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Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson died Sept. 24 at the age of 90 in Florida from complications following a stroke, his family announced Wednesday. He was most famous and the voice behind Danny O'Day and Farfel the dog in the Nestle Quik commercials.
Jimmy Nelson, last of TV’s golden era ventriloquists, whose characters
Farfal and Danny O’Day were the face of Nestlés Quik, has died. …
Sept. 25, 2019
The man behind Nestlés Quick’s image in the 1950s and 1960s and who made the company’s jingle popular has died.
Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson died Sept. 24 at the age of 90 in Florida from complications following a stroke, his family announced Wednesday. He was surrounded by family and friends.
Nelson was the last of the golden era of ventriloquists that included Edgar Bergen, Shari Lewis, Paul Winchell and Senor Wences. His career spanned more than 70 years, but he is most famous to TV viewers in the 1950s and 1960s for appearing with his characters Danny O’Day and a floppy-eared dog named Farfel for commercials and promotions for Nestlés Quick.
According to an obituary provided by his family, Nelson made more than 120 commercials for Nestlé.
“He was a wonderful father,” Nelson’s daughter Marianne Taylor told MassLive. "We always thought of him as dad, never realizing until our later years how beloved he was both nationally and internationally.
Being the child of a ventriloquist provided lots of opportunities for humor as well.
“He used to make things talk in the house,” Taylor recalled. “Sometimes the waste can would talk. He was a lot of fun.”
But Nelson is also pointed to as an inspiration for ventriloquists everywhere and the reason why many of them took up the art.
That was in large part not only to his television appearances but due to Nelson’s two educational records that would teach listeners how to be a ventriloquist -- “Instant Ventriloquism” and “Instant Ventriloquism 2.” He released a number of other albums as well including, “Joke Along With Jimmy Nelson,” “Peter and the Wolf” with The Cricket Symphony orchestra and “Fun & Games & Lots of Laughs featuring Jimmy Nelson.”
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nelson got his start in ventriloquism at the age of 9 when his Aunt Margaret won a “Dummy Dan” ventriloquist puppet at bingo game and gave it to Nelson for Christmas.
According to his obituary, “as a child, Jimmy was horribly shy and one day brought his puppet to school for Show and Tell. His fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. McSweeney, encouraged Jimmy to perform with his puppet having him recite one lesson each day.”
In the 1930s and ’40s, Nelson would appear on stage at amatuer nights and at movie theaters with his act.
His break into a wider audience came when a show he created on a local TV station at the age of 21 caught the attention of Ed Sullivan.
Nelson was asked to be on Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town.” Sullivan liked Nelson’s act so much he had him back a month later. Nelson appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show five times between 1950 and 1953.
Other appearances in the early 1950s included landing the role of spokesman for Texaco on the Texaco Star Theater, hosted by Milton Berle. He continued to perform at Radio City Music Hall and the Copacabana as well as appearing at The Latin Quarter, The Cocoanut Grove and the Chicago Theater.
In 1952, Jimmy landed the role of spokesman for Texaco on The Texaco Star Theater hosted by Milton Berle. This role catapulted Jimmy to national fame as he was at hand week in and week out on this hugely popular show. Jimmy continued to perform live appearing at Radio City Music Hall six times and The Copacabana five times as well as appearing numerous times at such popular venues as The Latin Quarter, The Cocoanut Grove, The Chicago Theater, The Chez Paree and The Edgewater Beach Hotel and in Las Vegas at the El Rancho Hotel, The Flamingo Hotel, The Desert Inn and The Riviera.
To honor Nelson, Building Number 4 at the Vent Haven Ventriloquists Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is named The Jimmy Nelson Building. He was also given the title of Dean of American Ventriloquists to celebrate his 70th year in show business.