Although a longtime member of the a cappella group Singers Unlimited
, baritone Len Dresslar
earned immortality via television commercials. As the inimitable voice of the Jolly Green Giant, he extolled the virtues of vegetables to multiple generations of viewers. Born Elmer Dresslar, Jr.
in St. Francis, KS, in 1925, he served as in the U.S. Navy in World War II before studying voice at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. After several years honing his acting skills in Midwest summer stock, Dresslar
relocated to New York City, appearing on Broadway and joining the national touring company of South Pacific before settling in Chicago in 1953. There he joined the cast of CBS affiliate WBBM's live variety series In Town Tonight, which aired nightly between 1955 and 1960. During that time, Dresslar
also began moonlighting as a voice-over talent, and in 1959 was hired by the Leo Burnett Agency to record a new television spot for the Green Giant vegetable line. Cast as the company's leaf-clad mascot, the Jolly Green Giant, Dresslar
intoned the character's booming tag line "Ho, ho, ho," and a legend was born. The magazine Advertising Age later named the Jolly Green Giant one of the 20th century's most recognizable commercial icons, behind only Tony the Tiger and the Marlboro Man. Dresslar
went on to serve as the voice of Snap, of Kellogg's Rice Krispies Snap-Crackle-and-Pop fame, as well as Dig 'Em, the bullfrog touting the cereal giant's Sugar Smacks product. He later said residuals from his jingle work put his children through college. During the 1960s, Dresslar
also sang with the jingle vocal group the J's with Jamie
before recording 15 LPs with the jazz troupe Singers Unlimited
. He retired from performing in 1991, and died of cancer in a Palm Springs hospice on October 16, 2005.