Remembering 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Jazz Musician Bob Dorough Dorough, who died Monday, spoke with Terry Gross in 1982 and 1996. The kids who learned from his fun, educational songs probably didn't know what a great jazz pianist, singer and songwriter he was.
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Remembering 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Jazz Musician Bob Dorough

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Remembering 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Jazz Musician Bob Dorough

Remembering 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Jazz Musician Bob Dorough

Remembering 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Jazz Musician Bob Dorough

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/606367479/606540115" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Dorough, who died Monday, spoke with Terry Gross in 1982 and 1996. The kids who learned from his fun, educational songs probably didn't know what a great jazz pianist, singer and songwriter he was.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Bob Dorough, the jazz composer, pianist and singer best known for educating a generation of American kids with his entertaining songs died Monday at his home in Mount Bethel, Pa. He was 94. Dorough was a musical director for "Schoolhouse Rock!" - a series of clever animated music videos that taught kids about grammar, math and history. They were broadcast in between Saturday morning cartoons from 1973 to '85. Dorough wrote and sang many of the songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

BOB DOROUGH: (Singing) Now, everybody try to find a good hiding place. This old tree is going to be the base. I'm going to close my eyes and hide my face and count to a hundred by fives. Ready? Go. Five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100 - ready or not, here I come. Apple, peaches, pumpkin pie - who's not ready? Holler I. Oh, all right. I'll count it again, but you'd better get hid, kid. Here we go. Five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120 - there. A bushel of wheat and a bushel of rye - who's not hid? Holler I. Twenty nickels makes a dollar. I didn't hear anybody holler. Five times 20 is 100. Everybody got to be hid. All eyes open, here I come.

Multiplying by five is a little like counting by five. In fact, if you counted along on your fingers...

DAVIES: Dorough grew up in Texas and got his early musical training in an army band in World War II. He went to New York and began an eclectic career that included collaborations with Miles Davis, Dave Frishberg, Hoagy Carmichael, the Fugs and Art Garfunkel. We're going to listen to parts of two appearances by Dorough on FRESH AIR. First, we'll hear him speaking with Terry and performing in our studio in 1982, when FRESH AIR was a live, local radio show in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DOROUGH: (Playing piano, singing, vocalizing) Yeah, baby, you want some of my sounds? I like them sounds. Well, I'm hip. I'm no square. I'm alert. I'm awake. I'm aware. I am always on the scene, making the rounds, digging the sounds. I read Playboy magazine. I'm so hip. Well, I'm dig. I'm in step. When it was hip to be hep, I was hep. I don't blow, but I'm a fan. Look at me swing, ring-a-ding-ding, yeah. I even call my girlfriend man. I'm so hip.

Now, every Saturday night, with my suit buttoned tight and my suedes on, I get my kicks digging those arty French flicks with my shades on, whoa, 'cause I'm too much. I'm a gas. I am anything but middle class. When I hang around the band, I'm popping my thumbs, digging the drums. Well, the squares don't seem to understand why I flip. They're not hip like I'm hip. Well, I'm hip. I'm alive. I enjoy any joint where there's jive. I'm on top of every trend. Look at me go, vo-dee-o-do. Bobby Dylan, he knows my friend, we're so hip, hanging out in Malibu.

Well, I'm hip but not weird. Like, you notice I don't wear a beard. Beards were in, but now they're out. They had their day, now they're passe. Just ask me if you in doubt 'cause I'm hip. Now, I'm deep - deep into Zen, meditation and macrobiotics. And just as soon as I can, I intend to get into narcotics - I've got to try some of that stuff - 'cause I'm cool - cool as a cuke. I'm a card. I'm a cat. I'm a kook. I get so much out of life - really, I do, skoo-ba-dee-boo. One more time playing "Mack The Knife," let her rip. I may flip. But I'm hip. (Scatting).

TERRY GROSS, BYLINE: I really love that tune.

DOROUGH: It's not the real me. You know that.

GROSS: (Laughter) Do you know a lot of people like that, who are trying to - try to out-hip the musicians and try to out-hip everyone else at the club?

DOROUGH: Sure - out in the audience, you mean?

GROSS: Uh-huh.

DOROUGH: Oh yeah, yeah. Sure.

GROSS: And...

DOROUGH: They're the ones that come out and say, you know, let's play "Mack The Knife."

