BY MELANIE BUCK –
Many people remember the days of being in school and waking up early, only on Saturdays, to catch their favorite Saturday morning program on television that provided educational entertainment. The specialness of Saturday morning cartoons and afterschool specials seem to be have been lost amongst today’s wide range of cartoon affiliated programming that is available 24/7. However, one theater company is bringing back a favorite program and placing it on a live stage. And, it’s one that has Polk County roots.
Schoolhouse Rocks first aired in 1973 and taught watchers grammar, math, civics, and more in a rockin’ way. With songs such as Conjunction Junction, I’m Just a Bill, and Three is a Magic Number, children learned from a variety of subjects in a fun and interactive way. The show aired on ABC until 1985, then again from 1993-1999, and some additional episodes were made for direct-to-video releases in 2009.
The show was the brainchild of David McCall, who worked at an ad agency. McCall noticed his son was having trouble learning his multiplication tables but he knew all the words to some then-current rock songs. Three is a Magic Number was the first song recorded and it was written and performed by Bob Dorough.
Born Robert Lrod Dorough, he was the oldest of four children and was born on December 12, 1923 in Cherry Hill, Arkansas. Dorough spent a portion of his younger life growing up in Polk County before moving to Texas, where he later graduated high school.
Dorough has done many things in the span of his career including being the music director when Sugar Ray Robinson was learning a tap routine and eventually toured the United States and Canada with him. When on a trip to Paris, France, Robinson went back to boxing and Dorough stayed in France, playing music at a local club.
His first recorded song was Devil May Care and Dorough released a jazz album in 1956 and has since gone on to record more than a dozen records and added some acting to his resume.
In 1971, McCall commissioned Dorough to write and record songs to go along with what would become Schoolhouse Rocks. During the original run of the series, there were 52 songs written for the skits and Dorough is responsible for 22 of those. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Dorough is still in the music business, producing jazz albums and performing around the world. He and his wife were last known to live in Pennsylvania.
To see a new live version of this Polk County talent’s legacy, you can catch Schoolhouse Rock Live! at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre in Little Rock in March, that features an almost all Arkansas cast. For more information on the live show, or to purchase tickets, visit www.ArkansasArtsCenter.org/theatre.