John-Boy's best friend on The Waltons voiced The Little Drummer Boy

Teddy Eccles started acting at 6 months old and appeared all over classic TV.

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On The Waltons, we meet John-Boy’s best friend in college, Michael West, twice.

The first time is in the episode "The First Day," on John-Boy’s first day of college when Michael gives him tips to better navigate campus life. And the last time is in "The Ring," where Michael and John-Boy have gotten jobs working together at a print shop and have plans to attend a dance with their dates.

Although Mike West only appeared these few times, you might recognize his face, and many more classic TV lovers might recognize his voice.

The actor playing Mike West, Teddy Eccles, appeared in movies and TV shows from the time he was 6 months old, when his mom got him a gig as a babe-in-arms on a soap opera.

By the time he was 15 years old, he had appeared in 40 TV shows and 14 movies, sharing the small screen with Shirley Temple, Mister Ed, Herman Munster, and Lucille Ball.

But perhaps Eccles’ most famous role was in a holiday TV classic released in 1968.

The Little Drummer Boy told the tragic story of a young farm boy named Aaron who receives a drum as a gift from his parents before they are brutally killed when bandits burn down the family farm.

By the movie’s end, Aaron has refilled his heart with joy after playing his drum for the babe born under a bright star in Bethlehem.

Voicing Aaron in The Little Drummer Boy, Eccles joined the pantheon of Rankin/Bass Production holiday special voice actors, shoulder to shoulder with Burl Ives.

For Eccles, growing up in Hollywood gave him a sort of maturity that only ripened with each tender year.

"He astounded movie writers with his grasp of language, his mature outlook, his adult manners," the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram declared in 1969 when Teddy was 14.

His Hollywood schoolteacher insisted this was common for the child stars she taught at one of the only Little Red School Houses still operating in the U.S. where a single schoolteacher was still charged with instructing children from first to twelfth grade.

In this Little Red School House classroom, Eccles at the age of 6 had a classmate in My Three Sons star Barry Livingston and other child stars filming on the Paramount Studios lot.

His teacher Miss Cobb said that their acting experiences made kids like Teddy star pupils.

"These children are able to move rapidly ahead in their studies because of their acting," Miss Cobb said. "They have excellent memories, sharpened by their daily task of learning lines, and because of their work with directors, they take instruction extremely well."

While Teddy was acting as a child star, his guardian was his grandfather J.K. Ridgway. His grandpa made sure Teddy got everything he needed and went everywhere with the boy and his actor siblings.

Later in his career, Eccles would start going by the more distinguished Ted Eccles, departing children’s shows like The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Leave It to Beaver and appearing on more dramas like The Waltons and M*A*S*H at the age of 19.

But then in 1977, he abruptly stopped acting and started instead to work in marketing movies.

He served as a creative eye on marketing campaigns for major movies like Pretty Woman, Dick Tracey, and The Lion King, as well as hit TV shows like Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother.

After that, Eccles pivoted again, becoming a producer and director on more than 200 TV episodes and an executive producer on CBS shows.

But when Eccles was still a young boy at the age of 13 playing Aaron, The Little Drummer Boy, he might’ve made his biggest mark on TV by singing a sweet song.

Although the movie was written based on the classic Christmas carol "The Little Drummer Boy," another memorable tune that was written just for the holiday special was "Why Can’t Animals Smile?"

And we think he carries the tune almost as well as the Vienna Choir Boys who smashed record sales when they sang the title track.

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Tresix 28 months ago
“The Little Drummer Boy”: The only Christmas special with a double homicide.
UTZAAKE 28 months ago
Remember Ted Eccles the most from the "Dr. Shrinker" segments on The Krofft Supershow. He played one of the three teenagers shrunk and pursued by the maniacal title character. He's wearing the rugby shirt in this photo from the TV series.
MikefromJersey 28 months ago
"perhaps Eccles’ most famous role was in a holiday TV classic released in 1968"

No way Jose! He starred in the classic kids movie "My Side of the Mountain"(1969), filmed in
Quebec and still loved by kids around the world. I recall our 4th grade class being assigned
to read the book, it was re-issued to go along with the movie's release.
We were so jealous of this kid making a home out of a hollow tree(no he wasn't a Keebler elve)
in the Quebec outback and living off the land. Even if he did keep mispronouncing the name
of his hero Thoreau. The great Theodore Bikel guest starred and sang.
If you are looking for a good film for your kids this Christmas, this one is a keeper.
LaDolceVita 28 months ago
The Little Drummer Boy is such a wonderful story. I always enjoy watching it. 🎄 Buon Natale!
Zip 28 months ago
I knew I recognized the actor, I just couldn't place what episode of MASH he was in. But he was in the "Spam lamb" episode, and he plays the soldier who mistakingly confesses to Frank Burns(thinking he is Father Mulcahy) that he shot himself in the leg to get out of the Army.
Zip 28 months ago
I used to love The Little Drummer Boy. There was a time it ranked right up there with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with me, done in the same type of animation. I bought a dvd of TLDB many years back, I should get that out and watch it, now that Christmas is right around the corner.
Peter_Falk_Fan Zip 28 months ago
I like "The Little Drummer Boy", too. I haven't watched it in quite a while. I just found it on YouTube. For me, I can't imagine a Christmas season without Rankin/Bass specials.
KJExpress Peter_Falk_Fan 28 months ago
Rankin/Bass specials were the best. And I can still hear the music they played when they showed their logo at the end of each show. It always brings me back in time.
moax429 KJExpress 28 months ago
You might remember Rankin/Bass started out as Videocraft International Limited. Videocraft used that same jingle music before the company became Rankin/Bass (and showed Rankin and Bass' names in the top two TV screens in the logo).
KJExpress moax429 28 months ago
Did not know that.
LoveMETV22 28 months ago
The bios on him do not list Leave it to Beaver in credits.
KJExpress LoveMETV22 28 months ago
I was wondering why I didn't remember seeing him on LITB. I do remember my mother taking me to see "My Side of the Mountain." Must have been late 60's or very early 70's.
Michael 28 months ago
I don't remember the character. Was he really the "best friend" or does the story make him that? There's a much later episode where someonefrom his college days reappears, disabled in tye war, and John Jr feels obliged to help him. That guy seemed more of a "best friend".

No matter how you frame it, John Jr was a loner, not even sticking with a girlfriend for long.

I'd argue that Ted Eccles most famous role, especially since he wasn't just voicing, was 1969's "My Side of the Mountain", where he leaves his family to live alone in the woods.
KJExpress Michael 28 months ago
I just replied to someone else about this movie. I would have been about six when I saw it. Yes, I think that was probably his most well-known role. I should try and find it.
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