Way Out Wednesday: The Stars of Gentle Ben, “The Bear Facts”

Written by Music, Way Out Wednesday

Remember the 1967 television show Gentle Ben? It was a heartwarming adventure about a boy and his bear, sort of like if Lassie was a grizzly and Timmy was Ron Howard’s brother. I would tell you more about the show, but that’s pretty much all I can remember about it. According to the liner notes of this album, one episode featured Clint Howard singing. Apparently the performers (led by cast member Dennis Weaver) had so much fun they decided to record an entire album (aided and abetted by “The Good Time People,” a group only slightly less perky than Up With People).

Our first song features young Clint Howard and his father, Rance. This selection was a good idea, because there’s not really any singing in it at all. It’s more about something called a Whatchamacallit that, among other things, will “blow your mind.” On second thought, these guys are starting to remind me of the Space Hippies on the old Star Trek show.

Clint and Rance Howard – Whatchamacallit

Next we have Clint going solo on the song “I Am the Way I Am.” I know you’re waiting for me to tell you what a godawful singer he is, but I kind of like his performance here. Ever since the musical Annie, it seems like every child singer (both female and male) has to sound like Ethel Merman on helium. Not Clint, though. He just sounds like some kid walking down the sidewalk singing his own thing, and that’s kind of refreshing (and somewhat reminiscent of his brother Ronny’s performance in The Music Man).

Clint Howard – I Am the Way I Am

Candy Candido is billed as the voice of Gentle Ben. Now I don’t remember G.B. talking, so I guess Candido just provided grunts and growls for the bear. (Man, what kind of cushy gig is THAT?) Using one more reference that will date me terribly, he sounds a lot like Froggy on the old Little Rascals shorts.

Candy Candido – I Love to Eat

I think one of the reasons Dennis Weaver wanted to do this album is because, out of all these people, he handles his song quite well. I didn’t know McCloud had it in him!

Dennis Weaver – Cobwebs of Your Mind

From the (relatively) sublime to the completely ridiculous, our last song here is a goofy song featuring dad Rance Howard and, oddly enough, he sings a lot like his son. That’s excusable for a kid, but for an adult it sort of gives me the jibblies.

Rance Howard – Don’t Cry Little Gator

If you’d like to listen to this whole thing, you can find it here. Enjoy!