New Haven-born Jerry Bock actually grew up in Flushing, NY, where as a senior in high school, he tasted his first success in musical comedy by writing the score for “My Dream,” an original show.
Four years later, again as a senior, this time at the University of Wisconsin, he scored an original musical comedy, “Big as Life,” based on the legend of Paul Bunyon, and put on by Haresfoot, an all-male college musical society. Bock’s collaborator was a fellow student, Larry Holofcener, who was to become a
co-worker on all future scores through “Mr. Wonderful,” one of Bock’s earlier Broadway triumphs a few years later. “Big as Life,” won first prize in an annual university show competition, sponsored by Broadcast Music, Inc., the performing rights organization.
Returning to New York following college, Bock and Holofcener were fortunate in being selected to audition their skills for Max Liebman, a producer of early music variety shows for television. They passed the test and joined the staff of “The Admiral Broadway Revue,” which later became the incomparable “Your Show of Shows,” starring one of the world’s premiere comedy duos, then and again now, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. The young writers wrote songs for the stars as well as the chorus and the Corps de Ballet.
The pair then moved from one outstanding training ground to another, in which they were resident for three summer seasons at Tamiment in Pennsylvania, where the program called for the preparation of an original one-act weekly revue for 10 consecutive weeks.
During the early 50s period, an introduction to the very well-known music publisher. Tommy Valando, resulted in Bock’s debut Broadway vehicle, the score for “Catch a Star.” This was followed by song contributions to Tallulah Bankhead’s “Ziegfeld Follies,” some pop-styled songs for Sarah Vaughan
and Bob Manning and a score for a Columbia Pictures short, titled “Wonders of Manhattan,” which won an honorable mention at The Cannes Film Festival. This highly frenetic period reached its peak, finally, when Jule Styne assigned the score of “Mr. Wonderful,” which was to star Sammy Davis , Jr., to Jerry Bock, Larry Holofcener, and ultimately to George David Weiss as well. Two songs from that score became standards, “Mr. Wonderful,” and “Too Close for Comfort.”
Two years later, the fruitful team of Bock and Sheldon Hamick was born, yielding eventually, five Broadway show scores in seven years, which without any question stands as a record. The shows included “The Body Beautiful,” “Fiorello” (winner of Broadway’s triple crown: The Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, The New York Drama Critics Circle Award and The Pulitzer Prize in Drama; “Tenderloin,” “She Loves Me,” The Apple Tree,” “The Rothschilds,” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” honored then as winner’ of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, The Page One Award of the American Newspaper Guild, and nine Tony Awards, including the particularly coveted one for “best musical.” Jerry Bock and his longtime partner, Sheldon Harnick, are honored tonight as winners of The Hall of Fame’s Johnny Mercer Award, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the original Broadway opening of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Jerry Bock has also contributed one song per weekly broadcast of “Sing Something Special,” a New York City Board of Education program on WNYE, which culminated in a special children’s album for Golden Records.
Bock is currently represented on Broadway with a major excerpt from Fiddler,” in “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” as well as a highly successful revival off-Broadway of “The Rothschilds.” In celebration of Fiddler’s 25th birthday, a national company has been touring for two years and will open in Japan next autumn. Bock, with Harnick, was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame earlier this year.