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Ladies and Gentlemen, Pete Henderson!


I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Entertainer Pete Henderson Dies at 79
Born 4/28/38 – Died 3/1/18

Musicians/Comedians Bill Skiles and Pete Henderson began their hysterical career—basically in the summer of 1956 at Disneyland. The two owe part of their long-running fame and notoriety to their early connection to the lore of Disneyland theme park in the late 1950s.

In the summer of 1956 Bill (Skiles) persuaded Pete (Henderson) to audition with him for a job at Disneyland doing a show demonstrating homemade instruments to kids in Frontierland. Bill's father had built and played these same instruments with his vaudeville band, The Bob Skiles Haywire Orchestra. Bill and Pete showed up in Frontierland dressed up as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and auditioned for Tommy Walker, the Disneyland entertainment director. He was approving of the act, but didn't have a slot for that kind of show.

By the summer of 1958 Pete had left school when his step-dad died and began working in a show band for Disneyland DateNites, playing bass. After finishing a round of golf one day with Skiles, Bill offered to drive Pete out to Disneyland to pick up some of Pete's paperwork in the entertainment office. Bill started clowning around for the secretaries and Tommy Walker suddenly peered out at them from his office door. Even after two years he still remembered the name - "Is that Skiles and Henderson?" he asked. Then he went on to describe a new stage called the Plaza Gardens that might be right for the duo. They re-auditioned there the next day, were hired and began their long career on 13 June 1958.

Their 20-minute show wasn't all music, although the musical tire pump and the tin can xylophone and the tuned skillets and musical saw and washtub bass were a large part of the act. They starting working new material into their show lampooning the various "lands" comprising the park. Frontierland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland all were grist for the Skiles and Henderson mill. Bill Skiles was a master of sound effects which became important to their style and remained so until their final performances in 2010.

At the end of their first summer at the park their workload was reduced to weekends only. They were asked to participate in a new program called Tour Guides but that only lasted a short time for them. By the summer of '59 they were leading their own DateNite band in Frontierland and still had their day job in the park. Walt Disney thought they were “Cool” so Bill Skiles & Pete Henderson were chosen to host The Mickey Mouse Club International TV Show as “Hub & Bub” but it was time to move on to the real world.
Their professional debut was in 1960 at The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

Skiles & Henderson were a mainstay on television in the 1960’s and 70’s appearing on over 500 occasions on shows such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Bob Hope Show, The David Frost Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Mike Douglas Show-(on which they co-hosted for an entire week). They appeared on The New Christy Minstrels Show, The Bell Telephone Hour, The Today Show, The Hollywood Squares and Celebrity Cooks. They hosted American Bandstand on June 2, 1973 with the “Rockin’ The Palace” - a youth oriented variety show featuring musical performances by Tony Orlando & Dawn, The Osmonds, Danny Bonaduce and The Harpsmiths. (1967, Pete was the voice of “monkey” in an uncredited role in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book).

As “Skiles & Henderson”, they played Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe, sharing the marquee with various superstars of the day such as Andy Williams, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Rowan & Martin and a host of others.

Then came a 5 year long road trip as the opening act for The Carpenters-the brother and sister act of Richard and Karen Carpenter during the 1970’s including their amazing record-breaking 1974 World Tour which included Europe and Japan.
Karen (Carpenter) once recalled how their “Engines & Injuns” routine often sent her into hysterics backstage. Pete would later join Karen & Richard in the 2nd half of their concerts and sing harmonies with the duo.

At their website:
“skilesandhenderson.com, you can hear several clips of Pete singing with Richard & Karen on classic songs such as “Shaboom”, “Runaway” and “The End of The World”. Pete had a sensational voice which Karen referred to as her “ideal duet partner”…quite a compliment from one of the world’s finest vocalists of all time!

On The Carpenters 1974 World Tour, the first show for Skiles & Henderson was Glasgow, Scotland. As Pete recalled in a 1978 interview: “The venue was a grand old theatre with an extremely high stage; it was as high as the balcony. I asked a stage hand why it was built that way and he told me that the height kept the audience from storming the stage if they didn’t like the performance, and it made it harder to throw things at the performers”. “Jeez! Then he added that they always hated comedians. I hoped he was just “sending me up” as they say for putting one on”.

Pete recalls another funny “Carpenters Moment”…..
More Airplanes…”We had finished our evening show at the University of Notre Dame with the Carpenters and boarded their chartered plane, a twin engine turbojet USAir commercial airliner with room for about 40 passengers, complete with a flight attendant. As usual, I sat in the very last row by myself so I could read in peace and enjoy some rum laced hot chocolate. We had about an hour in the air, and I was oblivious to what was going on with the rest of the troupe. It seemed to me that we were taking a lot longer to reach Chicago than we should have, but I ignored that. It gave me time for another drink. It also seemed that we were flying a lot lower than normal, and I ignored that too. Eventually we landed safely with no problem. I was the last one off the plane and commented facetiously to Karen, who was getting ready to climb into her limo, “Another routine miracle”, because that’s what I always felt about flying. She gave me the only dirty look I ever got from her and left for the hotel. I found out later that we had lost an engine about halfway to our destination, and there was NOWHERE we could land except the airport in Chicago. Ahh, clueless me…I was the only one unaware of the danger. (This explained the disdained “look” from Karen Carpenter).”

Skiles & Henderson continued their career by signing with Holland-America Cruise Lines for “Luxury Cruises” and entertained the floating guests with their endless routines filled with sound effects and sorted stories. They also discovered the secret world of Corporate Entertainment and entertained such global giants as General Motors, Mc Donald’s, IMB and so many more. Their last performance together was in St. Cloud, Florida in March 2010. Bill Skiles passed away on May 16th, 2011 at the age of 79—the same age as Pete Henderson upon his passing.

I share this tribute today as a reminder of some of the “hidden talent” that was found in Southern California and how their careers intersected with those of others. As a kid growing up in Southern California, I was fortunate to have been raised in Downey and acquainted with Richard and Karen Carpenter and to witness first-hand the meteoric career they had and I will always remember Bill & Pete and their incredible humor that opened so many of those early Carpenters concerts.

They were “part of the family” so to speak and it is with great affection that I dedicate this remembrance to his daughter, our friend, Paulette Henderson Oden—who gave her permission for me to share the news of her Dad’s passing with you.

Sincerely, Ken Bertwell, Palm Springs, CA.
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Sad to see this news. They opened for the Carpenters when we saw them in Terre Haute, Indiana, back in October 1972. I thought they were great ... but of course I couldn't wait to see and hear Karen and Richard!
RIP Pete. I don't think this is getting enough attention from Fans.

He is immortalised on the Carpenters Live In Japan album.
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