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Walter Tetley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 4, 2008 11:56am | Post a Comment
Walter Tetley, who died today back in 1975, was a renowned child impersonator from radio's golden age. He featured regularly on the Great Gildersleeve and the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show --two programs unlikely to result in even a flicker of recognition from anyone younger than 60, but very popular in their day. He also appeared on Fibber McGee and Molly, The Jell-O Program starring Jack Benny, The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope, Suspense, The Burns & Allen Show and other radio programs.

               

The details of Walter's personal life are obscure and mostly drawn from one biography (For Corn's Sake), which was primarily based on his thorough scrapbooks. Walter was born Walter Tetzlaff June 2, 1915 in New York City. His career began as an actual child --appearing on The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air in the 1930s. By the 1940s he was the most prolific child actor on the radio. His tone and cadence are immediately recognizable and helped to define the mid-20th century stereotype of a young boy. Although radio requires the listener to imagine the appearance of the players, Walter Tetley's characters, with their mixture of adult cynicism and smart-alecky childspeak invariably conjure up (in my mind, at least) images of overall-wearing, slingshot-toting, bath-hating, cowlick-sporting lil' brats.

 

When the popularity of TV began to overtake radio, Tetley still found work by doing voiceover work, most recognizably as the Nerdy Sherman on the Mr. Peabody cartoons. He was 44 years old at the time.  He also recorded a children's record for Capitol and commercials for Sunsweet Prunes. 

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