Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Bud Hiestand

It’s safe to say when you think of people who voiced animated cartoons in the Golden Age, Bud Hiestand’s name doesn’t come to mind. There’s a reason. Hiestand’s voice was only heard in a few theatrical cartoons and, even then, they weren’t originally designed to be shown in movie houses.

He was employed by John Sutherland Productions to narrate its industrial shorts. Some ended up being released by MGM, such as Meet King Joe (right), Why Play Leap Frog? and Make Mine Freedom.

Like just about everyone who voiced cartoons back then, he came from radio. He has a cartoon connection there, too, being the announcer on The Mel Blanc Show.

Another cartoon connection of sorts would be that Hiestand replaced William “Voice of Bluto” Pennell on the NBC Westinghouse Program in March 1943. Pennell was off to war. Hiestand would follow two months later.

Here’s an article about him from the great publication, Radio Life, of January 4, 1948.

Being Sidetracked From a Radio Career Merely Meant, for "Bud," Aiding One of the Most Gigantic Operations of Wartime Radio

JOHN HIESTAND is probably best known to listeners and studio audiences as the "Dean" of the Kay Kyser show. There, in a bright red robe and blue mortar-board hat, he works at the mike with the "Prof" throughout the "Comedy of Errors," and herds the contestants on stage as they compete for their prizes. John’s held down this post for eight years, on and off.
Around radio circles Mr. Hiestand is known as "Bud." The childhood nickname sticks with the now six-foot-one-and-a-half-inch announcer as a result of his having entered radio at an age when "Bud" was a very suitable moniker. Now it's as much part of the big blond man as is his 185 pounds.
Since 1933, John has been heard as both actor and announcer on a string of shows as long as your arm, ranging from the old Joe Penner and Robert Benchley programs, Al Pearce, Olsen and Johnson, and more recently, Burns and Allen, Frank Morgan's show. "Screen Guild," "Cavalcade," "Let George Do It," and many more.
"My radio beginning didn't carry even the dignity of those clear channel stations that were such crucibles of radio men. I began by digging a ditch," Bud quips. The ditch he laughs about ran from a Burlingame. California, high school room to the football field, and therein Bud and his class mates laid the cable that first piped the Hiestand tones audienceward as he announced the home games. In the ensuing twenty-three years, the cables have graduated magnificently in size and range.
After a time break that took care of graduation from Stanford University, Hiestand's background of advancement continued in the Pasadena Playhouse, early network stints, and lending a voice to films in the role of announcer or commentator, traveling with the Theater League, Inc., and even taking a small band around the world on the famous Dollar Line.
The travel line in the Hiestand hand must be a strong one, for even after firm establishment in the usually confining radio world, John wound up trekking some 40,000 miles with Kay Kyser before John, himself, made his one departure from radio row.
The leave-taking occurred in 1943. Withdrawing from the West Coast announcing line-up in April of that year, John kissed his wife and four-year-old daughter goodbye, and hied himself off to Sydney, Australia, where he joined the rapidly growing OWI staff. For a while, the work consisted of promoting cultural relations between the U. S. and Australia by means of documentary films, educational radio programs, still pictures, press backgrounds . . . anything showing American aims and ways of thought. It was during this time Hiestand originated "Last Week in the U. S. A.," then stayed on the air as its commentator for a year.
Opportunity Opens
At this stage, the New Guinea campaign opened up the way for. OWI's actual propaganda function of psychological warfare, directly under the supervision of General MacArthur.
Listening to John Hiestand talk about the days when he was writer-producer-announcer of the Philippine Hour is like reading a background to the stirring book, "A Guerilla in the Philippines." He'll reminisce volubly and fascinatingly about the "hitch-hike" rides in planes loaded with cases of shells, about magically digging up buried press and type to print propaganda leaflets distributed by ships flying low over Corregidor or cruisers stealing into the bay after dark. When it was all over, Hiestand turned over his desk as Acting Chief of the OWI for the theater to his hard-working roommate, and headed for home, family and the Kyser show.
"Working the Kyser show is like no other, as far as I'm concerned. It becomes a family thing after so many years. We've all had the same laughs, the same trips, and all of us admire the way Kay goes on year after year pulling the crowds in wherever he plays. Kyser's a real showman," sums up the man who has had plenty of opportunity to look over showmen.
Hiestand is married to Jeane Wood, daughter of Sam Wood, and sister of K. T. Stevens. He and Mrs. Hiestand met in a little theater production.
"Jeane gave up actual participation in little theater or radio when we were married, and almost gave up attending shortly thereafter. She had come to a show I was doing, the old Jello program. I was reading the commercial, giving it everything I had, and just as I came to the flavor list, beginning with ‘strawberry,’ I looked down into the audience, right into Jeane's eyes. Then, very clearly and loudly, I started to proclaim the six wonderful flavors, beginning with ‘strawb-e-l-l-e’! It was months before Jeane would attend a broadcast . . . if I was on it."
When John isn't spieling or the Hiestands aren't househunting, John divides his energies between being an ardent hobbyist at color photography, and his new offices, home of "John Hiestand and Associates," a radio properties and production organization. That makes "the Dean" officially an announcer, actor, packager of shows, producer and agent.

Hiestand performed in about 30 roles at the Pasadena Playhouse between 1930 and 1934. His first radio job was doing remotes from the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles over KFI. One of his radio shows, voice historian Keith Scott wants you to know, was the Mickey Mouse radio show that ran for 26 weeks in 1938, and included an uncredited Mel Blanc (the only person allowed an air credit was orchestra leader Felix Mills). By 1940, he had appeared in more than 40 movies, all as announcers (Broadcasting, Oct. 1, 1940). He continued acting and appeared in a 3-D film (The Glass Web, Universal, 1953). He was one of the last announcers on a network radio variety show being heard on the 1955-56 season of The Edgar Bergen Show.

Hiestand still had some cartoon work ahead. He was employed by Playhouse Pictures for voice-overs, was in The Man From Button Willow (voiced in 1962 but finally released in 1965) and got screen credit on Ken Snyder's quasi-educational animated TV series The Funny Company in 1963.

He died of cancer in Newport Beach, California, on Feb. 5, 1987 at age 80.


  1. I've heard that voice a lot over the years. Glad to finally connect the voice with a face. I like the fact that there was a Mel Blanc connection. Didn't know that. Only fitting.

    1. It's the same as how Raphael Wolff used the same voice-over narrator who was heard all over the place and I couldn't figure out who it was. I finally discovered it was Les Tremayne.

  2. & another reason why his name wouldnt click with cartoon viewers, of course, is no credit onscreen in those days...(he may have done uncredited voices for regularly shown theatrical shorts in the middle 40s, but only a few..) Oh..he IS ina credited narratpr role n the FUNNY CMPANY

    1. Steve, thanks for reminding me of this. I had completely forgotten.