Thursday, May 27, 2004

Stubby Fouts' voice a legend

Roto-Rooter ad most memorable

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tom "Stubby" Fouts was a WLW radio entertainer back when the station was the most powerful in the nation.

He and his group - Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers - performed on Country Jamboree and Time to Shine between 1940 and 1944.

They moved on to Chicago and entertained on radio and TV for decades. But perhaps their most enduring contribution was a ditty they recorded in 1954 for a Roto-Rooter ad.

Mr. Fouts' froggy voice singing "and away go troubles down the drain" still reverberates in the heads of many. (Indeed, the Roto-Rooter jingle is among the longest running in advertising.)

Mr. Fouts died Monday at St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo, Ind., after a stroke earlier this month. The Galveston, Ind., resident was 85.

He was one of many entertainers who got their big breaks at WLW radio.

Born in 1918 in Carroll County, Ind., Mr. Fouts attended Indiana Central University but wanted to be an entertainer. He left school after a year and in 1938 formed a band with five friends.

They specialized in comedy, with Mr. Fouts playing novelty instruments like a "tuned toilet seat" he dubbed the "gitarlet." They called themselves the Six Hoosiers.

They were performing on WDAN radio in Danville, Ill., when WLW program manager George Biggar heard them and signed them to a contract.

In 1940 the station held a contest to rename the Six Hoosiers. The person who thought up the winning name (who is now unknown) - Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers - was rewarded with $100. (Mr. Fouts was nicknamed Stubby because he was short and stocky as a child.)

In 1944, the band joined the Navy and went overseas to entertain sailors. Upon their return they signed with WLS-AM in Chicago and performed on the National Barn Dance - a popular and long-running radio program.

Mr. Fouts and his band later became regulars on the ABC-TV program the Polka Go-Round. They also recorded with five labels, performing many compositions by Mr. Fouts.

Mr. Fouts was host of a syndicated talk show called Captain Stubby's Special Delivery. He also performed and wrote for the nationally broadcast Don McNeill's Breakfast Club from 1968 until 1971.

Mr. Fouts re-recorded his Roto-Rooter jingle when the Cincinnati-based company celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first recording last month. "He voiced the froggy voice, which he did in the original," said Roto-Rooter representative Paul Abrams.

"He was kind of like a Gary Burbank - a master of voices."

Mr. Fouts was preceded in death by a son, Thomas L. Fouts, and a grandson.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Eva Lou Fouts; a daughter, Connie Livingston of LaGrange, Ill.; a son, Dan E. Fouts of Galveston, Texas; a brother, William G. "Bill" Fouts of Galveston; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 1-8 p.m. EST today at the Gundrum Funeral Home, 1603 E. Broadway St. in Logansport, Ind. Another visitation is 9: 30 a.m. EST Friday, followed by the funeral at 10:30 a.m. at Deer Creek Presbyterian Church, 4450 N. Ind. 29 in Camden, Ind.

Memorials: Lewis Cass Scholarship Fund, Cass County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 441, One National City Plaza, Third Floor, Logansport, IN 46947; andDeer Creek Presbyterian Church, 4450 N. State Road 29, Camden, IN 46917.

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