TOM YOHE, A MANHATTAN AD executive, father of six and co-creator of Schoolhouse Rock, fondly recalls the day back in 1975 when his 6-year-old daughter, Suzanne, agreed to narrate a segment of the animated series. From 1973 to 1985, Rock taught snippets of math (“My Hero Zero”), science, grammar and history (“Sufferin’ till Suffrage”) in between Saturday morning kids’ shows. All Suzanne had to do was recite the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. But she kept tripping over “unalienable” until she finally burst into tears.
Today, Suzanne, a Manhattan graphic designer, and her fellow twentysomethings are more likely to be misty-eyed with nostalgia. Rock is on a roll again. In 1992 the original 37 installments returned to ABC. That next year, a pair of gen-Xers who’d grown up on classic ditties like “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here,” “I’m Just a Bill” and “Naughty Number Nine” obtained permission from Yohe and his partner George Newall to turn Rock songs into a stage show, Schoolhouse Rock Live! And early in 1996, Lava/Atlantic records will release a Rock tribute album featuring alternative bands.
No one could be more surprised by Rock’s resurgence than Yohe, now 58 and a vice president at Grey Advertising, and Newall, 61, an ad consultant who lives in Hastings, N.Y. The longtime friends were creative directors at a now-defunct ad agency when Michael Eisner, then vice president of children’s programming at ABC (and now CEO of Disney), asked them to open the Schoolhouse door. Now Yohe and Newall are planning new segments. Last month hundreds of their old fans mobbed Newall for autographs when he showed up at a Live! concert in New York City. “It was unbelievable,” he says. “I felt like Elton John.”