Here’s a good example of where one has to do their research. Jack Mather was a radio actor and on a growing list of people who provided voices in animated cartoons without any credit at the time, mainly at the Walter Lantz studio. In trying to do some biographical work on him, I went through census information and a number of newspaper stories on radio and started compiling information. But, after awhile, something didn’t add up. It took a little more digging before I realised what the situation was. There were TWO Jack Mathers who acted in the 1940s on radio, one from Canada and the other from the U.S. And the Canadian one ended up in the Los Angeles where, of course, the American one had been living and working.
With rare exception, Mel Blanc was the only voice actor getting any on-screen credit for cartoon work in the ‘40s. Newspapers and trade papers are a little more forthcoming about others. But all I can find about Mather’s animation career is this squib from February 11, 1945.
NARRATES PUPPETOONMather was on Bob Hope? That may be news to fans of old-time radio. Supporting players, especially in comedy and comedy/variety formats, almost never got credit at the end of a broadcast, even the ones most in demand. Old Time Radio encyclopedias written years ago and fan-generated OTR web sites are woefully incomplete. Mather is known for the starring role in the ‘The Cisco Kid’ but he had other radio work as well. Here’s a story from the San Antonio Express of March 12, 1943 that gives a little bit on Mather’s history, probably from a network bio.
Jack Mather of the Bob Hope radio show, is the narrator for George Pal’s latest Puppetoon for Paramount release titled “Hat Full of Dreams.” Technicolor short introduces a new Pal character “Punchy A. Judy.”
Jack Mather passed a new milestone in a varied career when he joined the “Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou” show as an announcer. In his time as an actor, a race driver, pro footballer, poet, etc., this is his first assignment as a sponsor’s spieler. Born on a farm near Chicago 30-odd years ago, he has always wanted to own one himself and raise blooded Angus cattle. At 12 he ran away from home and joined a circus to earn the money. The next few years saw him all over the country as an auto race driver then as a pro football player, wrestler and construction worker. He donned white collar briefly to become a junior trader on the Chicago Stock Exchange, and, somewhere in between all these activities, he joined the staff of a Chicago radio station as half of a music team, singing ballads to his partner’s piano accompaniment. In 1929 he joined N.B.C. in Chicago and moved to Hollywood in 1934. Besides maintaining a heavy radio and movie schedule, Jack is a member of the Sherman Oaks auxiliary police and is a Government farm employe. Mather also finds time to pursue his hobbies, painting and writing. He has had several poems and plays published.
At the time, “Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou” had a supporting cast of people who also found their way into animation—Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet, Wally Maher (the voice of Screwy Squirrel at MGM) and Verna Felton. But this is the only source I’ve found which mentions Mather as the announcer at this time; generally, Frank Graham’s name is mentioned (Graham voiced cartoons at Columbia, Warners, MGM and Disney). A newspaper story two months later mentions Mather in the cast of Groucho Marx’ “Blue Ribbon Town.”
John E. Mather was born on September 21, 1907 to John A. and Ella Mather. He was the third of seven children. After he started in radio, he married Rosalie Encell of Oak Park, Illinois, who had been a student at the Goodman Theatre of the Chicago Art Institute and was in a singing trio with her sisters. Despite the story above, a local newspaper clipping still has him at NBC in Chicago at Christmas-time 1935. The family eventually settled in Northridge, California, where Mather was made the honorary mayor, a title bestowed by various communities outside Los Angeles on celebrities (Andy Devine was honorary mayor of Van Nuys, for example). A story in the Van Nuys News of September 13, 1948 tells that Rosalie worked on radio as well on “First Nighter,” “Grand Hotel,” “Myrt and Marge” and “Welcome Valley.”
In February 1946, Mather became Cisco when the show was revived and produced at the Mutual-Don Lee studios at KHJ for airing on the West Coast. The show was owned by Frederick Ziv Transcriptions, which decided in September 1949 to move it into television. Mather was up for the television role, but the syndicator decided to go with Duncan Renaldo, who had been playing the character in the movie serials. Mather carried on in the twice-weekly radio broadcasts, which seem to have petered out in Los Angeles and Chicago by February 1956. He played some bit roles in television but never starred again. Mather died on August 16, 1966.
J. E. Mather, ‘Cisco Kid,’ Dies at 58
WAUCONDA, Ill. (AP)—John E. (Jack) Mather, 58, known to millions for his starring role in the radio show, “The Cisco Kid,” died Tuesday in this Chicago suburb of a heart. attack, it was learned Saturday.
His body was cremated in accordance with his wishes the he died and the ashes were sprinkled near Libertyville, Ill. where he grew up.
Mather was a master of 21 dialects, but he was most famous for the Mexican accent he developed for the Cisco Kid, which ran from 1947 to 1959.
Mather got his start on a local radio program and then moved to Hollywood, where he had roles in numerous films, among them “The Bravadoes”, “This Earth Is Mine”, “Jungle Book”, and “Some Like It Hot”.
He also performed on television in episodes of “Bonanza,” “Dragnet,” “Death Valley Days” and “M Squad.”
Mather’s son, Greg, a former football star for the Navy Academy, won All-America honors in 1960 and 1962.
Mather is also survived by his wife, Rosalie, and another son Robert, who manages a cattle ranch in Clear Lakes, Calif.
Mather and his wife were staying with friends at Wauconda when he died.
One show Mather didn’t appear on was ‘Howdy Doody.’ That was the Canadian Jack Mather, appearing on the Canadian version of the show. Don’t let phoney internet research tell you otherwise.