Italian American Collection: Handyman Negri


Joe Negri, famed jazz guitarist from Pittsburgh, is known among some circles as Handyman Negri thanks to his role on the television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but do you know how he came to be in the cast? Negri and Fred Rogers both worked in the new field of television in the 1950s. Rogers already had developed his program The Children’s Corner (1954–1961) for WQED with his creative partner Josie Carey (neé Vicari) when an advertiser from Joseph Horne Company asked him to do commercial spots on another network, WTAE. Negri was a music producer for the station and was told he would work with Rogers, someone he knew from the University of Pittsburgh’s Music School. Negri recalled, “One day Fred says to me, ‘Joe, won’t you take a walk in the neighborhood and say hi to some of the neighbors?’ So, I do; I’m talking to Lady Elaine, King Friday, the Pussycat. It goes on for about maybe three months."

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