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Biography

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Overview (1)

Date of Birth 15 December 1928Chicago, Illinois, USA

Mini Bio (1)

James Nelson was born December 15, 1928 in Chicago, middle child of James and Winifred Nelson. In 1938 Jimmy's Aunt Margaret gave him his first ventriloquist "dummy" as a birthday gift, something that she had won as a bingo prize, which he named Dummy Dan/Danny Dum. He used that figure, which his father modified for better movement; until he asked Frank Marshall construct a new Danny in 1945. Marshall had a penchant for trying to make the hand carved wooden figures look like the performer that would be using them so the folks could see to them as related. Nelson was very pleased with the figure and gave his figure an Irish name, like Edgar Bergen's "Charlie McCarthy" and his mentor Bob Evan's "Jerry O'Leary" had before him, by adding O'Day. Two years later in 1947 Jimmy married his high school sweetheart Margot Humphries in Buffalo N.Y.

It was at that time that Danny started to need a little T.L.C. so Jimmy returned to Frank Marshall to have a duplicate made. However the figure "Just didn't look like Danny" said Nelson "but I didn't have the heart, or the nerve, at the age of nineteen to tell Frank that I wasn't a hundred percent satisfied." By 1949 the Nelsons were back in Chicago with their two boys. Talent Agent Louis Cohan got Jimmy better bookings than he was able to get in New York and Jimmy Nelson and Danny O'Day were now in the big time! So Jimmy added the new figure to his act, as the highly cultured Humphrey Higsbye and he became the foil to Danny much like Mortimer Snerd was for Charlie McCarthy. Jimmy went on to host Chicago's Hollard's Happy House on WGN-TV. In 1950 Nelson and Danny appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show and were a great success with the audience as well as with Sullivan.

That same year Nelson had Marshall construct a dog character and named him "Farfel" after an item on a hotel menu, he brought that new figure with him as he joined the troupe on Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater." Nineteen-fifty-one saw the Nelson marriage come to an end and Jimmy moved to New York with his three sons on their own until 1956 when he married the pretty girl singer, Betty Norman, who worked as his supporting act.

The year before his nuptials Jimmy, Danny and Farfel began the Nestlé's campaign that made them even more of a house hold name, if that is possible, than they were on the Milton Berle show.

The facts in this short biography are from Jimmy Nelson himself and Kelly Asbury's book "Dummy Days" where you can find more on Jimmy Nelson, Danny O'Day and Farfel, as well as the four other most well known ventriloquists in American history.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Mean John Dean

Trivia (7)

Jimmy first reached national prominence as the spokesman for television's Texaco Star Theater starring Milton Berle. He and his puppet, Danny O'Day wore twin Texaco gas attendant uniforms during the commercial sponsored breaks.
"Farfel" gets his name from a matzoh (flour and water, but broken into small pieces that when commercially done, reduces "matzoh dust")product that was on the menu at a Catskill Mountain Resort where he performed his ventriloquism act.
Long-running spokesman for Nestle's in TV commercials with his puppets. Danny O'Day would sing: "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best..." and Farfel would finish the song singing "Chaw-klit!" His association with the sponsor makes Nelson one of the longest running TV commercial spokespersons in history (competing with the Maytag Repairman and "Madge" the Palmolive manicurist).
Ventriloquist star from 1950s and 1960s television with side-kicks "Danny O'Day" and "Farfel" the dog.
A protégé of Bob Evan's and an admirer of Edgar Bergen. Like Bergen, he was born in Chicago of Swedish ancestry.
Also had a cat dummy, Fatatateeta.
Made several instructional albums teaching ventriloquism.

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