Friday, August 24, 2012

Muppeteer Jerry Nelson Passes On

Jerry Nelson, who provided the voices of such Muppets as Sgt. Floyd Pepper of Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem, Kermit's nephew Robin, and Dr. Julius Strangepork of Pigs in Space as well as The Count Von Count of Sesame Street, passed today, 24 August 2012, at the age of 78. He suffered from emphysema.

Jerry Nelson was born on 10 July 1934 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He grew up in Washington, D.C. He trained under the legendary puppeteer Bil Baird. It was in 1965 that Mr. Nelson first worked with Jim Henson, helping out on The Jimmy Dean Show (which featured Rowlf the Dog). In 1969 he provided the voice of the Second Stepsister in Jim Henson's television special Hey, Cinderella. He also participated in further Muppet projects, including The Great Santa Claus Switch, Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince, and Tales from Muppetland: The Muppet Musicians of Bremen.

It was in 1970 that he joined the cast of Sesame Street. Starting with the Count Von Count's debut in 1972, Jerry Nelson operated and voiced the puppet. While he would cease operating the Count in 2004, he continued to do the character's voice until this year (the upcoming season will be the final one to feature the voice of Jerry Nelson. He also provided the voice of other Sesame Street characters, including Mr. Snuffleupagus,  Herry Monster, Mr. Johnson, and others.  While Jerry Nelson worked on Sesame Street, he continued to work with The Muppets. He provided the voice of various Muppets in Muppet specials, and it was in 1975 on The Muppet Show pilot "Sex and Violence" that he originated the voice of Floyd Pepper, as well as providing the voices of such assorted characters as Muppet versions of Gene Shalit and Thomas Jefferson. In the Muppets' single season on Saturday Night Live in 1975, he provided the voice of Scred.

The Muppet Show debuted in 1976 and Jerry Nelson would provide the voice of several Muppets. In addition to Floyd Pepper (bassist for The Electric Mayhem), he also provided voices for such Muppets as Dr. Julius Strangepork (featured in Pigs in Space), Robin the Frog, and various chickens. He participated in various Jim Henson produced TV specials, including Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Muppets Go Hollywood, John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, A Muppet Family Christmas, and The Muppets at Walt Disney World. Beyond The Muppet Show he was involved in other Jim Henson produced TV series, including Fraggle Rock (where he provided the voice of Gogo Fraggle), The Jim Henson Hour, and Mupppets Tonight (where, in addition to his usual characters, he was the voice of Statler).

As part of the Muppets troupe, Jerry Nelson also worked on the many Jim Henson produced movies, including The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Dark Crystal (1982), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), and Muppets from Space (1999).  He also appeared in films outside of those associated with Jim Henson Productions or Sesame Street. He appeared in the films The Nail Gun Massacre (1985), The Radicals (1990), and RoboCop 2 (1990). While he retired in 2004 from all but providing the voice of The Count on Sesame Street, Jerry Nelson's last work, besides providing the voice of The Count on Sesame Street, was for the movie The Muppets (2011) in a voice cameo as a telethon announcer.

There can be little doubt that Jerry Nelson was one of the greatest puppeteers of all time. He had an extremely versatile voice, that could produce everything from the Bela Lugosi impersonation he used for The Count to the laid back, beatnik voice of Sgt. Floyd Pepper to Robin the Frog's more boyish voice. What is more is that Jerry Nelson could not do a wide array of voices, but he could also sing. In fact, he even released his own album, Truro Daydreams, in 2009. Jerry Nelson was an important part of The Muppets' history and provided the voices of some of their most memorable characters. As The Count he educated generations of children. He won't be forgotten.

No comments: