Happy Easter everybody. And what better way to celebrate the season than another round of creepy Christian ventriloquism? A couple of real oddities for you today courtesy of Bob Bradford and his daughter Debbie Ann, and the utterly nuts Geraldine and Ricky.
First up are Geraldine and Ricky. Hailing from Datona Beach, Florida, (although she later moved to Alabama to continue her ministry) Geraldine Ragan and her puppet Ricky have been active since the end of the 60s. Married to professional golfer Dave Ragan, Geraldine and Ricky have performed across the U.S and are (or were as recently as 2011) still surprisingly popular on Christian cruises.
Geraldine believes her talent is a gift from God. Her future path was shaped when she attended a youth camp while she was still a teenager. “There was a ventriloquist there,” she told the Shelby County Reporter, “And I thought ‘If God can use a ventriloquist, he can use me.’” Geraldine immediately set out to learn her art. After high school she was offered a job at Disneyland, but declined in order to dedicate her life to full-time Christian service.
I just don’t get the weird world of Christian ventriloquism. But then again I’ve always thought ventriloquism was a little creepy. I can see how it works in front of an audience, but on record or on the radio it’s just someone putting on a stupid voice. So why are there so many of them?
The track presented here is from side one of her seminal album Trees Talk Too. Recorded in the studio in front of a small (presumably invited) audience, unfortunately the album is unbanded, so I’ve given you the first four minutes or so of side one: the Nickel and the Dollar/the Grand Canyon and A Million Dollars. If you want more get Googling; it’s out there. Geraldine and Ricky have issued a number of other recordings, including the High Cost of Being Lost (with E J Daniels) and a couple of live videos if you’re at all interested.
The second track, and I have to thank the good folk at WFMU for bring this to the world’s attention, comes from the album Fun and Inspiration With… released around 1964/5 by ventriloquist and youth evangelist (as it says on the cover) Bob Bradford.
Bob's act, which debuted around 1953, included his ‘friends’ Jiggers Johnson (who introduces the track), Leo the Lion, Alfred the Dragon, Snooky Snitzel and Whiskers the Wabbit. A decade later he decided to incorporate daughter Debbie Ann in his ministry, teaching her the art of ventriloquism and allowing the little moppet both air and studio time.
On Joy Joy Joy Debbie Ann Bradford is joined by her own group of ‘friends’, namely Ann Slanders (clearly a play on Ann Landers, the pen-name used by various advice columnists from 1943 onwards) and Donny the Donkey. Although the track begins with Debbie and Ann limping their way through the classic children's inspirational tune, it starts to get downright weird once Donny the Donkey appears. Debbie’s own talents are limited to say the least, and her attempt at voicing both Ann and Donny are pretty stilted – the peculiar exchange which occurs between Debbie and Donny is clearly supposed to reduce the pre-teen audience to fits of laughter, but it’s about as funny as a punch in the face. Apparently Debbie is still working today, under her married name Debbie Gaccetta.
Still, spare a thought for poor old Jesus as your tucking into you chocolate eggs this weekend: it’s him these crazies are working for!