GROSS: (Laughter) That's your big hit song. I've - last week, I was in New York, and I heard Blossom Dearie sing it. Well, Dave Frishberg, the co-author of it, has a recording of it. There's an instrumental version with Ed Bickert of it. I don't know if you've heard that one.

DOROUGH: No, I didn't know that.

GROSS: Yeah, we'll play it for you after the show.

DOROUGH: Oh, great. Well, you know, when Dave gave me the lyric, he said, oh, this is nothing. It's just an old lyric. I don't think it'll make a song. And, of course, I was very enthused. I said, oh, this is great. Let me take it home. I came back two days later with that melody - or nonmelody. And - but actually, we both thought, you know, it's a very topical - the jokes will get old, and it'll never go much further than two or three years.

GROSS: Nah (laughter).

DOROUGH: I guess I was the first to record it, and Blossom was the second, and Dave was the third. But it seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Everybody wants a copy, and I guess an old - there's nothing like an old joke if you tell it right, huh?

GROSS: Well, it's a great tune. Can you do another one of your familiar tunes for us?

DOROUGH: How about the love song I like so much - "But For Now?"

GROSS: Let's hear it.

DOROUGH: This is for one of those marriages that, you know, get off to a sudden start where the two victims hardly know each other (laughter). I actually wrote it for my wife. And we've done quite well. We're still together after 20 - who counts? - several years. But this was written for Corine. It's called "But For Now."

(Singing, playing piano) Sure, I know you'd like to have me talk about my future and a million words or so to fill you in about my past. Have I sisters or a brother? When's my birthday? How's my mother? Well, my dear, in time, I'll answer all those things you ask. But for now, let me say I love you. Nothing more seems important somehow. And tomorrow can wait, come whatever. Let me love you forever but right now. Some fine day when we go walking, we'll take time for idle talking, sharing every secret as we watch each other smile.

(Singing) I hold your hand. You hold my hand. We'll say things we never had planned. And we'll get to know each other in a little while. But for now, let me say I love you. Later on, there'll be time for so much more. But for now, meaning now and forever, let me kiss you, my darling, then once more, once more. But for now, I'll just say I love you. Later on, I must know much more of you. But for now, here and now, how I love you. As you are in my arms, how I love you. I love you. I love you.

GROSS: That's a really beautiful song.

DOROUGH: Thank you.

DAVIES: We're listening back to a performance recorded in 1982 by jazz pianist, singer and songwriter Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at the age of 94. His late wife Corine, for whom he wrote the song we just heard, died in 1986. Bob Dorough remarried and is survived by his wife Sally Shanley. We send our condolences to his family and friends. We'll hear more of Dorough's performance after a break, and he'll tell us about writing songs for "Schoolhouse Rock!" This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOB DOROUGH'S "HODGES")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering jazz pianist, singer and songwriter Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at the age of 94. Let's get back to his concert broadcast live in 1982, when Terry Gross hosted a local version of FRESH AIR here in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GROSS: When you write, what comes first for you - the music or the lyrics?

DOROUGH: Well, I've had the experience - the pleasure, I might say - of functioning as a lyricist for other people and also functioning as a composer for lyricists. So when that happens, they tend to come simultaneously.

GROSS: Well, when you get somebody else's lyrics, how do you write the music around it?

DOROUGH: Well, I just put the lyric up on the piano, and it just rolls out. That's easy. I've had the pleasure of writing with Fran Landesman a number of times, and her lyrics are actually song lyrics. Some lyric writers are maybe poets or dreamers, but they don't know much about the structure. Her lyrics are always songs. They really are. I mean, she just has that knack. She's written a great deal, you know, with Tommy Wolf before I met her. And so I put her lyric on the piano, and it just practically pours out.

I think my favorite right now is "Nothing Like You." That's the one that I recorded with Miles once. And it's on my live album. But here, like "I'm Hip" - I think this is going to be eventually a hit as - (laughter). It'll take a while, but a lot of musicians around the country have asked me for lead sheets because they know it from it having been on the "Sorcerer" album. And it's called "Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before" and then, parentheses, "An Extravagant Love Song" - lyrics by Fran Landesman.

