Bob "Hoolihan" Wells
Sunshine to you
No matter what the Weather
September 27, 1933, West Point Nebraska. That's when and where Bob Wells, soon to be our beloved Hoolihan the Weatherman, was born. He is the youngest of two boys. His brother, who lives in Omaha, has sixteen children, 13 of which are adopted!
He is an alumnus of the University of Nebraska where he was in the ROTC program. He was accepted into the Air National Guard and was trained as a pilot.
While working at a local radio station Bob met his future wife Barb. A friend attempted to fix them up, but he had just five minutes to pull records for the next hour of his show, and didn't have time to talk with her. Two years later he was working in the Hayloft Summer Theaters in a suburb of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Bob had a role in the "Caine Mutiny Court Martial." Barb was sitting up in the balcony with other owners, and was acting as co-producer. Even though they were both very shy and normally would not have spoken to each other - they did. They started dating and three months later they were engaged.
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells and wife Barb at the Green Parrot
Three weeks before graduation he received a call from someone in Oklahoma asking him to come and replace their Sports Reporter. "I knew the difference between Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, but not much else."
He was still with the Air National Guard and was able to fly a jet to Oklahoma for the audition. Mechanical problems caused Bob to keep his future boss waiting for an hour and a half, but the audition went well and he got the job. He stayed there for 2 years but never actually did the sports.
He then went to the NBC radio affiliate in Kansas City. After only a year a spot opened up doing part time weather on the weekends at a Kansas City television station. He stayed there from 1959 through 1965.
A friend of his became the production manager of the CBS affiliate in Cleveland - WJW - and let Bob know they were looking for a full time weatherman here.
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells doing the weather
At the time the weather personalities were Dick Goddard, Don Webster and Howard Hoffman, all of whom did a very serious forecast. The production manager asked him if he could "be funny."
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells at work
At the same time the radio stations morning disc jockey had a "green room" for announcers. As part of a promotion they asked listeners to send in interesting things to decorate the walls. One of the things sent in was a grass skirt.
Wells put on the grass skirt and did the audition tape and had a good time doing it. He sent the tape to WJW and next thing he knew he was coming to Cleveland.
The first year he did evening weather. Then along came the big Westinghouse/NBC personnel switch. Dick Goddard was transferred to Philadelphia and Wally Kinan came to Cleveland. Only a few months went by before Dick Goddard came back - Philadelphia just wasn't the same for him and he wanted to come home.
The talk was going around as to where Goddard would go now that he was coming back to the Cleveland market. Hoolihan was number one in the ratings, so he wasn't going anywhere. Kinan was a personal friend of the General Manager at Channel 3, so he was likely staying, so it was expected that Goddard would be going to Channel 5.
It wasn't until he ran into a complete stranger in the elevator that Hoolihan found out that Goddard was replacing him. Hoolihan then went to noon and weekend weather.
A full year before Bob Wells even came to Cleveland the name Hoolihan had been conceived. The program manager was in a hotel at a convention in Chicago and spotted the name of a weatherman in Peoria - Houlihan.
The program manger liked the name and filed it in his memory banks. When Wells was hired they discussed whether to use his real name and decided to go with Hoolihan the Weatherman.
Bob Wells and wife Barb
It was not just the catchy ring that made them decide not to use Bob's real name. As with most things, legalities came into play. The station could own the rights to the name Hoolihan the Weatherman, whereas they could not own the rights to Bob Wells. So if Hoolihan made it big and wanted to take his "show" on the road, he would not be able to use the stage name the station owned.
(Another interesting example of this is the Ghoulardi story. The station promoted him as G-H-O-U-L-A-R-D-I. Whenever he signed autographs he spelled it without the "h" separating it from the property of the station.)
Chuck Schodowski was also working at the station at this time, as engineer for Ernie Anderson. When Anderson left for Hollywood in the fall of 1966 a major programming void was created. Many people came in and auditioned trying to imitate the Ghoulardi show, but there was only one Ghoulardi and Ernie Anderson was it.
The station was not looking for a copy of Ghoulardi, but rather a replacement. They asked Hoolihan to audition. Knowing that his engineer would know more about the show and what worked and didn't work then anyone else, Bob asked Chuck to help him out.
Chuck does not especially like being in the spotlight, but was willing to help his friend. The station loved the end result and decided to pair the two of them together as hosts of the show.
"I love Chuck like a brother. I never met anyone like him. He shares my core values. He shares my respect for others, for women, for family life."
Hoolihan and Big Chuck
The resulting show "Hoolihan and Big Chuck" was an instant hit. Everyone has their favorite episodes, but one that stands out for most people was Guitarzan. In the take we saw, Tony Carmen (who played Jane) comes swinging into view.
Hoolihan performing in the popular Guitarzan skit
What we don't see is that it had to be done in one take because Carmen's swing, with legs wide open, landed him right into Chuck. "Tony was already singing in a high falsetto voice as Jane, but when he connected with Chuck he went up a whole octave!"
Another Wells favorite was "Rowdy the Wonder Dog" even though he wasn't actually in the skit. It was filmed in the park and Wells was off to the side to be sure Rowdy went up and over the hill as he was supposed to. The dog jumped over Chuck and in the end Chuck was laying under the dog with a big Wells-inspired paw print on his face.
