WOUB-HD to Air ‘Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like’ March 6< < Back to
One afternoon in the mid-’70s, John Butler, an audio engineer for pioneering Pittsburgh public radio station WQED, was making his way home after a day at work. He noticed something peculiar as he made his way home: there were children lined up all up and down the sidewalk near his house.
“Once I got in, I asked my wife where our kids were, and what was going on, and she said that they were outside with the other kids, and that they were all there because I had been on the episode of Mr. Rogers that had aired that day,” said Butler in an interview with WOUB Public Media, some 40-plus years after the fact.
Since 1988, Butler has been on staff at Ohio University, instructing students in the School of Dance, Film, and Theater in the fields of field sound recording and mixing techniques. He’s literally worked all over the world, and one of the coziest places he had the opportunity to work was in the heart of Mr. Fred Roger’s neighborhood. Butler did a great deal of sound work for Rogers, and in the process ended up making a cameo himself in an episode.
Thanks to his relationship with one of America’s favorite public television personalities, Butler said that he’s been inundated with many requests to speak about the man and his show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018.
WOUB-HD will air one of those programs, Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like, on Tuesday, March 6 at 8 p.m. The hour-long documentary features interviews with the likes of Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, Yo-Yo Ma, Esperanza Spalding, and more. The retrospective on the life and legacy of a man who is known best for his incredible warmness, understanding, and desire to sincerely help children was produced by JoAnn Young (who also produced JFK: the Lost Inaugural Ball, among other programs,) and John Paulson (who worked on A Raisin in the Sun Revisited, and other programs,) and features executive producers Ellen Doherty and Kevin Morrison of the Fred Rogers Company. Look out for encore presentations of the program right here.
Butler said that in working with Rogers, he ended up doing all types of things for the show, perhaps most notably utilizing his expertise in field recording to gather various sounds for the show.
“For quite a while I was collecting sounds for the show, in particular I remember collecting nighttime sounds,” said Butler. “The episodes featuring those sounds were intended to make them less scary for children if they woke up in the night and heard them – sounds like crickets and trucks that make a lot of sound or a car backfiring or even chickens.”
Butler said that he occasionally had the opportunity to share ideas with Rogers, once of which was spurred by an incident he witnessed in his own neighborhood.
“There was a child in my neighborhood who was hit by a car when he was riding his bicycle, and when they tried to take him to the hospital, he was scared, he didn’t want to go,” said Butler. “There are a lot of things that I learned about small children from working on the show. That child did not want to go to the hospital because there were many senior citizens in my neighborhood, and he had seen those senior citizens get sick and go to the hospital and not come back. I told Fred about this, and then he did a series of shows about Mr. Rogers going to the hospital, to the dentist, all of these things, to help children not be so afraid of them.”
Butler said that Roger’s office was very plain, just a set of chairs and a popcorn machine – and the door was always open.
“There are several programs that are in production about Fred (Rogers), and it seems like everyone is contacting me to ask what it was like to work with Fred – and, in a word, it was excellent,” said Butler. “Fred was a great person to work with and a great person to know.”