The soulful vocals of Grady Tate, who died this week at the age of 85, made memorable two Schoolhouse Rock segments, “Naughty Number Nine” and “I Got Six”. The songs – both celebrating multiples of three! – were penned by Bob Dorough and originally featured on the Grammy-nominated 1973 album, “Multiplication Rock,” which became the nucleus for the TV series of educational shorts. Tate also performed “Fireworks” by Lynn Ahrens, which was part of the America Rock series.
Tate, who was also a well-known drummer who played across genres with a wide range of artists including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Itzhak Perlman, Lalo Schifrin, Bette Midler, Phoebe Snow and Paul Simon. He was the drummer on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” for six years.
Tate performed in military bands while in the Air Force, and later studied English and drama at what is now North Carolina Central University before graduating in 1959. Before embarking on his illustrious career in jazz, Tate taught in public schools in Washington D.C. prior to moving to New York in 1963, where he joined Quincy Jones’ big band and became a sought-after session drummer. Tate served on the faculty of Howard University from 1989 to 2009, where he taught jazz singing and drumming.