Billy Jo Jive, self-described super crimefighting ace, was a prepubescent Black detective in animated segments on Sesame Street in the late 1970s and early 80s. Along with his sidekick, Smart Susie Sunset, Billy Jo would solve crimes in his neighborhood.
Billy Jo Jive was the first positive cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a series of children’s books The characters of Billy Jo and Smart Susie originated in a series of children’s books by John Shearer, with illustrations by his father Ted Shearer. The series debuted with Billy Jo Jive, Super Private Eye: The Case of the Missing Ten Speed Bike in 1976. When the sequel The Case of the Sneaker Snatcher was published in 1977, the cover boldly advertised “Don’t miss Billy Jo Jive and Susie Sunset on Sesame Street!” The earliest known Sesame Street appearance is Episode 1186. The series was produced by former Terrytoons animator Ray Favata.
Billy Jo Jive Segments:
- Lost Wig – Billy and Suzie look for a missing wig. They find dirty hand prints at the scene of the crime, and also find them on a poster for a school play. They go there where they find the person who stole the wig, and also see his dirty hands.
- Lost Money
- Lost Guitar Strings
- The Midnight Voices – Billy and Suzie solve the case of the midnight voices.
- Shortcakes – Billy and Suzie search for missing shortcakes.
- Meatbone – Billy Jo Jive and Smart Suzie Sunset search for Aunt Nellie’s dog Meatbone, not knowing that he’s been following them the whole time.
- Missing Keys
- Wrong Way Willie
- Eating Healthier
- Haunted House
- Bad News Barton
Billy Jo Jive Theme Music:
Here is the theme music from the Billy Jo Jive cartoon, a track called “Afrocat” by Richard C. Sanders, from the album Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul. Very funky!
Billy Jo Jive Animation Art:
The Museum of UnCut Funk Black Animation Collection has acquired the Original Production cels and drawings from the Billy Jo Jive cartoon shown above.
Billy Jo Jive © 2013 Sesame Workshop