MY FRIEND… JOHNNY GINGER

    In the late '50s and early '60s, my favorite kid's show was "The Johnny Ginger Show" on WXYZ-TV channel 7 in Detroit.  It was on Monday through Friday for eleven years. I wouldn't miss it. It was good clean fun! Johnny would introduce old episodes of the Three Stooges and do lip-synch pantomimes. I loved his routines with off screen characters like Killer and Mr. Rocky. The voices of these characters were actually Johnny's own pre-recorded characterizations. 

(JOHNNY GINGER PICTURES, CLICK HERE)   
    At the time, my Dad was the motion-picture projectionist at the Schaffer Theater in Garden City, Michigan.  One night, Johnny Ginger came to the theater to see a movie. In order to enjoy the film without being interrupted for autographs, the manager invited him to sit in the projection booth. This is when my Dad and Johnny Ginger first met. They soon became very close friends. 
    One day my Dad said, "Hey Butch, let's get in the car. I want to take you to meet someone." We drove to the studios of WXYZ in Southfield, Michigan. "What are we doing here?" I thought to myself. As we entered Broadcast House, we went down a hallway and through a door. I found myself on the set of the Johnny Ginger Show! And there he was, Johnny Ginger himself! Immediately he greeted me in one of his comical voices, "Hi-ya Butch! I'm Johnny Ginger." Was I excited, or what? 
    Often Johnny would invite me over to his house and we would record ad-lib sci-fi audio stories complete with sound effects and background music. He was (and still is) a master at voice characterizations. He could play several characters at the same time.  I still appreciate the fact that this popular Detroit TV star would take time for me, this young kid. 
    My Dad died suddenly on December 7, 1962. I remember seeing Johnny Ginger weep at his funeral. I couldn't help but wonder, "Would Johnny still care about me now that Dad is gone?"  
    A few weeks later, Johnny called me one Saturday morning, "Hey Butch, I'm coming over to pick you up. Let's go make a movie together!" That afternoon, we  filmed a home-made 8mm western movie at the Morton-Taylor Riding Stables. It wasn't a Hollywood blockbuster, but Johnny Ginger should have won an Oscar, as far as I was concerned! Johnny Ginger became like a father to me.  
    Five months after the death of my father, my mother suddenly passed away. I went to live with an Uncle and I gradually lost track of Johnny. However, I never forgot him and all he did for me.  
    Thirty-three years past. In October, 1997 while "surfing" the Internet, I thought of Johnny Ginger again. "I wonder…" I quickly typed "Johnny Ginger" and did an Internet search. I was excited to find a site called, "The Official Johnny Ginger Web Page." I immediately sent an e-mail: "Does Johnny Ginger remember Al Hughes (or Butch)?" I received a reply from Sean, Johnny Ginger's youngest son.  Sean wrote, "When I asked my dad if he remembered you, he became ecstatic! My dad would love to hear from you…" He gave me Johnny's phone number and I called him. What a great time we had getting reacquainted. I was not surprised to hear that he was still entertaining audiences with his singing and comedy routines. He was surprised, to say the least, when I told him I was now a pastor.  
    In a few weeks I received a video from him. It was completely personalized especially to me (complete with special effects!). It even contained some footage of one occasion my Dad appeared on Johnny Ginger's show. It choked me up. That precious video tape is one of my most prized possessions. After one of my daughters watched it, she said, "I want to adopt Johnny Ginger as my grandpa, that I never had." 
    The following week I received an audio cassette from Johnny. It was a tape of him singing Christmas songs specially to my wife and I -- A personal Johnny Ginger concert, sung just for us! Another tape of inspirational songs came the next week! I can't believe after 33 years, he is taking time to do these special things for me!  
    I hope someday soon to see my friend, Johnny Ginger, again, face-to-face.  
    Can anything good, come off the Internet? Oh, yes…  
  And, yes… Johnny Ginger still cares about me!  

--Al Hughes ("Butch")