Bob Dorough, 94, RIP

Arkansas native played with Miles Davis and was the musical spark behind Schoolhouse Rock.

Alita Mantels, secretary of the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation, described Dorough as a jazz triple threat.

"He wasn't just a pianist. He wasn't just a composer. He wasn't just a vocalist. He was all three simultaneously, equally proficient and unique."

Born Dec. 12, 1923, in Cherry Hill near Mena to Robert Lee Dorough and Alma Audrey Lewis, Dorough moved with his family to Plainview, Texas, in 1934, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. It was while playing with the high school band there that he fell in love with music.

"There was something about the ensemble, a lot of kids playing different horns, and it all fit like a glove when it was good," he said in a 2017 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette interview. "I said to my parents, 'I'm going to be a musician.'"

Dorough attended Texas Tech University for three years and was drafted into the Army in 1943, where he performed in the military Special Services band. After being discharged in 1945, he earned a bachelor's degree in music from North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas).

He moved to New York to pursue a master's degree from Columbia University but dropped out and went to work as a pianist.

While working as a union musician playing for classes at a tap-dance studio, he met boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who had left the ring for a musical career. Dorough became Robinson's musical director and toured with the ex-champ until 1954.

His first full-length album, Devil May Care, was released in 1956. The title cut was later covered by his friend Miles Davis. Dorough and his distinctive vocals would also appear on "Nothing Like You," a track from Davis' 1962 album Sorcerer.

In 1971, Dorough was commissioned by an advertising agency to set the multiplication tables to music for the 1973 album Multiplication Rock. The record inspired the animated Schoolhouse Rock series. Along with working as musical director, Dorough wrote 22 of the 52 songs featured in the cartoons, according to the Arkansas history encyclopedia.

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