Ed Ames, an entertainment industry veteran whose lengthy career spanned television screens, Broadway stages, and pop charts, died on May 21 in Los Angeles. He was 91 years old. Ames’ wife, Jeanne, told The Hollywood Reporter that Ames had been living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Perhaps best known for playing Mingo, the Cherokee Indian sidekick of Fess Parker’s Daniel Boone during the TV Western’s first four seasons (which aired from 1964-68), Ames’ small screen credits also include The Rifleman, McCloud, Murder She Wrote, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Jake and the Fatman. He also made a significant mark on The Tonight Show in 1965, demonstrating tomahawk throwing to host Johnny Carson and striking a wooden outline of a cowboy right in the groin in the process. As the audience fell into one of the longest laugh breaks in the show’s history—around four minutes—Carson ad-libbed “I didn’t even know you were Jewish!” and “Welcome to Frontier Bris!”
Long before giving audiences the gift of laughter through literally well-aimed dick jokes, Ames initially got his start in the industry singing as the Ames Brothers quartet with his brothers Vic, Joe, and Gene in the 1950s. The brothers charted 49 hits, performing the theme for 1957's Bing Crosby-led Man On Fire, and even airing a syndicated television program, The Ames Brothers Show, before parting ways in 1963. Ames went on to have a successful solo career, charting singles like “Who Will Answer?”, “My Cup Runneth Over” and “Try to Remember.”
After studying at the Herbert Berghof Drama School in New York in the 1960s, Ames brought his talents off-Broadway to roles in “The Fantasticks” and “The Crucible.” He eventually took his talents from off-Broadway to on, nabbing his first major role in “Carnival!” He would go on to star with Kirk Douglas, Gene Wilder, and William Daniels “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on Broadway, as well.
In addition to his wife Jeanne, Ames is also survived by two children, Ronald and Sonya; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.