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Sesame Street, Bob McGrath, and Chicago

The late Sesame Street star got his professional start in Chicago

man and puppet
Bob McGrath on Sesame Street (

Beloved star of Sesame Street, Bob McGrath has died at the age of 90.

McGrath, you might recall, was an original cast member of the children's show Sesame Street, which first aired in 1969. His character, also named Bob, most memorably sang about the “People in Your Neighborhood.”

(Feel free to relive your childhood via the clip below.)

On the show, Bob also gave music lessons to the Muppets and participated in an opera with them. Both of these storylines make sense when you consider McGrath's musical background—that started in Chicago.

A native of Ottawa, IL, McGrath got his professional broadcasting start in Chicago—at the ripe ol' age of nine.

In 1941, McGrath sang on Chicago's Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, where he outperformed Steve Allen, 11 years his senior. Allen, of course, would cement his own fame as the co-creator and first host of The Tonight Show.

Still, for his performance on Morris Sachs, the nine-year-old McGrath won a war bond and a "fancy watch," as the article below puts it.

Later in childhood, McGrath would take home first prize on the televised show Stars of Tomorrow, WGN's so-called "mecca of aspiring amateur talent."And as a teenager, the Irish tenor would win runner-up in the vocal competition of the Chicagoland Music Festival.

The Chicagoland Music Festival held at Soldier Field in Aug. 1948. — Chicago Tribune historical photo

More musical accolades would follow for singer Bob McGrath:

  • The first freshman to become soloist with the University of Michigan's Glee Club

  • A graduate degree from the Manhattan School of Music

  • Time spent at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music

But, of course, Sesame Street would catapult McGrath into musical stardom, of sorts. “It’s a very different kind of fame,” Mr. McGrath said about his time on Sesame Street:

McGrath recalled a little boy in a store who came up to him and took his hand. At first he thought he had been mistaken for the child’s father. When he realized that the boy seemed to think they knew each other, Mr. McGrath asked, “Do you know my name?” “Bob.” “Do you know where I live?” “Sesame Street.” “Do you know any of my other friends on Sesame Street?” "Yep,” the boy answered and promptly gave an example: “Oh, the number 7.”

RIP, Bob McGrath.

Thank you for sharing your musical talent, honed in Chicago, and inviting us to sing about all of the people in our neighborhoods.

newspaper article
Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1963.

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