DAVIES: That's Bob Dorough. Here's his 1962 recording of "Nothing Like You" on the Miles Davis album "Sorcerer."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOTHING LIKE YOU")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Nothing like you has ever been seen before. Nothing like you existed in days of yore. Never were lips so kissable. Never were eyes so bright. I can't believe it's possible that you bring me such delight. Nothing can match the rapture of your embrace. Nothing can catch the magic that's in your face. You’re like a dream come true, something completely new. Nothing like you has ever been seen before. Nothing like you - nothing like you has ever been mine before.

(Singing) Kisses I've known, but none so divine before. No one has your magnificence. Who can describe your charms? I'd like to make my residence forever in your arms. I never knew how wonderful life could be. No one but you could ever do this to me. Call me a fool in love - one thing I'm certain of. Nothing like you has ever been seen before. Nothing like you - nothing like you - nothing like you has ever been seen before. You're like a dream come true...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GROSS: Bob, how did you develop your singing style? How did you know, for instance, that you weren't a blues shouter or someone who could really belt out a song?

DOROUGH: Well, I knew that because I don't have a loud voice, I don't think. I think of the blues shouters as all being, you know, the guys that came up from the field holler - you know what a field holler is, right? That's someone that can yell across three acres and say, dinner's ready. You know, or come in - or bring in those cows - or something like that. And that's how the blues were born. I mean, a field shout. But I think probably when I heard Nat King Cole or someone singing along at the piano - like in Nat's early style before he became a standup romantic balladeer - I thought, well, that's my style of singing, you know, where you just sort of get a nice little tempo, and you sing (scat singing). You know, like that style. Although I was influenced by Louis Armstrong, but he's not exactly what you would call a blues shouter, either.

GROSS: You play a lot of your own tunes, but you also play tunes by other composers. When you're adding someone's tune - a song that was written by somebody else, what do you look for in it before deciding to add it to your repertoire?

DOROUGH: The lyric is the first thing that gets me. It has to appeal to my, I guess, subconscious tastes. A lot of pop songs I want to sing, but I never sing them until they're dead (laughter). You know, like when "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" came out, I thought, oh, that's a great song. But everybody was singing it in every bar and every corner. So I just laid back about three years, and then I learned it. I put it in my repertoire. I sing it on rainy nights - if you're ever walking out of the rain to hear me playing somewhere. It's a groovy kind of song. But when they're popular, you can't - there are so many people pawing over the song, as it were. It's hard to get a new approach.

GROSS: Yeah. Pop - those songs go through periods where they sound like real cliches. And then you let them sit for a while.

DOROUGH: Hey, that's not bad.

GROSS: They freshen up again.

DOROUGH: You say, hey, that's not bad. Yeah, sometimes I fall in love with a song years later. But I essentially fallen in love with songs I want to sing. I always try to add something of my own. I never attempt to, you know, duplicate someone's performance. I have to re-ingest it and all of that, re-create it.

GROSS: Can you do another one of your songs for us?

DOROUGH: Sure. This is sort of a - this is not my lyric. I'm going to have to make it mine to ever get anywhere. This is a - sort of a - "Dichotomy," it's called. It's - I think the lady who gave me this lyric is mad woman of Cincinnati, I call her. And, you know, she figures it's my personality. It's true. It's someone who, you know, is on either side of every question, and I can see both views. Her title is "Dichotomy."

(Singing) I live with a positive negative attitude, so nothing really bad ever happens to me. I take the optimistic pessimistic outlook. It's a downright upright dichotomy. I wait for the worst, expect the baddest, so nothing's ever half as bad as that is. I bet only absolutely abysmal. And life gets drab but never quite that dismal. So my lows are kind of high, and my downs are uppercase. And I frown a happy smile on my lucky, (unintelligible) face. And I just try to keep on moving. I won't stop. I'll keep on grooving until I drop with my positive negative attitude.

(Singing) Who lives with a positive negative attitude, subscribes to the pessimistic optimist view? Well, I give myself plenty of longitudinal latitude with an inside outside chance I'll make it through. Wait for the worst. Expect the baddest, so nothing's ever half as bad as that is. Yeah, I bet on the absolutely abysmal, so life gets drab but never quite, quite that dismal. So I'm good at being bad, and I'm slowly living fast. And gloom just makes me glad I've got a future in my past. And I'll just try to keep on grooving. I won't stop. I'll keep on moving until I drop with my positive negative attitude, with my positive negative attitude - until I drop with my positive negative attitude. I won't stop with my positive negative attitude.

