Sid Gribetz presents a tribute to pianist, vocalist and songwriter Bob Dorough for five hours this Sunday December 13 on “Jazz Profiles” from 2-7 PM on WKCR radio.
Dorough stretches a wide arc of American music, rooted in the Americana of a Hoagy Carmichael or Johnny Mercer, energized under the counter-cultural fervor and swell of the bebop jazz revolution, a witty and literate songwriter of sophisticated hip pieces, a cultural icon of children’s songs, and a vivid interpreter of the American popular songbook with a unique personal vision. We will explore all aspects of his career during the program.
Bob Dorough was born in Arkansas on December 12, 1923 and raised in rural areas across Arkansas and Texas. He received formal musical education in Plainview Texas High School; drafted in to the Army during World War II, he served with a special services musical unit, and after the war studied in the renowned music program at North Texas State University.
Upon graduating in 1949, Bob moved to New York City and from a cold water East Side flat immersed himself in the modern jazz scene. At one point he was hired by boxer Sugar Ray Robinson to play for his rhythm in training, and then for his dance review, which brought Bob to Paris. While in Paris, Bob teamed with Blossom Dearie and the Blue Stars of France vocalists. Back in the States, Bob recorded his first album for Bethlehem in 1956, “Devil May Care”, which has become a vocalese classic.
The itinerant hipster, Bob was in California in the late ‘50's, with beatniks and Lenny Bruce and great California cool musicians; with Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf in St. Louis; back in New York solicited by Miles Davis to write and record vocals, including the iconinc “Blue Xmas”; teaming along the way with the Dave Frishberg’s, the Dearie’s, Landesman’s et al to develop a style of hip songwriting exemplified at its best by the song “I’m Hip”.
By the late 60's Bob played with hippie bands such as “Spanky and Our Gang” and developed a “pop art” style in the manner of “Love: Webster’s Definition”.
Another chapter in Bob’s career unfolded when he was hired in the early 1970's to write the songs for a new ABC children’s TV special “Schoolhouse Rock”. That then-youthful generation now knows what’s the function of “Conjunction Junction” and lionizes Dorough.
Having settled in the musician’s haven of the Delaware Water Gap/Pocono region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, from that base for many decades now Dorough has toured the world spreading his musical vision with elan and joy, a sparkling pianist and vocalist purveying the richness of jazz and popular music with a sense of verve and swing, and singing his own compositions and the gems of the American Popular Songbook invested with both a homespun twang and an urbane understanding.