Country Artists Join Mister Rogers Tribute

Album Will Contain Only Songs Written by Amiable TV Host

Ricky Skaggs, Crystal Gayle and B. J. Thomas are among the artists who have recorded material for the still-in-progress Songs From the Neighborhood: A Musical Tribute to Mister Rogers. The album is the brainstorm of Grammy-winning producer Dennis Scott, who heads Dennis Scott Productions in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tenn.

Other acts who have recorded tracks for the project are Amy Grant, CeCe Winans, Jon Secada, Maureen McGovern, Bobby Caldwell and John Pizzarelli. Scott says he has at least three more songs to record, including one in which each of the artists involved sings a line and which he describes as “sort of like a ‘We Are the World’ for Mister Rogers.” (“We Are the World” was the 1985 recording and video by 46 superstars to raise money for hunger relief in Africa and the U. S.)

“We have been doing some [film] footage throughout the recording,” Scott reports. “There will be an accompanying DVD on the making of the album. PBS has expressed an interest in putting that on, perhaps, in one of their fundraising blitzes.”

All of the songs included were written by Rogers and initially arranged for his show by jazz pianist John Costa. Costa died in 1996; Rogers in 2003. Scott secured permission to do the album through Rogers’ production company, Family Communications Inc., which will distribute a portion of the album profits to selected charities.

The opening theme, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” is performed on the album by Secada. Thomas does the closing theme, “It’s Such a Good Feeling.”

Scott says he is negotiating to release Songs From the Neighborhood on the Koch label, a point confirmed by a spokeswoman for the company. If the deal is made, the album will likely be issued on the Koch Kids logo, not through the company’s country division. Scott hopes to have the album out in June or by early fall at the latest.

A respected creator of children’s music, Scott and the late puppeteer Jim Henson won a 1981 Grammy — for best recording for children — for producing the Sesame Country album.

Scott notes that while several artists or their managers have rejected his offer to participate in the tribute, others continue to declare their interest. And he’s still taking their calls.

“It ain’t over until they put the shrink wrap on the CD,” he says.