Ed Ames, the deep-toned baritone pop singer and actor who played loyal Cherokee sidekick Mingo on the 1960s NBC series Daniel Boonen, has passed away. He turned 95.
Ames died Sunday at his Los Angeles home after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, his wife Jeanne said The Hollywood Reporter.
Born in Massachusetts and the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Ames played the Oxford-educated Mingo opposite Fess Parker as Daniel Boone in the first four seasons (1964-68) of the TV Western.
However, his most memorable evening on television came in April 1965 during an appearance on NBC’s The tonight show. Demonstrating to host Johnny Carson how Mingo would skillfully wield a tomahawk, he hurled the weapon at an outline of a cowboy drawn on a wooden plank – and it stuck right in the crotch.
As the audience roared, Carson left his desk and told Ames in now-classic ad-libbed lines, “I didn’t even know you were Jewish!” and “Welcome to Frontier Bris!”
The whole thing caused one of the longest fits of laughter in the history of The tonight show — at about four minutes, some say one of the longest in TV’s annals — and was a staple of highlight shows for decades.
In a 2014 interview with host Mark Malkoff on The Carson Podcast, the lovable Ames admitted he’d never thrown a tomahawk until he heard The tonight show wanted him to do it on air. (On previous appearances with Carson, he had thrown a bolas and a lance and shot an arrow).
“That afternoon I practiced throwing,” he said. “First I did it at home the night before and destroyed a few trees.”
Ames noted that the morning after the show aired, taxi drivers yelled at him, “Good for you, Ed!” as he walked the streets of New York City.
The 6-foot-3 Ames got the job as Mingo after 20th Century Fox talent scouts spotted him as Chief Bromden opposite Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder in the original 1963 Broadway production of Ken Kesey’s One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
Ames and three of his older brothers – Vic, Gene and Joe – performed and recorded as the Ames Brothers. In 1950 they had their first No. 1 song, the double-sided tracker “Rag Mop”/”Sentimental Me”, who got rich three years later with “You, You, You” on RCA Records and became one of the most popular quartets in the era before the rise of rock ‘n’ roll.
Ames went it alone in 1961 and had success with songs like “Try to Remember” — his signature song – “Apologise”, “When the snow is on the roses”, “My cup overflows” and “Who will answer?”
Edmond Dantes Urick was born on July 9, 1927, in Malden, Massachusetts, the youngest of nine children (five boys and four girls). As a child, he attended the gritty Boston Latin School—Benjamin Franklin was another famous alum—and sang in churches around the city.
He joined Vic, Gene and Joe as frontmen in an act they called the Urick Brothers and then the Armory Brothers (Vic’s middle name), and they made an impact at Boston nightclubs such as the Latin Quarter, founded by the father by Barbara Walters, Lou .
They went to New York, got a job with bandleader Art Mooney, signed with Decca Records and, at the suggestion of famed Broadway producer Abe Burroughs, became the Ames Brothers. (“Ames” means “truth” in Yiddish.)
They achieved their first chart success in 1949 with ‘Forever and Ever’, recorded with Russ Morgan’s orchestra. Listeners loved their rich, clean harmonies.
After “Rag Mop,” “Sentimental Me,” “Undecided,” and another top-10 hit, the 1954 new song “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” the brothers began performing regularly on Arthur Godfrey’s show and were one of the first acts to appear on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the city.
In 1955, they had their own 15-minute syndicated TV show, The Ames Brothers Showand sang the title song Man on fire (1957), starring Bing Crosby. At their peak, the foursome could make $20,000 a week on tour, and they were named Billboard‘s top vocal group of 1958, when they had eight singles on the charts.
Ames pursued acting in the 1960s and attended New York’s Herbert Berghof Drama School. He starred off-Broadway as John Proctor in a revival of Arthur Miller’s The melting potthen landed the lead in Gower Champion’s national company Carnival.
Ames also appeared in the Off-Broadway smash The Fantasticks, on which he sang ‘Try to Remember’. Carson loved his rendition and he once sang it every night for a week The tonight show.
Ames also introduced the John Wayne movie The war car (1967) with “Ballad of the War Wagon.”
In later years, he performed in concert and supper clubs and appeared on TV shows like Murder she wrote, In the dead of night And The Marshal.
Ames was also an early minority owner of the NBA expansion team the Phoenix Suns along with Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Tony Curtis.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his children, Ronald and Sonya; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.