In keeping with the tradition here at the Institute of presenting little known, or never seen, material, I offer up this serving of Walt’s People with the voice of Donald Duck: Clarence “Ducky” Nash. I have two items of interest for Ducky. The first is a great picture of Ducky doing Mickey Mouse Club promotion in Buffalo, New York. I found the image in the Puppetry Journal September-October 1964 issue, which is from the Puppeteers of America organization. Ducky is pictured at the left, with his Donald Duck ventriloquist figure. Next to Donald is a beautiful ventriloquist figure made by the Disney Studios, Mouseketeer Corky. Then we have Captain Bob (Lawrence). Bob Lawrence and Jim Menke did a daily TV show for WGRZ-TV, and Ducky was on a publicity tour to promote the Mickey Mouse Club. Captain Bob was the host, while Jim Menke created the puppets and provided the manipulation and voices. I caught up with Jim Menke, who is still performing in Buffalo, and asked him about Ducky and this photo. Here is what he had to say:
“The picture with Clarence Nash … and my marionette “Corky” plus Bob Lawrence (in pirate costume) and myself was taken in the studio of WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, New York. Jimmy [Dodd] and Clarence were on a publicity tour for the Mickey Mouse Club. The show was part of a daily TV show that Bob Lawrence and I did. It was taken by the station publicity department. Clarence had a vent figure of Donald. He was a very charming, nice man, very funny both on and off camera.”
In 1933, Clarence Nash was a milk delivery man, who had a particular talent of creating various animal voices and sound. So delighted was The Adohr Milk Company, that they billed him as “Whistling Clarence, the Adohr Bird Man.” One day, on impulse, Nash applied at the Disney Studios and auditioned for various animal parts, impersonating everything from turkeys to crickets. One voice in particular, a baby goat, caught everybody’s attention. In this unique voice, Nash recited Mary Had a Little Lamb. The legend that came from this is that Walt emphatically stated, “STOP! That’s our talking duck?” There are other versions of the story, but this one has generally become accepted as truth (perhaps we will never know). Nash signed a contract with Disney in December 1933, and went on to provide his quackery vocalizations to Donald Duck.
The Studio frequently used Clarence for appearances on radio, and then later in the 1930s/1940s, sent him on tour with his Donald Duck dummy. The second treat I have for Clarence’s appearance in Walt’s People is a hand-written letter by Ducky to Walt. It is a birthday greetings from on the road, where Clarence is performing with the Donald dummy and a Duck cartoon or two. Enjoy:
December 5, 1943
You know doubt have had many felicitations on this day—I too would like to add mine—so “Many Happy Returns of the Day.”
Donald and I have been knocking around a lot—it is work, especially the way travel is today. We have been doing pretty well too. In Lawton Okla., they had to turn away about two hundred school children. Had a nice visit with Linda Marley who used to work in publicity—her husband Lt. Renwick is stationed at Fort Sill.
Remember Mrs. Duck of Wichita Falls, Tex? You sent her baby Donald a duck doll. The little fellow walked up to the stage in the middle of our performance. Have had a lot of time to myself today. Been thinkin a lot, especially about the studio and how I probably “Get in Peoples Hair” there. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the efforts of the fellows who helped get the film ready. Without the film, Donald and I would have had a heck of a time entertaining an audience for an hour or an hour and a half.
Hard Peat’s representative saw us in Wichita Falls and thinks we will have more dates. He said he didn’t misrepresent us at all. I feel pretty good about that.
Endnotes and Citations can be seen at: endnotes.