This week’s blog turns the voice artist spotlight on none other than Allan Melvin. Now right off the bat many of you are going to remember him more for being in front of the camera rather than his voice over roles, but if you’re like me, you might be surprised at just how many characters used this great comedic actor’s voice, especially on Saturday mornings.
First off, let’s get to his in front of the camera roles for those of you who may not be familiar with his name. Allan may be best known for his recurring role as Sam the Butcher on “The Brady Bunch” to Gen X but I’m sure plenty of baby boomers remember his regular or recurring roles on such shows as “The Phil Silvers Show”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, or “Gomer Pyle”. We may all remember him from “All in the Family” and “Archie Bunker’s Place”. Like a lot of actors from this time he popped up all over our television sets in shows like “McHale’s Navy”, “The Danny Thomas Show”, “My Favorite Martian”, “Perry Mason”, “Lost in Space”, “The Andy Griffith Show”, “Mod Squad”, and “Green Acres”. Those are just the highlights, but enough for even those of you who might not remember the name to realize you’ve definitely seen as well as heard Allan Melvin.
Without a doubt his best known voice over work would have to be Magilla Gorilla which he did for the character’s own show in 1963 and pretty much every time Magilla would pop up again from “ Yogi’s Gang” in 1973, to the 1994 movie “Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights”. In between were appearances on “Yogi Bear’s All Star Comedy Christmas Caper”, “The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound”, “ Yo Yogi!”, and “Fender Bender 500”. He even showed up in a 1997 Burger King commercial. That Magilla really got around! Frankly I’m surprised I couldn’t find a listing for him on Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. Then again with such a busy schedule it wouldn’t be a surprise if Allan just couldn’t fit it in.
Around the same time as “The Magilla Gorilla Show” Allan provided the voice for Sgt. Snorkle and Zero on the animated version of “Beetle Bailey” produced by Paramount Cartoon Studios which also featured other King Features Syndicate characters like Barney Google, also voiced by Allan. While most of his voices were fairly innocent and comical, he did have a go at being the villain. On an Impossibles segment from “Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles” he showed up as The Burrower and years later he was the voice of Electro on “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends “.
Still very early in his career with Hanna-Barbera while doing the Magilla Gorilla show, he was also the voice for Punkin’ Puss opposite Howard Morris’ Mushmouse. Then in the late 1960s when the Cattanooga Cats came around with their show, Allan voiced Bristle Hound for the “It’s The Wolf!” segments which was sort of an updated version of Yakky Doodle and Chopper only with a lamb instead of a duck. Around the same time was “The Adventures of Gulliver” which featured Allan portraying two characters, Bunko, and Brunik the Wild Hermit. What may be his best known voice from the late 1960s may have been Drooper from the “Banana Splits Adventure Hour”. This of course was a live action show with guys in animal costumes (created by Sid & Marty Krofft, no less) that also featured various cartoons. Drooper was the lion who played guitar. I like to think of Drooper as the lead guitarist. It really doesn’t matter of course but Fleegle, the other guitarist, seemed more like the singer/songwriter of the group and was probably the rhythm guitarist. Why they didn’t have a bass guitar, I really don’t know. That seems like an exploration for the blog on that show. Anyway Allan would reprise Drooper’s voice when the famous band got animated in 1972’s “The Banana Splits in Hocus-Pocus Park” which was one of the features from the “The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie”. In it, the Banana Splits are seen as themselves as well as animated characters. Almost a decade later, Filmation would try its hand at a Banana Splits type program starring Charles Nelson Reilly as the title character in “Uncle Croc’s Block”. One of the animated features of this show was called “Wacky and “Packy” about a prehistoric caveman and his pet woolly mammoth, both voiced by Allan. He also voiced the dog character Tyrone in Filmation’s “The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty” around this same time. Lest you think that all his work was comedic (save for the previously mentioned Electro), he also appeared in Filmation’s version of “Flash Gordon” from 1979, as both Thun the Lion Man, and King Vultan.
One of his last roles for Hanna-Barbera, outside the various Magilla Gorilla appearances, was as Chucky on the mid 1980s show “Foofur”. Despite that, Hanna-Barbera certainly kept him busy throughout the years with additional roles on shows like “Secret Squirrel”, “The Flintstones”, “Atom Ant”, ”Funky Phantom”, “Fang Face”, “The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show”, ”Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels”, and “Challenge of the Gobots”. All this work lets you know that if you watched any TV at all growing up from the 1960s to the 1980s you most likely saw a lot of Allan Melvin during the week and heard even more from him on Saturday mornings.