Katz, Blue Note Records ||
ROCK AND "CONJUNCTION Junction, Bob Dorough (49)
found his function.
1973 and 1985, when he served as music director for ABC Televisions
Schoolhouse Rock, Doroughs nasal renditions
of Three is a Magic Number and dozens of other memorable
educational ditties became Saturday morning anthems for millions
of youngsters. The songs he wrote and performed for the animated
series gave its grammar, math, history and science lessons for children
a strong lyrical appeal.
innovative format three-minute snippets of music and animation
aired between other programs left a lasting mark and made
it a national icon. For Dorough, it started as a way to help kids
and earn a paycheck while he was attempting to support a jazz musicians
had no idea that the show would become so big, he says. All
I knew was that I had a chance to reach children and I liked that
idea a lot.
of this unique series is undeniably evident today. Schoolhouse
Rock was recently named one of the Greatest Rock and Roll
Moments on TV by VH1. It inspired two popular musicals
Schoolhouse Rock Live! and Schoolhouse Rock Live Too!
and tribute albums by a host of modern-day rock stars.
is also enjoying a resurgence among todays children. ABC is
once again airing segments in its Saturday morning lineup, and Rhino
Records has released a four-CD box set of its songs.
says the original concept for the series a set of educational
records was much simpler than the eventual animated sequences.
It began when advertising executive David B. McCall realized his
little boy couldnt seem to memorize the multiplication tables
but knew the words to every Rolling Stones song.
Dorough to write 11 multiplication songs. Artist Tom Yohe drew up
a few storyboards for the song Three is a Magic Number
to show ABC executive Michael Eisner, who took an immediate interest
and decided to turn the concept into an animated series.
recorded a set of number songs called Multiplication Rock.
Because of the popularity of this initial set, the Schoolhouse
Rock team wrote and produced songs for Grammar Rock,
America Rock and Science Rock sets.
Conjunction Junction and Three is a Magic Number,
Dorough wrote songs like Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs
Here, Elementary, My Dear, Rufus Xavier
Sarsaparilla and at least a dozen others. As musical director,
he also supervised the audio production, sang and played piano for
a number of the songs.
until a year after the initial launch of Schoolhouse Rock
that Dorough had some idea of the series impact.
did an assembly at an elementary school and opened with Three
is a Magic Number, he says. Almost immediately,
I could see some of the kids poking each other and saying, Its
him. And then, they started to sing along with me.
did 13 concerts at elementary schools in rich and poor neighborhoods
throughout New York, just to see if anybody was watching the series.
Each time, it was like that first magical moment.
heyday, Schoolhouse Rock earned four Emmys from the National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
the immense role of the series in the hearts of children and in
American culture, Bob Dorough never became a household name.
guess a lot of people have heard me and not known it, Dorough
have not been Doroughs only audience. He also has a highly
acclaimed jazz career. His albums include Devil May Care,
Too Much Coffee Man and Right on My Way Home.
was a big fan. Dorough is the only vocalist who ever performed on
his recordings, and Dorough recorded two of his own songs with Davis,
including Blue Xmas.
also wrote lyrics to Charlie Parkers Yardbird Suite,
as a tribute after Parker passed away. During his time in the 1950s
New York jazz scene, he had a rare opportunity to perform with Parker.
His Parker tribute is considered a jazz classic.
his sense of humor about his semi-stardom, Dorough just says, I
was in the right place at the right time it was jumpin.
enamored with jazz stars like Parker, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie
while earning his bachelor of music degree at UNT. Hed served
three years in a Special Services Army Band unit, getting his first
taste of jazz, and he remembers arriving on campus positive that
hed be the hippest person there.
jazz was rampant on the campus, he says. When I got
there, everybody knew what I knew bebop.
all, Dorough remembers the camaraderie. He wrote compositions for
some of the lab bands and was among the many to promote instituting
a jazz program. There was a great jazz clique around the campus,
time someone would send away to New York or Chicago for a new Charlie
Parker record, youd hear about it in the unofficial jazz course
we all shared as students.
great to learn
Dorough traveled to New York to be a part of the jazz scene hed
dreamed of at North Texas.
playing in jam sessions with many of the greats, touring Europe
and the United States and writing. But he knows hell always
be known for Schoolhouse Rock, and its a legacy hes
see a lot of the kids who grew up listening to me in the clubs I
perform in today, he says. Depending on the crowd, Im
bound to get a request for Conjunction Junction.
still performs as a jazz vocalist, and he travels to Texas occasionally
to hear his daughter, Aralee, perform as principal flutist with
the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
life in Mount Bethel, Pa., where he teaches music at a local university.
As the kids
who grew up with Schoolhouse Rock become parents hoping to
share some of the joys of their childhood, the series prospers.
says hes happy that kids are still learning from his work.
Im going to be remembered as anything, he says. Id
like to be remembered as a teacher.