And who can forget "Readings By Robert?"
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells - Readings by Robert
Most of the shows are not available because they were on 2" videos and can't be played with modern technology. However, one gentleman found an old machine and transferred the ones he found and sent Wells 10 reels of tapes from the first 5 years, which included all of the early skits.
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells with Big Chuck
As Wells looks at the skits today he can barely remember performing in them.
In 1971 Wells quit the staff of Channel 8 although he continued doing weekend weather and The Hoolihan and Big Chuck show until 1979. This freed him up contractually to do other jobs at the same time. Among other things he was also doing commercials for Wrigley's Supermarkets in Detroit.
He was working many hours and flying back and forth between Cleveland and Detroit. His wife gave him the scare of a lifetime when she talked to him about divorce. He knew he had to get back on track - they weren't fighting, but they weren't communicating either.
In 1976 Wells made a spiritual commitment, what some call "born again." His wife had made the same commitment the previous fall. The commitment solved their marriage problems.
In addition to doing the show he and his wife were both active in Brecksville little theater, and were therefore known in many communities. When he made his spiritual commitment word spread quickly. He received a call from Rex Humbard ministries in Cuyahoga Falls to be an announcer. Christian groups from all over were calling him.
He was offered the position of General Manager and Sales Manager of WSUM, a Christian station. He had a two-year contract and honored the contract but was not sure if he wanted to renew it or not. As he was praying for guidance a job opened up in Tampa and in August 1979 Wells took the job.
He and his wife were hired to co-host a daily 90-minute primetime show. "We just fell in love with the whole thing. We got to appear together and give Joint Witness". The other Christian hosts at the time included Pat Robertson, who was known to be laid back and Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, who had a much bolder approach.
The Wells were somewhere in between. They thought that was the place to be to bring the most people to God through Jesus. The show was a big success and nothing but positive feedback was received by the Wells' and the station. After only 3 months one board member decided that he "didn't feel the spirit" and cancelled the show that everyone else felt blessed by. Bob and Barb were let go.
"Not long after, the scandal with Jim Baker came to light and the Board member who let us go was a big part of the scandal. I didn't understand it at the time, but the Lord saved us from being part of all that trouble. If we had still been there we would have been dragged into it."
Bob earned his SEC license and has a financial planning and advising company in Florida. He and his wife freelance in a number of areas including commercials for such places as Tampa Bay Downs. They also do other commercial roles and work in professional cabaret and dinner theater, often together.
If you watch the movie Summer Rental with John Candy (in his first starring role), Richard Crenna and directed by Carl Reiner you'll see both Bob and his wife. Barb actually has 2 roles, one as the snooty next-door neighbor and one as a yacht race official.
Bob plays the part of Richard Crenna's lawyer. And if you were to call the office of financial services firm Raymond James right here in Cleveland and were put on hold, you would hear the familiar voice of Bob Wells providing "On Hold Messages."
Bob and Barb Wells at home for his 70th birthday party
Bob and Barb have now been married 47 years and have three children. They are living in Clearwater, Florida and are every bit as busy as they were back here in Cleveland.
Their oldest daughter, Teri is married to Scott and has two daughters, Allison and Amy. They live in Nashville. Their son Rob Jr. lives in Chicago. The youngest daughter, Tricia lives with her husband, David, in Seattle. They get together as often as possible, and Christmas is almost always spent in Nashville.
Bob 'Hoolihan' Wells wearing his
Cleveland Browns 'fumble helmet'
Bob is still a huge Brown's fan and often watches the games in a favorite local spot, The Green Parrot. He is a member of the Browns Backers of Pinellas (BBOP) and the proud recipient of the "fumble helmet."
Hoolihan Bob Wells - still a Browns fan
Whenever the Browns score the members of BBOP toss around a fuzzy football until the music stops. The person left with the football gets a free beer. The person with the best fumble (or the worst pass) wears the fumble helmet until the next score.
In 1997 Ernie Anderson died and a "GhoulardiFest" was held on Berea Fairgrounds. Wells was invited to attend - and did. Along with him were Mushmouth Mariano (remember the pizza eating contests?),Superhost and of course his friend, Chuck Schodowski. He was amazed to see the huge lines of people lining up for autographs all those years later.
Hoolihan and Big Chuck
Bob and Barb returned to Cleveland again in 1999, the last time a GhoulardiFest was held. The '99 festival was actually called The Big Chuck and Li'l John ComedyFest, but the concept was the same.
If you did not experience Hoolihan the Weatherman or have an opportunity to watch Hoolihan and Big Chuck you missed out on something very special.
In both characters, Wells was able to make people smile and even laugh out loud and will be remembered for a very long time.
He signed off each of his weather forecasts with the now famous "Sunshine To You - no matter what the weather." When he signed off his last show with the words "Sunshine to you, for the very last time" he was right.
A little bit of sunshine left our screen when Hoolihan the Weatherman went away.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Thanks to Thomas Rude's web site for some of the TV images.
See what Bob has been up to lately (and more photos!)
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