Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum is best known as Mr. Green Jeans, the farmer and animal lover who played sidekick to Captain Kangaroo. The duo, and a number of other regular "guests" including Grandfather Clock and hand puppets like Mr. Moose, were watched by several generations of children as the Captain Kangaroo television show ran from the mid-'50s through the mid-'80s, making it one of the longest-running children's TV series ever. As Mr. Green Jeans, Brannum introduced a different live animal each episode and taught children about caring for the earth while talking about farming. But before this well-known stint, Mr. Green Jeans was Hugh Brannum, the jazz musician, and Uncle Lumpy, a children's storyteller in the late '40s and early '50s.
Hugh Brannum was born on January 5, 1910, in rural Sandwich, IL. He eventually moved to California with his family and began playing music early on, initially focusing on brass instruments, but moving on to the guitar and banjo, and the instrument that was to become his specialty, the upright bass. During his college years at Redlands University, Brannum became interested in jazz and, after graduation, played bass in various bands on the West Coast and at a small radio station. Brannum joined the Marines during WWII, and played in a Marine band led by Bing Crosby's brother, Bob. After Brannum got out of the service, he played in the Four Squires, who were eventually hired by bandleader Fred Waring. Even after the other Squires members moved on, Brannum remained in Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, living with his wife in a small Pennsylvania town where he took up gardening, in addition to his music. The Waring's group had a regular, and well-received, weekday radio gig, where Brannum first met Bob Keeshan (the future Captain Kangaroo), who was an employee at the station. During this program, Brannum also narrated stories under the pseudonym of Uncle Lumpy as a weekly short feature for children.
This weekly segment, with music supplied by himself and Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, focused on the adventures of the character Little Orley. This popular segment led to a number of 78s on the Decca and Vocalion labels in the late '40s and early '50s. These recordings were intensely loved by those who grew up with them, but were only made available again briefly in the '60s, subsequently disappearing from popular culture, forgotten to all but collectors and fans. In 1954, Brannum hosted a local TV show called Uncle Lumpy's Cabin, and the following year joined up with Keeshan for Captain Kangaroo, playing the characters Mr. Green Jeans (a farmer who also taught the viewing audience about animals), Mr. Bainter the Painter and Percy.
After decades on network television, Captain Kangaroo moved to public television for its last several years, finally going off the air in the mid-'80s. The big-hearted actor and musician Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum died in East Stroudsberg, PA, on April 19, 1987. His recordings as Uncle Lumpy were finally reissued on CD over a decade later, with Little Orley Stories and More Little Orley Stories released in 2000 by a children's toy company, Uncle Goose.