Behind every iconic character, there is someone who brings them to life. Throughout the ’50s and beyond, kids tuned in to watch Captain Kangaroo. And who should they see on that show? Mr. Green Jeans, portrayed by Hugh Brannum. During his time on Captain Kangaroo, Brannum provided a source of help and friendliness as a kind handyman. For a while, that’s how so many people knew him: from that show. But where was the beloved Mr. Green Jeans before and after Captain Kangaroo?
Brannum did not always work at our favorite childhood hangout spot, the Treasure House. His life before and after was equally as interesting and thrilling – in entirely different ways. And when you didn’t see Hugh Brannum as Mr. Green Jeans, that didn’t mean he was gone. He stuck around doing his thing and exercising his talents for some time.
Hugh Brannum did what he knew to do well
Illinois was Hugh Brannum’s home during his youth. He was born on January 5, 1910, and attended high school in Chicago. There, he not only played the sousaphone for marching band, but he also learned to play the bass violin. His interest in music – which makes his performance as Mr. Green Jeans so understandable – continued into college. Brannum’s interests zeroed in on jazz while he attended the University of Redlands and after graduation in 1931, he played in some bands.
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Some people find ways of sticking to what they know with whatever they took on. Hugh Brannum offers one strong example throughout his whole lifetime. When the United States entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Brannum joined the U.S. Marine Corps. There, he soon crossed paths with another rising star, Bob Crosby. Even while serving, he found a way to incorporate his musical background, and Brannum and Crosby became part of a Marine band together.
Did Mr. Green Jeans wear green jeans?
Ultimately, a lot of Brannum’s career centered around Captain Kangaroo. And yes, he did most famously play Mr. Green Jeans. In that role, Brannum actually expressed a bit of himself in multiple ways. Captain Kangaroo himself Bob Keeshan called Mr. Green Jeans an extension of Brannum’s personality. Fun fact, he did technically wear green jeans; green overalls!
But that was not his only part on the show. Indeed, he’s been a professor, a painter, a clown, and a singer on the show. All the while, some skits derive from other parts of his life outside of Captain Kangaroo. He told stories that can be traced to Mr. Green Jeans on 78-rpm records using the alias Uncle Lumpy. He also recounted relevant tales with the Fred Waring Orchestra and over the radio. Families everywhere loved his dedication and kindness, which persisted right to the end on April 19, 1987.