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Tom Evered Remembers Bob Dorough

The music executive shares his memories of the vocalist and pianist (12/12/23 - 4/23/18)

Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough (Photo: Jan Roeder/Enja)

When I went to college, I became a jazz fanatic—this was back when you could get LPs for $3.99—and I saw this guy who looked interesting and I bought his record, a reissue of his first one [Devil May Care], on Bethlehem. I immediately fell in love with his voice, then fell in love with his attitude, and I stayed a fan. That, of course, was Bob Dorough.

After college I went into the music business, working at EMI/Blue Note under Bruce Lundvall. Bruce got a phone call one day from someone who had been given my name as a Bob Dorough fan, and said that Bob had ideas for a record and was looking for a deal. Bruce walked into my office and said, “I just heard from Bob Dorough. You don’t want to sign him, do you?” I said, “Absolutely, I want to sign him! I love Bob Dorough!”

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Within a couple of weeks we had him, and he started to work on [1997’s] Right on My Way Home and made three albums for us. It was great to be able to do something for somebody like that after admiring him for so long, and those Blue Note records were some of the best of his career, and he was thrilled with the opportunity and knew exactly what he wanted.

Bob was a marvelous guy: one of the nicest, most talented people I’ve ever worked with. He had a lifetime of experience to write, sing, and play about, but also to talk about. There were great stories about living hand-to-mouth as a young piano player in New York—the classic story of the country boy comin’ to the big city—and a great sense of humor. We became friends and remained friends long after. Everybody in the office just adored him; he was always so up, positive about everything.

“Wit” is a word that’s just stuck in my mind when I think about Bob. He was a lot deeper than you might give him credit for, in the way he could turn a lyric, and the way he sang them. He was an old-school singer, in that the meaning of each word still meant a lot to him. He really worked hard to get that across when he was singing.

One of the last times I saw him was in the fall of 2012. I went to visit him in the Poconos, where he was living, and we went and saw Nellie McKay at the Deer Head Inn. She was another member of the Bob Dorough fan club—whether they’d interacted before or she’d just fallen for him at first sight, I’m not sure. But just to see him interact with her was a joy. He was so sly and so funny, so hip with his music, and you could see the strength of their connection and the smile on Nellie’s face as she learned just by being around him. I’ll always remember that.

[as told to Michael J. West]

Originally Published