Ventriloquist, radio/TV host and actor Jimmy Weldon, creator of the popular mid-century puppet character Webster Webfoot and the original voice of Hanna-Barbera’s perennially imperiled duckling Yakky Doodle, died Thursday, July 6 in Paso Robles, California at age 99. His passing was reported by American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, of which Waldon was chaplain emeritus. A cause of death was not disclosed.
Born Ivy Laverne Shinn in Dale, Texas on September 23, 1923. As a paperboy, he met a man who could impersonate Disney’s famous Donald Duck, and after much practice young Ivy was good enough to win a radio contest with his impersonation.
Weldon got his official start in entertainment as a local disc jockey in 1946, after returning from service in WWII, where he served under General Patton and helped liberate the concentration camp at Buchenwald. On his way back to the states, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the city of London, where he met a dancer named Muriel Jones — his wife of 40 years.
While hosting at KWCO, Weldon developed the character “Webster Webfoot” — a little duck who would pop in to chat as the DJ played listener requests and would often speak to callers. The “duo” relocated to Oklahoma in 1948, and were then recruited by the larger WFAA station in Dallas in 1950. The same year, WFAA-TV brought Webster to life in The Webster Webfoot Show on local television, with Weldon learning ventriloquist skills.
Weldon and Webster then moved to Los Angeles with the help of Jimmy Wakely, the singing cowboy, and signed onto the MCA. Weldon became a popular children’s television host on multiple programs, and even stepped in for famed ventriloquist Shari Lewis on Hi Mom. He also began performing voice over roles for the iconic Hanna-Barbera animation studio, using his well-honed quacking to voice Yakky Doodle — who first appeared in Slumber Party Smarty in 1958 and went on to be a recurring character in The Yogi Bear Show, Fred Flintstone and Friends and other Yogi-centric toons through the 1980s. Weldon also played Yakky’s bulldog protector, Chopper.
Weldon’s cartoon roles also included Solomon Grundy in Hanna-Barbera’s Challenge of the Superfriends (1978) and later in Super Firends (1983), as well as additional voices for Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (1979), The Little Rascals (1982), Richie Rich (1982), Shirt Tales (1983), Challenge of the GoBots (1984), Popeye and Son (1987), Tom & Jerry Kids Show (1992) and, most recently, as Beansie McBean-Bean in Disney’s The 7D (2015). He also appeared in live-action shows such as Dragnet, The Waltons, Dallas, The Rockford Files, Diff’rent Strokes and Knight Rider.
Never a parent himself, Weldon was committed to performing for and communicating with children throughout his life. His patriotic feeling and the deep effect the liberation of Buchenwald had on him were major influences on the topics he would present to schools and organization. He was also a firm believer in keeping a positive attitude, reflected in his 2010 memoir Go Get ‘Em Tiger.
Weldon was pre-deceased by Muriel in 1988. The couple had no children. In a 2020 interview with JNS.org, he shared that he had also lost an unspecified number of brothers but had a living niece and nephew. In the same interview, he shared his best life advice for the younger generations:
“Nothing will lift you up higher and hold you up longer than the faith and confidence you have in yourself and your abilities. Two of the greatest things you can say are, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you.’”
[Sources: Deadline, JNS]