Friday, March 28, 2008

Mar 28: Whose the Leader of the Band?

On this day in 1910, Ivan Wesley Dodd was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Disney fans know him better as Jimmie Dodd - the adult leader on the 1950s TV series The Mickey Mouse Club. It's been said that the club was Mickey's, the studio was Walt's ... but the show itself was Jimmie's.
An interest in music came early to young Dodd who began playing banjo and guitar as a small boy. Upon graduating from high school, he attended a few colleges such as the University of Cincinnati and then the Conservatory of Music (but unfortunately never graduated from either). At this time he also became interested in acting and dance.
In 1933 he got his first real job playing and singing on a local radio station. From that job came others and he soon found himself touring with the Louis Prima Orchestra. The tour brought Dodd to California where his next break was a part in Paramount's 1940 film Those Were the Days. That same year he married a dancer named Ruth and the two joined USO tours entertaining the troops in Africa and Asia during World War II. (A weak heart prohibited Dodd from joining the military.)
Contacts he made while overseas led him to more film work and even some appearances on a new medium called television. Dodd's friend Bill Justice (an animator at Disney) recommended him to Walt as a songwriter. He was assigned to write songs for cartoons and the Disneyland TV series. When The Mickey Mouse Club was being prepared, Dodd was again recommended to Walt as the show's host.
Dodd also wrote the Mickey Mouse Club March and such tunes as We Are the Merry Mouseketeers, Today is Tuesday, and Here Comes the Circus. He even helped develop storyboards for the show's segments and had a hand in casting the children. But ultimately it was his on-camera performances that ensured the show's success. Dodd's short sermons & advice on character-building, safety, and common-sense became an intricate part of The Mickey Mouse Club. He would usually end each program with the saying:
"Why? Because we like you."

Click HERE for more March 28 Disney history.

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