Lew Anderson

IntroAmerican actor and musician
Was Actor 
Television actor 
From United States of America 
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio 
Birth 7 May 1922 
, Kirkman, USA
Death 14 May 2006 
, Hawthorne, USA
(aged 84 years)
Star signTaurus

Lewis Burr Anderson (May 7, 1922 in Kirkman, Iowa – May 14, 2006 in Westchester, New York) was an American actor and musician. He is widely known by TV fans as the third and final actor to portray Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody between 1954 and 1960. He famously spoke Clarabell’s only line on the show’s final episode in 1960, with a tear visible in his eye, “Goodbye, kids.” Anderson is also widely known by jazz music fans as a prolific jazz arranger, big band leader, and alto saxophonist. Anderson also played the clarinet.

Early years

Growing up

Anderson was born in Kirkman, Iowa, the son of a railroad telegrapher. He began playing his sister’s clarinet when she tired of it, and by high school had formed his own dance band. After a year in junior college in Fort Dodge, Iowa, he received a music scholarship to Drake University in Des Moines. He attended for two years, but then quit school to begin his professional musical life by accepting a job with the Lee Barron Orchestra, a territory band based out of Omaha.

Armed forces

During World War II(boss war), Anderson served in the United States Navy where he started his first band. While in the Navy, he served aboard the USS Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16), a ship that supplied submarines.

Post World War II

After serving in the Navy in World War II, he joined the Carlos Molinas Latin Orchestra, where he also wrote the American dance arrangements. In the late 1940s, he joined The Honey Dreamers, a singing group that appeared on radio and early television shows like The Ed Sullivan Show. While working with the group, he met “Buffalo” Bob Smith who offered him the role on the Howdy Doody show. Anderson again played Clarabell on the short-lived “New Howdy Doody Show” in 1976-1977 and in the 1987 40th anniversary special and made personal appearances as Clarabell with Buffalo Bob for many years thereafter.

Anderson also wrote many of the TV jingles for the 1950s and 1960s, including for Pepsi and Buick. Many of the jingles were performed by his group “The Honey Dreamers.”

Lew Anderson All-American Big Band

Red Blazer, Too

After working six-years as Clarabell, Anderson returned to music. In 1989, he formed a 16-piece jazz orchestra — The Lew Anderson All-American Big Band — which began playing Fridays from 5:45 to 7:45 PM at the Red Blazer, Too, 349 West 46th Street, Manhattan, New York. The venue is currently occupied by Swing 46 Jazz & Supper Club. Anderson secured the gig through Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins, who, in 1989, proposed the idea to Denis Carey, co-owner of Red Blazer, Too. The band began an eight-year stint at Red Blazer Too. Musicians in 1990 included saxophonist Aaron Sachs and trombonist John Fedchock. The band members were mostly musicians with steady jobs in recording studios and the pit orchestras of Broadway musicals. The early evening time-slot allowed his musicians to get to their theater jobs for the 8 o’clock curtain. Red Blazer, Too, closed on June 1, 1997, after its landlord doubled the rent.
In 1997, before Red Blazer had closed, composer, producer, and owner of Sovereign Records, Inc., Ruby Fisher (Reuben Fischer; 1923–2009) invited Don Kennedy of radio’s “Big Band Jump” show to come up from Atlanta to host “Live at the Blazer!” The one-hour program aired June 14, 1997 on Jump’s 130 stations, was re-broadcast in August on New York’s WQEW and now constitutes Live at the Blazer! The Lew Anderson Big Band, Sovereign CDSOV-506, joining the band’s previous Sovereign albums, Feelin’ Good, Yeah and Fired Up.

Birdland Jazz Club

In August 1997, The Lew Anderson Big Band began an open-ended engagement at Birdland, then on the Upper Wide Side of Manhattan. The introduction to Birdland was made by American Music Projects’ Janet Solesky (born 1949). The band, until Anderson’s death, remained in residence during the same time — early set, Fridays — at Birdland Jazz Club.

