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.
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.