November 8, 2014 posted by

Bob Arbogast and Friends


Michigan-based Highland Appliance company was once one of the largest electronics retailers in the nation, and now it isn’t. Founded in 1933, they went out of business sixty years later. When they were in their heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, Highland was known for their highly entertaining radio and television commercials, many of them fondly remembered by mid-westerners to this day.

highland-applianceThough the Highland Appliance commercials we present to you today are radio spots, and consequently without pictures, they are of special interest to animation fans. The voices you hear are all by actors who have done cartoon work. All of them feature Bob Arbogast (Sesame Street, Hot Wheels, Roger Ramjet) interviewing people with odd occupations. Each one features a surprise guest actor. At least they would be a surprise if we didn’t write their names above the sound files anyways. So give a listen, and try to fight off the urge to buy a new stereo cassette tape player…

Hatchetman – Featuring Mel Blanc

Wimp – Featuring Marvin Kaplan

Yes Man – Featuring Frank Nelson

Eavesdropper – Featuring Joan Gerber

Bad Influence – Featuring Lennie Weinrib

Disclaimerer – Featuring John Irwin


  • Mike:cannot play the SoundCloud files

    • Have you tried a different bowser? They worked fine on Firefox.

  • Great stuff! Both the scripts and performances are wonderfully funny; light-years ahead of the annoying stuff that passes for humor on radio commercials now. Back in the late 50’s, Arbogast and Stan Ross (later better known as a TV writer/producer under his full name of Stanley Ralph Ross) wrote and performed a manic spoof of loud, aggressive Top 40 disc jockeys titled “Chaos” (Parts I and II,) released on a double-sided 45 rpm single by Liberty Records. It was a novelty hit then (despite DJ’s who refused to play it on air because they realized it was poking fun at them) and a “Dr. Demento” favorite years later.

  • I miss Highland more for those TV ads like these.

    The Highland location in my area would close in the early 90’s at a time when Best Buy came to town. It’s former location is now an ABC Warehouse, though that place always looks like it’s on it’s last legs the way they appear so irrelevant nowadays.

    • I’m from Southern Calif., born and raised, so this would be a new experience..(as shown by my normal speech—as shown if ever I do a YouTube “selfie” video) my parents were mid-westerners and I’ve visited there, and believe I saw a few Kansas City Highland appliances..I wonder why they just didn’t come back..

    • Highland was even famous for their ELECTRONIC THING appliance/electronic show and sale TV commercials!

  • Sounds like Mel is channeling his Yosemite Sam voice for that spot….

    …and I always love that Frank Nelson was a ‘Yes’ man most of the roles he played!

    • Mel Blanc was imitating his Mr. Spacely character to fire the Highland interviewer, like Mr. Spacely does for George Jetson in the Jetson cartoons.

      Too bad Mr. Arbogast didn’t team up with these other famous voice actors – Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Don Messick, John Stephenson, or even Casey Kasem – to do Highland radio spots!

  • John Erwin did a bunch of voices at Filmation, most prolifically Reggie Mantle on all the Archie shows.

    • And consequently in the 80’s, Irwin would become the voice of He-Man. Then in the 90’s, after Filmation went bankrupt, he went on to play incidental voice roles, such as sports announcers, on “Seinfeld”.

  • Apparently, Lennie Weinrib was more available for the Highland spots than any other voice actor working at the time, which I assume may have been around the early eighties. Weinrib’s career hit a low point at that time (following his turn playing the infamous Scrappy Doo). So I suppose, for lack of available work, he agreed to stay on as a regular supporting actor for the spots in the meantime. It turned out to be a wise decision, as he helped produce some of the funniest radio ads ever heard. YouTube user chasfh uploaded a good number of these Highland radio spots. Here are some more spots featuring Weinrib:

    Here’s another spot with Joan Gerber:

    And here are two spots featuring two well-known voice actors. The first features one of my personal favorites, the late Derek McGrath, famous for co-starring as the professor in the 90’s Canadian-produced teen-oriented series “My Secret Identity” alongside then teen heartthrob Jerry O’Connell, and as a lawyer who defended a group of young skateboarders (one of which, incidentally, was played by a teenage David Spade) in “Police Academy: Citizens On Patrol” and had appeared in other movies since, but was also fairly active doing voice over work for commercials and cartoons, most notably DiC’s “Heathcliff” series from 1984. As for the second spot, I’ll let you guess who’s playing the sleepwalker (Hint: the extraordinary Frank Welker currently plays his best-known role).

    Here’s a bonus: a compilation of TV ads for a Highland ad campaign that touts the appliance chains move to pay their sales reps on a non-commission basis. Apparently, that plan backfired and ultimately led to Highland’s utter demise. Some of these ads feature well-known celebs you might recognize.

  • Hey, btw, I just realized that the announcer at the end of these spots is the same one who used to be heard on all of the famous American Express TV ads! Does anyone here know his name?

    • Noticed that too. “Visa,…it’s everywhere you want to be.” I’d like to know his name also.

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