Selected discography

Lew Anderson Big Band

  • Lew Anderson Big Band Live
Recorded live (radio broadcast), March 8, 1974, at the Half Note Club, West 54th Street, New York City
Lew Anderson (leader), Bob Millikan (nl), Dean Pratt, Chuck Winfield (es) (trumpets), Eddie Bert, Sonny Costanza (trombone), Lew Anderson, Frank Strozier (alto saxes), Neil Slater (piano), Joe Cocuzzo (drums), others unknown
Radio broadcast on WLTW, under its former call letters, WRVR: “Jazz Adventures,” two sets of the Lew Anderson Orchestra; Jack TaFoya (born 1932) was the announcer
  • Lew Anderson All American Big Band Sea Breeze Jazz (1986)
Recorded at J.A.C. Studio, New York, May 6–8, 1983
Personnel includes drummer Dave Weckl
OCLC 15275068
  • Feelin’ Good, Yeah, Sovereign Records (1989)
Recorded at A & R Studios, New York, 1989
Lew Anderson (alto saxophone); Vinnie Riccitelli (né Vincent S. Riccitelli; born 1926) (alto saxophone); Leo Ursini, Ken Hitchcock (tenor saxophone); Aaron Sachs (baritone saxophone); Glenn Drewes, Frank Fighera, Joe Mosello, John Marshall (trumpet); John Fedchock, Wyn Walshe, Fred Simmons, Dale Turk (trombone); Ray Kennedy (electric piano, synthesizer); Paul Adamy (bass); Tony Tedesco (drums)
Re-issued as a CD in 1996
Produced by Ruby Fisher (né Reuben Fischer; 1923–2009)
OCLC 317677053
  • Fired Up, Sovereign Records (1992)
Recorded at Crossroads Recording Studio, New York, 1992
Personnel includes trumpeter Greg Gisbert and trombonist John Fedchock
OCLC 30877484
  • The New Four Freshmen, Voices in Standards, Hindsight Records (1994)
Recorded October and November 1993 (no date given), Los Angeles
Final mix: January 1994
Vocalists: Greg Stegeman (lead), Mike Beisner (2nd tenor), Kevin Stout (baritone), Bob Ferreira (bass)
Big band: Lew Anderson (leader, alto sax), Vinnie Riccitelli (alto sax, clarinet, flute), Gary Topper (bari sax), Tom Olin (flute, bari sax, bass clarinet), Brent Stanton (flute, clarinet, tenor sax), Rob Middleton (flute, clarinet, tenor sax), Bruce Eidem (trombone), John Fedchock (trombone), Wyn Walshe (trombone), Dale Turk (bass trombone), Greg Gisbert (trumpet, flugelhorn), Joe Mosello (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike Ponella (trumpet, flugelhorn), Tony Kadleck (trumpet, flugelhorn), Tom Kirchmer (bass), Tommy Igoe (pl) (drums), Ray Kennedy (keyboards)
Recording Engineer: Phil Bulla (né Philip A. Bulla; born 1954)
HCD 801 (Hindsight catalog number)
OCLC 31470464, 959268492
  • At His Very Best, featuring Steve Clayton, Sovereign Records (1995)
Recorded in various locations & dates, c. 1995
Personnel includes pianist Derek Smith, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Bobby Rosengarden
OCLC 35712774
  • Live At The Blazer! Sovereign Records (1998)
Recorded at the Red Blazer, New York, 1998
OCLC 71836985


Anderson died in Hawthorne, New York, from complications of prostate cancer.

On March 23, 2006, The Birdland Big Band — which at that time was composed entirely of his former band members (directed Tommy Igoe) — performed and recorded a tribute to his life.

Former members of Anderson’s big bands

  • Vinnie Riccitelli (né Vincent S. Riccitelli; born 1926), also sax
  • Bob McCoy, trumpet
  • John Lanni, saxophone
  • Wyn Walshe, trombone
  • Ken Rizzo, bass