DAVIES: That's Bob Dorough recorded in the FRESH AIR studios in 1982. He died on Monday at the age of 94. Dorough was probably best known for the sprightly and hip songs he wrote for "Schoolhouse Rock!" such as "Three Is A Magic Number" and "My Hero, Zero." He'll tell Terry Gross about writing those songs after a short break. And Kevin Whitehead will review "Pops Is Tops," a collection of Louis Armstrong studio recordings. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMPHIS IN JUNE")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Memphis in June - a shady veranda under a Sunday blue sky. Memphis in June - and cousin Amanda is making a rhubarb pie. I can hear the clock inside ticking and tocking. Everything is so peacefully dandy. I can see old granny cross the street there. She's still rocking, watching the neighbors go by. Memphis in June - sweet oleander blowing perfume in the air. Up jumped the moon to make it that much grander.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies sitting in for Terry Gross. We're remembering jazz pianist, singer and composer Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at the age of 94. He was probably most widely known for the hip, fun songs he wrote for "Schoolhouse Rock!," the Saturday morning cartoon series that taught kids about grammar, math and history.

The kids watching "Schoolhouse Rock!" may not have known what a great offbeat jazz singer and writer Bob Dorough was, but his songs stuck in the minds of many rock musicians who grew up watching the series, like those in the bands The Lemonheads and Blind Melon. They covered his songs on the album "Schoolhouse Rocks!" (ph). That album was the occasion for Dorough's 1996 visit to FRESH AIR. He told Terry how the animated series "Schoolhouse Rock!" came about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DOROUGH: Well, let's see. I had met the advertising people who concocted the idea, and my partner Ben Tucker in fact wanted us to write a little advertising music. He's a bass player, Ben Tucker. So one day, this gentleman from McCaffrey & McCall ad agency said, we're looking for a guy to put the multiplication tables to music. And Ben Tucker said, my partner Bob Dorough can do anything. He can put music to anything. Well, let's have him up.

So I went up to meet the president of the agency. And it was his idea. And his name was David B. McCall of McCaffrey & McCall. He said, my little boy can, you know, sing along with Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, but he can't memorize his multiplication tables. So I had the idea, why not put the multiplication tables to rock music and call it multiplication. What do you think? And I said, well, yeah, that's pretty interesting. And he said, well, but don't write down to the kids.

Well, I learned later that he had invited other Broadway songwriters to do this task. And they came up with a more simple, doggerel type of songwriting - writing down, as it were, to children.

GROSS: So when he said, so what do you think, what did you really think?

DOROUGH: I thought, well, yeah, this (laughter) could be, you know, a limited idea.

GROSS: (Laughter).

DOROUGH: But when he added, don't write down to children, the hackles on my neck arose, and I got quite intrigued. And so I agreed to tackle it, and I spent about three weeks before I would let myself write the first song. I thought first, looked in math books. And since I picked my first title, it was called "Three Is A Magic Number." I even looked in magic and occult books for the reasons that three might be a magic number.

GROSS: Did you get anything from those books that you used in the song?

DOROUGH: I did indeed.

GROSS: What'd you get?

DOROUGH: Well, that it was one of the magic numbers and that it was, you know, embodied in certain things like the Trinity, the old sayings - the heart and the brain and the body. Faith, hope and charity. Trinities of sorts. So I got mainly that - trinities. And, of course, I also was an admirer of Buckminster Fuller, so I was thinking of his triangle concept that makes construction so strong.

GROSS: Well, why don't we pause here and listen to your version - the original version - of "Three Is A Magic Number?" Now, did you sing on this one?

DOROUGH: Yes.

GROSS: OK. Why don't we hear it?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Three is a magic number. Yes, it is. It's a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three as a magic number. The past and the present and the future. Faith and hope and charity. The heart and the brain and the body give you three as a magic number.

GROSS: Why don't we hear the Blind Melon version of "Three Is A Magic Number?" That's included on the new CD "Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER")

SHANNON HOON: (Singing) Three - oh, it's a magic number. Yeah, it is. It's the magic number. Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity, you'll get three. It's the magic number. And the past and the present and the future. Faith and hope and charity. And the heart and the brain and the body give you three as a magic number. It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand. And it takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle. And every triangle has three corners. Every triangle has three sides. No more, no less. You don't have to guess when it's three. Can't you see it's a magic number?

GROSS: Now, when the advertising executives asked you to to set the multiplication tables to music, had they already known they could broadcast on ABC TV?

DOROUGH: No, they were thinking of a phonograph recording and a book. The idea of television wasn't remotely in their heads.

GROSS: So how did it get on TV?

DOROUGH: Well after some time of testing the songs and having the product called "Multiplication Rock," they didn't seem to be getting anywhere in the book publishing world. So one of the executives up at McCaffrey and McCall said, you know, one of our clients is ABC Television. I mean, we do their advertising. Why don't we present it to them? And so Mr. Tom Yohe animated it. They did it at their own expense. It's very expensive to animate a three-minute song. And they presented it as an animation film to ABC, at which point, suddenly, we were in that business instead of the book business.

GROSS: Why don't I play "Conjunction Junction?" Tell me about writing this song. Do you remember?

DOROUGH: Well, I must say that my pal George Newall - he's a musician as well as an art advertising director - he's one of the executives. George Newall gave me the title. We were starting "Grammar Rock." And Miss Lynn Ahrens, who's also distinguished herself, writing songs for "Schoolhouse Rock!" - she started out the grammar series. I was still busy with multiplication songs. And she did "A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing." And that was great. But George Newall one day to me said, why don't you tackle this conjunctions? I said, conjunctions? Yeah, those little words. He said, I've got an idea for a title - "Conjunction Junction." I said, great. I'll take it.

So I went home and figured out it was sort of a railroad song hooking up things like the railroad cars. And I made the song, and we went out to Hollywood to record it. And Dave Frishberg had just written his first song for "America Rock" at the same time, "I'm Just A Bill." So we had a super session in LA with Jack Sheldon singing those two songs and me conducting the band and Frishberg playing piano. And we had an all-star jazz band in Hollywood playing "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just A Bill."

GROSS: (Laughter).

DOROUGH: Very exciting.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONJUNCTION JUNCTION")

TERRY MOREL AND MARY SUE BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, what's your function?

JACK SHELDON: (Singing) Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, how's that function?

SHELDON: (Singing) I got three favorite cars that get most of my job done.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, what's their function?

SHELDON: (Singing) I got and, but and or. They'll get you pretty far. And - that's an additive like this and that. But - that's sort of the opposite. Not this but that. And then there's or - O-R - when you have a choice like this or that. And, but and or get you pretty far.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, what's your function?

SHELDON: (Singing) Hooking up two boxcars and making them run right. Milk and honey, bread and butter, peas and rice.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Hey, that's nice.

SHELDON: (Singing) Dirty but happy, digging and scratching and losing your shoe and a button or two. He's poor but honest. Sad but true. Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, what's your function?

SHELDON: (Singing) Hooking up two cars to one when you say something like this choice - either now or later. Or no choice - neither now nor ever.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Hey, that's clever.

SHELDON: (Singing) Eat this or that. Grow thin or fat. Never mind. I wouldn't do that. I'm fat enough now.

MOREL AND BERRY: (Singing) Conjunction junction, what's your function?

SHELDON: (Singing) Hooking up phrases...

GROSS: Do you think most of the people who grew up listening to your songs - do you think that they have any idea that these weren't written and performed by people in advertising agencies or theme houses - that they were written by you, an interesting and eccentric jazz performer. And the other songs, some of the other songs on here, are sung by interesting and eccentric jazz performers.

DOROUGH: Yes. Well, I'm sure they didn't even think about such things. They grew up, and they learned, and they watched. They were a captive audience, one of my partners pointed out - George Newall - because, you know, they were watching Saturday morning cartoons. And suddenly, there would be this little three-minute film. And they got hooked on them. And it actually did them some good. And as we went on in our productions, I kept bringing in some of my buddies from the jazz world. So it was a kind of (laughter) little bit of a underground movement there.

GROSS: Yeah. Well, you brought in Dave Frishberg, the singer and songwriter, and pianist, trumpeter and singer Jack Sheldon, singer Blossom Dearie.

DOROUGH: Yes. Grady Tate, a drummer who sings or a singer who drums. Excuse me, Grady. I didn't mean that (laughter).

DAVIES: That's Bob Dorough speaking with Terry Gross in 1996. He died on Monday at the age of 94. We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOB DOROUGH SONG, "I'VE GOT JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING")

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering jazz pianist, singer and songwriter Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at the age of 94. Let's get back to the interview he recorded with Terry in 1996.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GROSS: What's the difference in the kind of tune that you'd write for when your own jazz songs and for one of the "Schoolhouse Rock!" songs?

