Comedian Gene Sheldon

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on December 25, 2005

Years ago, there was a comedian, Gene Sheldon, who played the banjo and also starred on the TV series Zorro as a deaf mute. His banjo playing was superior, and I would like to know if he ever made any records? Whatever happened to him?
—Ronald Diven, Kansas City, Mo.

Born Eugene Hume in Columbus, Ohio, in 1908, Sheldon often was believed to be mute, but it was only part of his act. The son of a magician, he began his career as his father's assistant, dressed as a girl, where he learned how to mime. After vaudeville and radiocasts, he—and his banjo—broke into films in the 1930s, where he often portrayed circus characters. But in 1957, the Zorro television series, in which he played the role of Bernardo, forged his fame. Sheldon's output as a recording artist was sparse and is hard to track down today; musicologists agree that he recorded and released at least two songs, "Darktown Strutter's Ball" and "Hey! Mr. Banjo." He died May 1, 1982.