The Sound of the 44th Street Portable Flower Factory

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Bob Dorough

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Listen/Download – The 44th St Portable Flower Factory – Let’s Get Together

Listen/Download – The 44th St Portable Flower Factory – The Letter

Greetings all.

I hope the new week finds you all well.

The tunes I bring you today have been culled from one of the many interesting back alleys of musical history.

Though I suspect that there are those among you for whom the name Bob Dorough is an unfamiliar one, it is also just as likely that you know his voice.

Dorough, has been active as a singer, pianist, composer and arranger in the worlds of jazz and pop for more than 60 years.

Though he has crossed paths with artists as diverse as Miles Davis and Spanky and Our Gang, he is surely best known for Schoolhouse Rock.

Dorough was one of the main creative forces behind the beloved series of educational songs/animations that aired on ABC through the 70s and 80s.

He still performs today at the age of 89, and usually slips a Schoolhouse Rock number (or two) into his set list.

It was probably close to 25 years ago (or more) that I picked up an EP by the 44th Street Portable Flower Factory in a long gone record store.

My memory of the specific purchase isn’t clear or very detailed, but I can almost certainly say that I grabbed the record because it looked psychedelic, and featured a number of covers of 60s tunes.

It was only after I got it home and gave it a spin (and actually read the sleeve) that I realized that this was the work of Dorough (along with other moonlighting jazzers like Steve SwallowBill Goodwin, Dave Frishberg and Stu Scharf.

It was several years later (these being those long, dusty, pre-internet years) before I realized that there was more than one record by the group.

Though I’ve never been able to find any information about the genesis of the group, they recorded three EPs that were included with books about contemporary pop music published by Scholastic Books.

The records appear to have been recorded and released between 1970 and 1972 and included covers of songs by the Youngbloods, Donovan, the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Taylor, the Supremes, the Box Tops and Tom Paxton.

The two tracks I include today are from the first two EPs, ‘The 44th Street Portable Flower Factory’ and ‘Rainy Day Garden’ (I have yet to grab a copy of the third record ‘Portable Flower Factory’).

The first is a very groovy, very mellow folk rock version of the Youngbloods’ ‘Let’s Get Together’. While it doesn’t approach the epic, hippy grandeur of the original, it does have a wonderful, blissed out, peaceful vibe to it.

‘The Letter’ appears on the ‘Rainy Day Garden’ EP, and has a slightly funkier feel to it. The guitar work by Scharf is excellent, as is the vocal by Dorough.

As far as I can tell, the third EP ‘Portable Flower Factory’, which was issued in 1972 was the group’s swan song.

There’s next to nothing out there about the group, and I’m thankful that Scholastic at least included credits on the EP sleeves.

The records turn up, if not frequently, with some regularity on Ebay (running from 5 to 20 bucks a pop).

I hope you dig the tunes, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

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5 Comments

  1. That’s why I love this blog! Great post Larry. Tunes I would never have heard otherwise. :)

  2. Thanks Stu!

  3. Dorough was on one of Nellie McKay’s albums a few years ago and I knew instantly it was the singer from Schoolhouse Rock. Regarding Scholastic, when I was in school the teacher would pass out Scholastic flyers with books we could order. As a budding music geek, my favorite was a book about The Byrds with an accompanying e.p. I wish I still had them.

    • I used to have that book, Glenn (without the record).
      I’ll have to look for that Nellie McKaye album. I have one of her early discs.

      • The Nellie McKay album is Obligatory Villagers from 2007. It’s an odd album, even for McKay, more influenced by Broadway than rock or pop but fun to hear once in a while.


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