Our Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays article this week is once again written by our good friend Tom Stroud! Thanks to Tom for all of his great work!
Count von Count, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Gobo Fraggle, Julius Strangepork, Pops, Camilla the Chicken, Crazy Harry, The Amazing Mumford, Sherlock Hemlock, Mr. Johnson (Fat Blue), Marjory the Trash Heap, Pa Gorg, Two-Headed Monster, Herry Monster, Uncle Deadly, Angus McGonagle the Argyle Gargoyle
WHO WAS JERRY NELSON?
Jerry Nelson began to work with Jim Henson in 1965, when Henson needed someone to perform Rowlf’s right hand on The Jimmy Dean Show due to Frank Oz getting drafted. Even though Oz failed his draft physical, he chose to take some time off performing, allowing Jerry to stay on. Many his first major roles were in The Tales from Muppetland specials, including Featherstone and Robin the Frog. He also performed in various variety show appearances, as well as Emmet Otter in Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.
Jerry joined the cast of Sesame Street in it’s second season. On the Street he was given numerous new characters including Herry Monster, The Amazing Mumford, Sherlock Hemlock, Mr. Johnson (Fat Blue), and Count von Count, who became his most popular character. He also originated Mr. Snuffleupagus, until back problems caused by the strain put on him by the Muppet forced him to stop performing him. He and Richard Hunt, while fooling around on set one day as a two-headed monster, originated the idea for the character of the same name, which they performed as well.
When production began on The Muppet Show in London, Jerry chose to spend time with his daughter, meaning he could not be in all of first season episodes, and thus he gave up the role of Statler, who he had performed in the pilot, but was able to keep some other characters including Floyd Pepper and Robin. Since none of his characters were as central to the show as Kermit, Miss Piggy, etc., he played many one-shot characters, including Angus McGonagle and Irving Bizarre. One of these characters, Lew Zealand, proved so successful that he became a recurring character, still appearing to this day. He, like Richard Hunt, was known to be a good singer, and many of his characters received vocal spotlights, such as Robin’s “Halfway Up The Stairs” and Floyd’s “New York State of Mind.”
On Fraggle Rock, Jerry performed Gobo Fraggle, the show’s lead character, as well as Marjory the Trash Heap and Pa Gorg. Fraggle Rock gave Jerry the chance to perform the main character on the show and many tertiary characters as well. It also offered Jerry the chance to expand his vocal performances with musical numbers in every episode.
Beginning in 2001, health problems began to cause Jerry to phase out of performing some of his characters, some of which were moved to silent, background roles, and some of which were recast. Floyd, Robin, Lew Zealand, and Crazy Harry are now being performed by Matt Vogel, and Jerry’s half of Two-Headed Monster is now performed by Joey Mazzarino. Jerry continues to provide voice-over performances for most of his Sesame Street characters, including The Count and Fat Blue. However, Matt Volgel typically does the puppeteering.
In 2009, Jerry released his very first solo music album entitled Truro Daydreams. The album is currently available for download on DigStation for only $9.99. If you haven’t already done so, you’re truly missing out if you don’t download this amazing, soulful, and, above all, fun album!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier