Bob Dorough – Three Is a Magic Number


Mr. Bob Dorough


Listen -Three Is a Magic Number – MP3″

Greetings all.

This post comes to you a little earlier than normal, due to the fact that we here at the Funky16Corners compound are flying the distress flag. All last week the little Corners were under siege from some rogue virus that prevented the stomach from retaining its contents (if you kow what I mean, and I think you spew, I mean do…), and last night my lovely wife herself succumbed and took to her (near) deathbed, which leave me and the boys here in the living room, me with my coffee, them with their toys (they’re feeling better, thank you Jeebus) and that makes three, and as you all know, that’s a magic number.
If you aren’t hip to the magical oeuvre of Bob Dorough, as it spans 60 years of the musical landscape, then you ought to get familiar. However, as today’s selection is likely to illustrate, you probably already are (familiar) and didn’t even know it.
Dorough – to borrow a phrase from those Eurotrash characters on Saturday Night Live – is a GENNYUS. Though he’s sometimes gotten short shrift from some moldy fig types in the world of jazz, on account of he is, how do you say, unconventional, I come here to testify to the fact that he has been, and continues to be one of the real sources of pure musical joy, something he brings to everything he touches.
Now I must admit that to really do justice to the man and his music the issue must be addressed at great length (which I may very well do sometime soon, as I just laid a new cornerstone in my collection of Dorough rarities), but to wrap it all up in paragraph form, since the 50’s Bob Dorough has recorded many albums of his own (all good) and worked incognito with the 44th Street Flower Factory, Schoolhouse Rock and as the First Hippie, and in the background (along with his pal Stu Scharf) with Spanky and Our Gang, Alzo & Udine and many others, not to mention his appearance as one of the very few vocalists to record with Miles Davis.
Like Savoire Faire he is EVERYWHERE, and wherever he goes he leaves behind him a trail of wonderfulness, like some kind of hip bodhisattva. If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch him in a live setting, I’d suggest you do so, as he is hovering in the vicinity of 80 (though a very spry and groovy octogenarian).
One of the many stops on the Bob Dorough Express – and for many the most notable – was his early-70’s work on the animated educational series, Schoolhouse Rock. It was in that context, that Dorough, along with Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg, Jack Sheldon, Grady Tate and others, created a masterpiece of subversive mathematical, grammatical and historical vignettes that drilled deeply into the psyches of kids growing up in the 70’s (and far beyond).
Of the different sub-series in the Schoolhouse Rock cycle, perhaps the best remembered is Multiplication Rock, in which Bob and his pals whipped a little numerical magic on all of us, with the counting, and the multiplying and such to the point where 35 years down the line we’re still singing the songs he helped create.
One of the finest of these was ‘Three Is a Magic Number’. If this sounds familiar for reasons other than having heard the actual song, it may be because no less a group than De La Soul sampled the track for their own ‘The Magic Number’. I mention the sample because like, how could I not, but this tune is no mere sample fodder.
Therein, you get Bob’s magic voice, some swinging drums, electric piano (probably Bob again), kalimba (always cool) and those mystical lyrics, which I’ve been singing to my sons since they dropped into this world.
It’s a groove of the best kind, where there are treats for your ears, your head and your heart.
I hope you dig it.


PS If UK Psyche is a bag you’re in, fall by Iron Leg for a new podcast

13 Responses to “Bob Dorough – Three Is a Magic Number”

  1. Tony C Says:

    This is an interesting one Larry, I like it.
    Thanks Tony.

  2. tafkajp Says:

    Love all the school house rock stuff, but hadn’t heard any in ages. Thanks!

  3. Naughty Number Nine Says:

    Let me tell you something about Bob Dorough. His melodies and musicianship helped make me the musician I am today, and gives me something to pass onto my kids (first one due in May!) and I lay down the gauntlet at the feet of anyone alive today–if you can create HALF the love and happiness that this man mumbles before breakfast, then you are a truly evolved human.

    …..yeah, he’s a swell guy alright.

  4. Vincent the Soul Chef Says:

    I knew the LP existed, but I had no clue as to where. Is it easy to find, hopefully not just on eBay cross my fingers… I do have the privilege of owning all 47 of the Schoolhouse Rock vignettes on DVD though, even the bad ones that were made in the 80s. We all have our personal favourites, mine is “Verb” done by Grady Tate if I’m not mistaken. Keep on schoolin’ the kids my friend!

    Peace and blessings.

  5. funky16corners Says:

    “Verrbbbbbb! That’s what’s happenin’!!!”

    Yo Vincent
    The LP isn’t cheap, but it’s not a killer either (I got mine for around $20), and is well worth having. As far as I can tell there are not LPs for Grammar Rock or the history vignettes. We have the DVDs (which Miles loves!) and I’ve had the Schoolhouse Rock boxed set, which I probably picked up over ten years ago, which comes in a package shaped like a canvas loose leaf binder, includes all the music (including some fo ‘Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips’ which I do not remember at all) and a couple of tracks from the ‘Schoolhouse Rock Rocks’ tribute (Lemonheads and a few others).
    It’s amazing what a storehouse of Dorough-related hipster stuff it is, with Blossom Dearie, David Frishberg and Jack Sheldon (who I remember as the trumpeter/comic foil in Merv Griffin’s band).
    Great stuff all around.

  6. langdonauger Says:

    Were the Schoolhouse Rock songs never put on 45? It would be really cool if someone could repress at least this track. The Blind Melon version of this song is very groovy too…can’t find THAT on 45 though either : (

  7. funky16corners Says:

    I have a vague recollection of having seen something on 45, but I remember that it was on an oddball label (which made me question if it was actually an OG Schoolhouse Rock recording) and was so hashed beyond belief that I didn’t buy it.

  8. maxwell Says:

    This song is fantastic. And my favorite number is actually three. Whoa!

  9. Vincent the Soul Chef Says:

    I saw a copy of “Three Ring Government” on 45 at the Guru’s spot. I think the label was actually Schoolhouse Rock but I won’t swear to it. You probably saw the same one I did when you came to Baltimore, Larry.

  10. Aspring Diva Says:

    Schoolhouse Rockers who are also fans of Jack Sheldon’s contributions to this wonderful music, listen up! Jack is the subject of a new documentary which premieres March 5 in LA. “Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon” may be showing up at film festivals near you very soon. Check out the website, or Jack’s site
    By the way – my daughter teaches 4th grade in a school populated by children of farmworkers and Naval personnel, and all the kids know Schoolhouse Rock!

  11. funky16corners Says:

    I believe you may be right.

    I’ll watch for that Sheldon doc on video. I remember watching him on Merv when I was a kid, and then listening to him play years later when I started to get into West Coast jazz. He also tells some great stories in the Chet Baker doc ‘Lets Get Lost’

  12. Sammystyles Says:

    Bob Dorough is ALWAYS a welcome sight on the 16 Corners. It sounds like you’ve been saving some up, getting ready to unleash some fury. Unleash it, Larry. Unleash it.

    -S (and I know this is a late post, but I’m just getting back to the site after an involuntary hiatus)

  13. funky16corners Says:

    Follow the link to my guest mix over at Fufu Stew. I included a very interesting Dorough rarity therein.

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