Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was a long-running staple of Saturday morning television in the 1970's. The African-American, ghetto- dwelling group of amusing misfits is a very fond memory of persons who grew up during the time.
The kids originated as part of comedian Bill Cosby's stage routine, wherein he would reminisce about growing up in urban North Philadelphia and the amusing characters he encountered. (The routine, "Buck Buck," can be heard on Cosby's early-60's album Revenge.) In 1969, the decision was made to bring some of these characters to television for young viewing audiences, and a primetime special, Hey Hey Hey It's Fat Albert, was aired on NBC to favorable critical response. The special was a mix of live action and animated segments, with Cosby himself doing most of the voices for the cartoon characters. The music for the special (and later the TV series) was provided by keyboardist Herbie Hancock, who had drawn attention as a young man for being part of one of Miles Davis's best-received backing groups, and would continue to make his mark on his own.
Since NBC declined to turn the special into a regular series, Cosby teamed up with newcomer Filmation Associates - who would soon come to be known for their crappy but reasonably-priced animation and pitched the series to CBS, who accepted. Cosby again appeared in live- action segments which served as 'wraparounds' to the larger animated segments, as well as continuing to provide most of the voices. In addition, several leading educators (or at least, education authorities) of the time had a hand in the scriptwriting process, providing a cartoon that resonated heavily with messages to designed to educate kids regarding such rough topics as drug use, gang violence, racial intolerance, etc.
The adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids - composed of such characters as Mush Mouth, Dumb Donald, Rudy, and others - took place against a backdrop of urban decay and inner-city streets. I recall from my own childhood viewing of the series that this aspect scared me a bit - I hated the big-city environment and felt sorry for these kids who had to grow up amongst so much concrete and garbage. The oft-serious subject matter didn't help - it in fact reinforced my feelings that such urban areas were infested with drug use and other crime. Nevertheless, I probably watched every episode of the show multiple times - just like practically every other kid in America.
Bill Cosby - Fat Albert, Mushmouth, Mudfoot, Dumb Donald, the Brown Hornet
Jan Crawford - Russell, Bucky
Gerald Edwards - Weird Harold
Eric Suter - Ruby, Devery
Keith Allen, Pepe Brown, Erika Carroll, Lane Vaux - additional voices