 AM
  • Wholly Molly!!!! It's Cowboy Bob

    back on the trail.

    I remember when I was a child that

    I didn't want to leave the house to

    catch the bus to go to school when

    the Cowboy Bob show came on early

    at 7am on Channel 4 on the weekdays.

    Man!! Does that ever bring back

    fond memories of my childhood.

    -- Posted by valdostas on Sat, Dec 15, 2007, at 2:04 PM
  • Boy does that bring back memories! I loved both those shows! Makes one feel old or invites us to relive our childhood??

    -- Posted by reneegoodman24 on Sat, Dec 15, 2007, at 3:12 PM
  • Love Cowboy Bob! I thought I watched him on Sunday mornings? Maybe not, it's been a few years. I had no idea he was locally produced, though. Good story Caine.

    -- Posted by hereforyou on Sat, Dec 15, 2007, at 3:15 PM
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