Lucas Ervin – With less than forty days to go until we get to see The Muppets, it’s time to tackle the six main characters of The Muppet Show, starting with none other than Rowlf the Dog. Rowlf was the first Muppet to truly become a star. First starring in Purina Dog Chow commercials in the early 1960’s, Rowlf was propelled to super-stardom when he began appearing on The Jimmy Dean Show–Rowlf got more fan mail than Jimmy Dean! When The Muppet Show debuted, Rowlf became a piano player, providing musical accompaniment for many of the guest stars. The famous canine also got to show off his comedic talents by playing Dr. Bob, on “Veterinarian’s Hospital.” Next month, after over 20 years of being mostly silent, Rowlf will return as one of the main characters in The Muppets. That’s enough barking… here’s Rowlf the Dog!
37. I Never Harmed an Onion – Here’s Rowlf in the first season singing about how he “mashes” potatoes and “splits” bananas, but is confused as to why onions make him cry even though he’s done nothing to them. While it may look like Rowlf is actually playing the piano, it’s not really being played. Later, when Steve Whitmire joined the cast, he was assigned to perform Rowlf’s hands whenever he played piano, since Steve already knew how to play the piano and could make it look more realistic.
36. Tea For Two – In season three when Fozzie decided he could write the show, the bear sent out Rowlf to tickle the ivories with a newcomer named Lew Zealand. Their sketch? “Musical Moment: Curtains open. Rowlf and Lew Zealand do something funny. Curtains close.” Since they never disappoint, Rowlf and Lew sang the old classic song “Tea For Two” backwards, which went off without a hitch (or a fish, surprisingly), and ended with Lew saying, “Much very you thank.” and Rowlf responding, “Mine was pleasure the.”
35. Tit Willow – During a UK spot with Sam the Eagle in the first season, Rowlf sang the popular folk song “Tit Willow” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s light opera The Mikado. Although Sam is always trying to put some more culture into the show, he becomes wary of the song’s lyrics, growing impatient while singing along with such silliness after being appointed the “Dickey Bird.” This song is a perfect example of how the Muppets could be cheeky, random, and classical all in one song. You can also hear “Tit Willow” on The Muppet Show Album and Muppet Hits: Take 2.
34. The Cat Came Back – Here, for the first time, we see Rowlf trade in his piano for a banjo, singing about how poor Benny just can’t seem to get rid of his cat no matter how hard he tries. Some of you know this cat as Gaffer, who is usually seen hanging around backstage. A tenacious little cat, Gaffer kept returning to Benny even after being in a car accident, being shot out of a canon, and surviving a major, set-destroying explosion. Either the cat is immortal, or young Benny is just very unlucky. Either way, Rowlf carries the tune with great ease and seems to be having a great time.
33. Eight Little Notes – This fun little ditty shows us Rowlf’s love for most famous composer of all time, Ludwig von Beethoven. Rowlf even brings out a bust of Beethoven which starts to come alive, and begins singing along. The bust would appear in a few other episodes of The Muppet Show with Rowlf, falling asleep in the middle of the number and telling Rowlf not to hum along to the song he’s playing. Some wonder how the bust is able to hear Rowlf play, to which he reminds them that he’s not actually Beethoven, he’s just the bust of Beethoven.
32. What A Wonderful World – During season two, we saw a couple of musical numbers done with live animals: Link Hogthrob sang “Sonny Boy” with a piglet and this classic clip of Rowlf singing the Louis Armstrong classic, “What a Wonderful World,” to an adorable golden retriever puppy that is fast asleep. It’s a beautiful thing to see the punny and silly Rowlf pause and perform such a beautiful, moving number. This is yet another example of The Muppet Show‘s effort to be both silly and sentimental.
31. Cottleston Pie – And finally, one of Jim Henson’s favorite songs: the goofy, warm “Cottleston Pie.” Originally a poem by A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh would sing this song whenever his brain felt “fluffy.” Like “Eight Little Notes” and “I Never Harmed An Onion,” this song can also be heard on Rowlf’s solo album Old Brown Ears is Back. During Jim Henson’s memorial service, a group of Muppeteers sang some of Jim’s favorite songs, and Frank Oz sang this song as Fozzie Bear, and understandably gets slightly choked up towards the end. Rowlf, we’ve really missed you over the years, and we’re thrilled to see you again next month, playing that piano and making us laugh.