Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Godspeed Bob McGrath

Bob McGrath, who starred on Sesame Street from its very first episode in 1969 to 2017, died on December 4 2022 at the age of 90.

Bob McGrath was born on a farm between Ottawa, Iowa and Grand Ridge, Iowa on June 13 1932. He sang from when he was very young, and began performing in local theatres when he was five years old He was nine years old he won a talent contest at the NBC radio station in Chicago.

While he was attending high school, Bob McGrath had his own radio show. He majored in voice at the University of Michigan School of Music. After graduating from college, he served in the United States Army for two years. During his stint in the service he was attached to the Seventh Army Symphony in Stuttgart, Germany. He received a Master of Music degree at Manhattan School of Music. During this period he taught music appreciation and theory to students at St. David's School in New York City.

In 1961 Bob McGrath became part of the chorus on the show Sing Along with Mitch. He eventually became a featured male soloist on the show. After Sing Along With Mitch was cancelled, Mitch Miller and his company of singers performed at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and then went a 30 date tour of Japan. As a result of this, Bob McGrath had a career in Japan. He performed at the Latin Quarter and Copacabana night clubs in Tokyo, performed concerts throughout the country, and even recorded albums there.

During this period Bob McGrath appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He also appeared on the panel shows To Tell the Truth and  I've Got a Secret, on which his "secret" was his singing career in Japan. He appeared on the game show Dream Girl of  '67 and The Kraft Music Hall in 1967 and 1968 respectively.

Bob McGrath was cast on Sesame Street after he met an old fraternity brother, David Connell, by chance. David Connell had worked on the children's show Captain Kangaroo when he left to join the newly formed Children's Television Workshop as a vice president in charge of production. He asked Bob McGrath to audition for a new show they had planned, Sesame Street. Bob McGrath would remain on the show for 47 years and would continue to appear at live Sesame Street events for some time after that.

There can be no doubt that Bob McGrath was responsible for much of the success of Sesame Street. He was a gifted tenor who had a way with songs. He also had a gentle demeanour that was perfectly suited to a children's show. For many children he may well have seemed more like a kindly neighbour than a television personality. Indeed, for many Sesame Street may not seem possible without Bob McGrath.