|WGN-TV Chicago's "Bozo" show debuted on June 20, 1960 starring Bob Bell on a live half-hour program weekdays at noon, performing comedy sketches and introducing cartoons. The series was placed on hiatus in 1961 to facilitate WGN's move from Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago to 2501 West Bradley Place on the city's northwest side. WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus" debuted on September 11, 1961 as an hour-long show every weekday at noon. The clowns were Oliver O. Oliver played by Ray Rayner, Sandy the Tramp played by Don Sandburg, and Bozo played by Bob Bell. The ringmaster was Ringmaster Ned played by Ned Locke. The bandleader was Mr. Bob (Bob Trendler). Ray Rayner also had his own morning kids' show "Ray Rayner and His Friends." Sandy was later replaced by Cooky the Cook played by Roy Brown. Later, another clown was added on an occasional visit and later as a regular, Wizzo played by magician Marshall Brodien. When Ringmaster Ned retired, he was replaced by Frazier Thomas, host of "Garfield Goose and Friends" (another WGN children's show) and "Family Classics" (weekly movies that he
introduced). The band was later taken over by Tom Fitzsimmons. Bob Bell eventually retired and a new Bozo took his place. In addition to cartoons, the show also featured live acts including magicians, acrobats and other vaudeville-type entertainers. The best ever of these was Jimmy Gross, who appeared first with an exploding banjo and later with a wild musical variety act called Jimmy Gross and Peggy, and yet again later with his whole family as the Jimmy Gross Supershow. Other famous features included the "magic arrows" used to select contestants for the "Grand Prize Game", which had a boy and a girl throw ping pong balls in buckets. The "cast of thousands" (audience) would always march out in a parade (the Grand March) at the end of the show led by Bozo spinning a large baton. A standard gag and frequent skit had Cooky competing with Bozo in the "fair and square contest," the winner getting to lead the Grand March.
The show was broadcast live until 1980 and the waiting list for the free tickets was so long that families had to request tickets before their
children were even born. Other cities (such as Minneapolis) had their own Bozo shows but none were as beloved as the one in Chicago which won several Emmys. In 1980, the show was renamed "The Bozo Show" and moved to weekday mornings. In 1994, it was moved to Sunday mornings as "The Bozo Super Sunday Show" and became "educational and informational" in 1997 following a Federal Communications Commission mandate requiring broadcast television stations to air a minimum three hours per week of "educational and informational" children's programs. Reruns of "The Bozo Super Sunday Show" aired until August 26, 2001.