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Sesame Street

Jim Henson first created The Muppets in 1955 for his TV show called Sam and Friends.

Jim Henson first created The Muppets in 1955 for his TV show called Sam and Friends.

Sam and Friends was Jim Henson’s first TV show. The show was only five-minutes long and aired twice daily on WRC-TV, in Washington, D.C. The show ran from May 9, 1955 to December 15, 1961.

According to Jim Henson, the Muppets got their name from a combination between the words “Marionette” and “Puppet.”

Then came Sesame Street. A longtime favorite of children and adults, and a staple of PBS, “Sesame Street” bridges many cultural and educational gaps with a fun program. Big Bird leads a cast of characters teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet. Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch and Grover are just a few of the other creatures involved in this show, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities. Let’s take a look at some amazing behind-the-scenes photos that just might ruin your childhood.

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That’s the voice of Grace Slick, of Jefferson Airplane in the video below. She was featured in nearly every episode of Sesame Street‘s debut season in 1969, singing counting songs over psychedelic free jazz and groovy animation. The Jazz Number segments, featuring race cars and spies, debuted in the first test pilot, and was first broadcast in the first episode of the series. Jazz #3 appeared in the second test show.

Composer Denny Zeitlin remembers:

“John Magnuson of Imagination, Inc. hired me to compose and perform that soundtrack, which is called “1 to 10″. I’m playing piano and clavinet on it, with Bobby Natanson on drums, and Mel Graves, bass. Some time after we recorded it, Grace Slick over-dubbed her parts.”

Jazz #8 was often followed by an Ernie and Bert sketch, which begins with Ernie watching (and singing along to) the end of the segment on his TV.

The film for #2 was included on Old School: Volume 1, as part of episodes 1 and 536, and in Old School: Volume 2, as part of the test pilot. The film for #10 was included in the Sesame Street Unpaved special.


They’re two of the most famous friends in television history. For almost 50 years, Bert and Ernie have lived together on “Sesame Street,” teaching children about numbers and letters, singing songs and going on adventures. But what originally brought the two together? On “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, Bert and Ernie talk about what makes their friendship work:

Bert: “How did we meet? I think it was over tea.”

Ernie: “No, buddy Bert. It was ‘Y.'”

Bert: “No, no, it was tea.”

Ernie: “No, it was ‘Y.’ We met over the letter ‘Y,’ Bert. Remember? That’s why there was the yak there, and the yarn. And the yo-yo!”

“I’d say the key to a lasting friendship is always respecting each other, listening to each other, and caring what the other person thinks and feels,” Ernie says.

Cracks is one of the strangest clips Sesame Street has ever produced. It features a young girl riding a camel made up of wall cracks that takes her meet other crack animals and finally “The Crack Master.” If that doesn’t scare you from watching it the first time, go ahead. If you vaguely remember this, here’s another thought – it was from 1975, and yes, you’re old, and this clip is going to come back to you.

Check out this 1983 episode of Sesame Street starring Herbie Hancock demonstrating the Fairlight CMI synthesizer to a group of kids, including a very young Tatyana Ali (who grew up to play Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). The Fairlight CMI (Computer Music Instrument) was a synthesizer and sampler with 28 megabytes or more of memory, used by a roster of classic electronic artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Jan Hammer, Art of Noise, and Depeche Mode, to name only a few. And, of course, by Herbie Hancock, one of the first jazz pianists to embrace electronic keyboards.

The Fairlight CMI was designed in 1979 by the founders of Fairlight, Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, and based on a dual-6800 microprocessor computer designed by Tony Furse in Sydney, Australia. It rose to prominence in the early 1980s and competed in the market with the Synclavier from New England Digital.

In casting about for a name, Ryrie and Vogel settled upon Fairlight, the name of a hydrofoil (named in turn after a suburb of Sydney) that sped each day past Ryrie’s grandmother’s large house in Point Piper, underneath which Ryrie had a workroom.

By 1979, the Fairlight CMI Series I was being demonstrated in Australia, the UK and the US. In the US, demonstrations were covered by Bruce Springsteen’s concert sound engineer Bruce Jackson, who was once Ryrie’s neighbour in Point Piper.

Via Open Culture