DOROUGH: Well, it's more in the beat than the melody. I might do anything for a "Schoolhouse Rock!" song, but, you know, it's more apt to be a pop kind of beat instead of a jazz beat. I will tell you about "Figure Eight." It was a beautiful little melody, sounds like a sonata almost. And I used to play it around my house. And my late wife said, what is that melody? And I said, oh, I'm thinking maybe it'd be an eight - a song about eight. And she said, oh, no, it's too good for "Schoolhouse Rock." And I said, yeah, you're right. And I wrote a different one, and they didn't like it. So in a bit of desperation, I decided to finish it. And I wrote "Figure Eight." And it starts out with this very placid melody. In the middle, it goes into a rock beat where they multiply by eight. But the outside was very dreamy. In fact, we recorded it with a cellist.

GROSS: Would you sing a few lines of "Figure Eight" for us?

DOROUGH: (Singing) Figure eight is double four. Figure four has half of eight. If you skate, you will be great when you can make a figure eight. That's a circle that turns round up on itself.

GROSS: When you were first getting started musically, I mean, you were really deep into Charlie Parker and wanted to emulate him. And you didn't sing very much because you were afraid that singing would seem corny or too commercial to showbiz. And so it wasn't till I think you got to Paris in the '50s for a little bit that you actually started singing a lot.

DOROUGH: Deep down in my heart, I did want to sing. And I didn't do it as much because I also wanted to be a bebop piano player. And, you know, I didn't - I would never say to one of my colleagues, let me sing one (laughter). On the other hand, there were occasions where the band got a job and the boss would say, does anybody in the band sing? And, you know, they'd say, yeah, the piano player will sing. And, you know, I would do "Route 66" or some rhythm tune just to show them that somebody in the band could sing. It was on the Paris job at the Mars Club in Paris that I had full sway and was able to call my own shots. I was the boss. I was working alone mostly, but I would call up the songs I wanted to sing. And I developed my style or my act sort of there.

DAVIES: The late Bob Dorough speaking with Terry Gross in 1996. Earlier in today's show, we heard a concert performance recorded in 1982 at the FRESH AIR studio. Here's how that session ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GROSS: Bob Dorough, I've had such a great time during this hour.

DOROUGH: It's all fine, Terry.

GROSS: It's really wonderful just sitting and hearing you play. It's great. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. And I'm really glad that you were able to play some of your music for us today.

DOROUGH: I don't know a better way to say goodbye (singing) better than cream cheese bagels. It's better than honey on bread. It's better than champagne and pretzels. It's better than breakfast in bed. It's better than chili rellenos. It's better than chocolate eclairs. It's better than hothouse tomatoes. It's better than fresh Bartlett pears, better than dining a la carte or sampling gastronomic art. Better than anything except being in love.

(Singing) It's better than making a million. It's better than being a king. It's better than oil wells or gold mines. It's better than pastures of green. It's better than finding a horseshoe, better than losing your head. It's better than anything ever thought of. It's better than anything ever said, better than singing right out loud or being spotted in a crowd. Better than anything except being in love.

(Singing) It's better than Dizzy - Dizzy, or Yardbird. It's better than Coltrane or Monk. It's better than Jelly Roll Morton, better than Bolden or Bunk. It's better than (scatting) President Lester, better than count, duke or earl. It's better than Billy or Ella. It's better than Sarah or Pura (ph), better than grooving high with Bags or playing those old Scott Joplin rags, better than anything except being in love.

(Singing) It's better than elephants, elephants, elephants dancing, yeah. It's better than clowns on parade. It's better than peanuts, peanuts and popcorn. It's better than pink lemonade. It's better than rides on the subway. It's better than seals blowing horns. It's better than men shot from cannons. It's better than fresh ears of corn, better than balancing on wire or watching tigers jump through fire, better than anything except being in love. It's better than driving around the park or watching fireflies after dark, better than anything except being in love.

DAVIES: Bob Dorough from a 1982 live radio concert. Dorough died last Monday. He was 94. We send our condolences to his family and friends. His performance was recorded by Joyce Lieberman. Coming up, "Pops Is Tops." Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews an album of Louis Armstrong studio recordings. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG'S "EAST OF THE SUN (AND WEST OF THE MOON)")

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