As you can see from our Index page, we at Harper's are fascinated by facts. But even our crack research team is occasionally stumped. And so, with our resources exhausted, we turn to you, hoping you can rescue us from this dark night of our inquisitive souls. We have heard that Mr. Greenjeans, Captain Kangaroo's faithful sidekick, was, in real life, Frank Zappa's father. Is this true, or just another rumor perpetuated by a myth-hungry nation?
Illustration by Slug Signorino
One of the advantages of the fast-paced world we live in, gang, is that there are many technological marvels that make the job of the investigative reporter easier. One of these is called the telephone. Give it a whiz next time you’re in a jam. Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, AKA Mr. Greenjeans, has died, but the folks at Bob Keeshan Associates, which produced the old Captain Kangaroo show, tell me he had one son, whose name, suffice it to say, isn’t Frank.
The late Frank Zappa, the well-known president of Pumpko Industries, Ltd., and founder of the Mothers of Invention, was the son of Francis Vincent Zappa Senior, a research scientist who worked at Lockheed. Frank Junior was born in Baltimore, but when he was still a kid Dad moved the family out to California. The whole story is told in Zappa’s biography, No Commercial Potential by David Walley (1972), which features pictures of Papa Zappa and the rest of the Zappa clan. The origin of the Mr. Greenjeans rumor is shrouded in obscurity, but I note that an instrumental tune on Zappa’s 1969 Hot Rats LP is named “Son of Mr. Green Genes.” Make of it what you will. (Updated to reflect Zappa’s death in 1993.)
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