No Neck Blues
:: Mr. Rogers - Nice ::
Yes, I have a Mister Rogers album in my collection, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Why, Fred McFeely Rogers taught me to be proud of my individuality, and probably taught that to you, too.
This album came out in 1968, the same year that MisteRoger’s Neighborhood gained national distribution through the NET, which later became PBS. I was kind of hoping that some of the characters on the album would be played by Mr. Rogers, but real actors were used instead. He did a lot of the voices for the puppets on his television show, you know, the characters in his “Kingdom of Make-Believe.” Those voices were pretty funny, when I think back on it – the haughty voice of the regal King Friday; the crinkly-throated Lady Elaine; the whiny and shy Daniel Tiger; and the “meow-meow-meow” of Henrietta Pussycat. The voices were corny, but I’m not deriding it. The love and respect for this guy transcends the human race, as you can see on this link. And, as a colleague of mine said recently, you can’t really make fun of a guy who created a character named, “Donkey Hodie.”
There’s no story credit given, so I’m not sure if he wrote it or not. Music credits are his and he narrates and treats us to a lot of that trademark xylophone playing. Lyrics were written by Josie Carey, the voice of Hazel Elephant. Carey was the host of the first kid’s show that Mr. Rogers worked on, “The Children’s Corner,” which ran from 1953 through 1961 on Pittsburgh’s WQED. That show is where much of those puppets found their origin.
The story here is that Josephine (Maxine Miller) has a short neck, a very sad state of affairs when you’re a giraffe. She ends up going to the “Westwood School for Growing,” where animals learn to feel good about themselves. We meet an assortment of animals helping each other solve their problems over the course of the album. In this snippet, Josephine meets an extremely shy boy giraffe, J.R. (Don Francks), who overcomes his shyness by helping her with her feelings of inadequacy. Sir Bulldog (Don Brockett) and Hazel Elephant, caretakers of the school, happen upon them and express their pride in the two. After the excerpt, they all join together and sing how glad and thankful they are the way that they are. Can you say, “Happy Thanksgiving,” kids? I knew you could.