Pick Temple

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Pick Temple was a folk singer who was among the first performers to parlay that music into a television career. He was born Lafayette Parker Temple in Washington, D.C. and raised primarily in Baltimore,…
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Pick Temple was a folk singer who was among the first performers to parlay that music into a television career. He was born Lafayette Parker Temple in Washington, D.C. and raised primarily in Baltimore, MD. His early life has been the subject of some confusing accounts -- he apparently held civil service positions with the Census Bureau for much of the 1930s, while other sources say that he rode (of claimed to have ridden) the rails for some years during this same period. There was apparently a short stint in the U.S. Navy in his late teens, followed by a lengthy period of employment at the Census Bureau from the early '30s onward. Temple started trying his hand at music and performing in the '30s, but it wasn't until the following decade that he became more serious about it. And following the advent of television's commercial era after World War II, Temple wrote, produced, and performed a series of programs on folk music for Washington station WTTG. He also appeared on radio during this period, and in the fall of 1948, he started working on WMAR-TV in Baltimore as an actor and folk singer. It was at the start of the 1950s that Temple honed his cowboy persona, starting on a series of TV shows at WTOP-TV, in which he was both a host and singer.

Temple quickly picked up an audience of young viewers in the D.C. and Baltimore areas, through hundreds of broadcasts and personal appearances. By 1952, he was on television seven days a week, and was writing as well as producing his show. He became something of a pop culture phenomenon in the D.C. and Baltimore area from 1952 onward, so much so that he left his civil service position on an extended leave of absence. It was also during this period that Temple got to make an album for RCA Victor's "X" label, an eight-song 10" LP that was mostly made up of traditional songs but also included one of his originals. Temple officially resigned from his day job in the fall of 1953, and for the next few years he was busy with broadcasts -- sponsored by Giant Foods of Maryland -- and also in speaking engagements at elementary schools, on matters of citizenship and personal achievement. Temple's show kept going, seven days a week, for seven years, moving to different television stations along the way, though by 1960 the sponsor/owner had cut him back to five days a week. He also appeared on night-time television, doing an episode of the series The Rifleman in 1961. But Temple's time on television was drawing to a close, as the medium and the clients who used it for advertising began to change -- Giant Foods was, by then, a major general retailer, almost more a department store operation and a supermarket chain, and was spending more money in newspapers than on television advertising, and Temple's target audience of young pre-teens (and their parents) was no longer as relevant to their marketing strategy. The show ended in late 1961, a victim of its own success -- Temple, who was in a double-bind as an employee of Giant Foods, could never even find another sponsor, had he been free to look, because he and the program had been exclusively identified with Giant for eight years and thousands of broadcasts. The solution was to find another market, which he did in 1962 when he moved to Philadelphia, writing, producing, and performing his own show on WFIL-TV over the next year. That kind of live children's show was going out of style, however, and he retired from performing in 1963. He rejoined the government as an Audio Visual Specialist with the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, DC. Temple eventually retired to Sun City, AZ, where he passed away in 1991.