“Thank You, Mister Rogers” is a new album celebrating the life of Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s show host behind the iconic children’s public television program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” A soft spoken and gentle soul, Mister Rogers made a name for himself hosting a children’s show that taught gentle lessons about life, kindness, cooing with emotions, and more.
To commemorate Fred Rogers’ remarkable life and contributions to society, an album titled “Thank You, Mister Rogers: Music & Memories” is forthcoming on October 25th. It will feature songs from the show as well as Mister Roger’s distinctively soothing voice.
Dennis Scott served as the producer of the album and he recently discussed the project via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in producing music and how come you focus on kids’ music?
Dennis Scott (DS): I was a child actor and at age seven I was on Broadway in a Noel Coward musical called “Sailaway.” In between rehearsals I organized the kids in the chorus to perform our kiddie version of the show for the adult actors. I guess you could say that was my first unofficial producing “gig.” Years later I wrote a novelty song called, “Captain Kirk’s Disco TREK” which came to the attention of a well-established children’s record label, Peter Pan Records. They asked me to write some parody lyrics to well-known melodies It was my entree into the world of children’s music. Soon after, I made a connection to The Children’s Television Workshop who, at the time, had a record label of their own called Sesame Street Records. They had an album in the works called “Sesame Country” and offered me the role of producer, provided I could pull together a cast of guest celebrity artists. I was able to get Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle and Tanya Tucker on board to sing with The Muppets. Several of my own compositions were featured on the album.
MM: How did you go about breaking into the music scene?
DS: I was a gigging musician in New York – playing guitar and singing with bands and orchestras. When my Sesame Street album won a Grammy award as Best Children’s Album, that led to other related work. I happily realized that family entertainment was a field that allowed me to put my musical skills to good use.
MM: How did you get involved with “Thank You, Mister Rogers,” and did you watch his show when you were a kid?
DS: I was already in high school when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its TV debut. Years later I heard him singing a lovely tune called “It’s You I Like.” When I found out that Fred was the composer, it inspired me to produce a newly arranged collection of his songs called, “Songs from the Neighborhood – The Music of Mister Rogers.” It was something that had never been done before and featured artists like Amy Grant, Donna Summer, BJ Thomas, Ricky Skaggs, Crystal Gayle, Roberta Flack and others singing Fred’s songs. With the recent Fred Rogers documentary and the upcoming Tom Hanks film, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the music of Mister Rogers with a new album that honors his work. It won a Grammy in 2006.
MM: What songs are on the album and what is most striking about Fred Roger’s songwriting skills?
DS: People may think that Fred Rogers’ songs are simple because they were written with children in mind. But they are so much more. In fact, some are quite musically complex and challenging. His song, “When the Day Turns Into Night” could easily pass for a contemporary love song. Lyrically, Fred’s writing features his clever use of words and confirms that he really understands the craft of songwriting.
MM: Which song is your personal favorite and why?
DS: That’s a tough question. I like them all for different reasons. As a producer, I’m very pleased with our new version of “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” which is re-imagined with a Latin feel, complete with exciting percussion and a horn section. Jaci Velasquez’ vocal really fits the mood. I also enjoyed Kellie Pickler’s version of Fred’s closing TV theme song. “It’s Such a Good Feeling” is performed with a rocking country band (with a cool mandolin part). It’s fun adaptation and I can’t help but think that Fred is smiling to hear Kellie sing his song. The Cowsills version of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” has a 1960s vibe to it. Their voices and personalities are so engaging; it was the perfect way to kick off the album.
MM: What are you most looking forward to regarding the release of the album?
DS: I’m looking forward to hearing people’s reactions to these new treatments of Fred Rogers songs. Music was so important to Fred. I am hopeful that with the recent rebirth of interest in Mister Rogers, this album will help focus some of that attention on his wonderful songs. I feel honored to be able to play in Fred’s neighborhood.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future of your career?
DS: I don’t ask for anything more than what I do now – that is to continue to write and produce quality songs and work on interesting and uplifting projects. I am also a big of Beatles music and have my own tribute band called The WannaBeatles. And we were nominated for a Grammy. It certainly doesn’t get better than that. So, I hope to keep making music on stage and in the studio for a long time to come.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
DS: November is “Thank You Mister Rogers Month” and I’d like to invite your readers to help spread Fred’s message of love by being kind to each other. Folks can simply go to the website to send their messages: www.thankyoumisterrogers.com. The final song on my album is one that I wrote to express what so many of us would like to say to Fred, “Thank You for Being You.”
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To learn more, visit the album’s official website.
Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!