That request was not uncommon. Some of the people I have interviewed over the years prefer being interviewed by e-mail because they have difficulty hearing over the phone or want to take time to research their answers or just want to be careful about how they respond
Didier and I have both learned to be patient in such situations but every few months to gently prod again since the request may have slipped under the radar. Several months ago, Grady wrote that he was sorry but that he would be unable to complete the interview. He gave no reason.
Since he was to be a guest of honor at a special banquet for the Orlando World Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club in December 2012 along with other former Mouseketeers like Tommy, Doreen, Sherry and Cubby, it was arranged that I would do the rest of the interview in person with him at the event.
However, the first part of the interview about his time as a Mouseketeer was finished and I have edited it here. The rest of the interview would have covered his other work for Disney from special events over the years to the original music he composed for several Disney projects including three original Princess albums
Born in San Diego, California on June 8,1944, Don Grady (born Don Agrati) grew up in Lafayette, California and was selected in 1957 as a Mouseketeer on the third season of the original Mickey Mouse Club television show. After the show, Grady appeared in several television shows, eventually becoming one of the leads in the popular and long running My Three Sons.
He returned to his Disney roots in 2001, composing music for many Disney special projects including supplemental material for thirty Disney DVDs like the Special Platinum Edition editions of The Emperor's New Groove, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Jungle Book.
Other Disney highlights were a new Winnie the Pooh theme, songs for Disney's Magic English, scoring game animations, and the first original Princess songs in fifty years, The Princess Tea Party Album and The Princess Christmas Album, co-written with multi-platinum lyricist, Marty Panzer. The Princess Birthday Party Album will be released soon.
Jim Korkis: What was it about the Mickey Mouse Club that you enjoyed before you became a part of it?
JK: How did you get the chance to audition for the MMC?
DG: My dance teacher, Pearl Kay, knew about the audition. She sent me and my dance partner, Terry Hooper, to the Cow Palace in San Francisco for the cattle call. Yes, it was a cattle call at the Cow Palace! There were over 500 kids auditioning.it was the most kid performers I'd ever seen. Terry and I were twelve years old and we did a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers song and dance, don't remember which one.maybe it was S'Wonderful. I also did a few solo things, played a few musical instruments and did an impersonation of Johnny Ray's song Cry. They picked two of the 500 hundred. Me and a boy named Buster. What are the odds? I feel very fortunate about it.
DG: I remember seeing Walt sitting there with a few others, Sidney Miller was one, director of the MMC. He was Donald O'Connor's side kick. I wasn't so interested in Walt; I was concentrating on my performance. But when half a dozen of the Mice came through the room, including Annette, I couldn't believe it! To see them in person was amazing. Walt went over to Buster and his dad and complimented them on a great audition. He only glanced over at my mother and me and said "Thank you." We all thought Buster was a shoe-in. It turns out Buster was a foil. They were interested in me but wanted to make sure I could handle someone else getting the recognition.since I would be coming into the already-famous Mice club. We found this out later through the casting director.
JK: How often did Walt visit the set?
JK: Reportedly the girls in the show thought you were cute?
DG: The first time I knew I was really welcomed in the Club was when several of the girls came over to me. One of them was Annette and she kissed me on the forehead. This is the kind of thing you never forget! I remember where on the set I was standing. She said something to me, but I can't recall what it was.I was just basking in the kiss. But I had a crush on Mouse Karen.
JK: What was it was like being the "plug in" Mouse for Talent Round Up Day?
DG: It was great. I got to play various musical instruments and sing with different accents. One time I'd be a Japanese emissary, and another a Mexican balladeer. I remember the lyric: "You put accent on the wrong syllable, that's how you sing calypso."
DG: 9am-5pm with three hours of school in the trailer. You were constantly being pulled out of school (to my heart's content) to learn a new number, get a wardrobe fitting, or shoot a scene. On Saturdays we'd do several live performance shows at Disneyland, preceded by marching down Main Street with the Main Street Band. An incredible thrill for a twelve year old.
JK: Who were some of the adults you worked with that stood out in your memory?
JK: Did you get to keep your sweatshirt and ears when the show was cancelled?
DG: There's always been this rumor that we got to keep our sweatshirt and ears. I don't know about the other Mice, but I didn't get mine. The wardrobe department was obsessive about collecting the ears, always reminding us how expensive they were. So they at least could've given me the sweatshirt!
DG: I don't remember the show ending. I did a bit part on "Spin and Marty" and that kept me busy. Disney casting picked me and Lynn Ready to do bit parts on "Spin and Marty". I loved all the location shots, the horses, the catered food, the outdoors. It was the setting for the many westerns I would later do. Being a Mouse didn't help me get the following acting jobs.that was a different arena. But of course, being a Mouse put me in the town where I could go out for acting jobs.
JK: You worked with Tim Considine on the "Spin and Marty" serial for the Mickey Mouse Club and also on the My Three Sons television series. What was Tim like?
JK: Also on My Three Sons was Fred MacMurray. What was he like?
DG: Fred was rather shy actually, and he lived up to his reputation as being a little stingy with his money. He tells this Disneyland story: He used to play great "heavy" roles, until he played the heavy in the movie The Apartment He was at Disneyland with his wife, June, and twin daughters when a woman came up to him and said, "I used to take my family to see your movies, until we saw you in The Apartment. You were a horrible person in that movie." At that point, the woman actually swung her purse at Fred. That was the last heavy he ever played. I know he enjoyed doing the "Flubber" movies, but Fred didn't talk much, unless it was about fly fishing.
DG: When the Mouseketeers were cancelled I was put into a public Junior High. The kids started calling me "Mouse". I was short for my age, and sensitive, and I was constantly getting into fights. My parents switched me to another school. One day I walked into the Cafeteria and the whole room broke out singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. I was ready for it this time. I flashed the room a big smile. They broke out in applause. I had a great time at that school.
JK: You met your wife, Ginny, at Disneyland. (He married Virginia "Ginny" Lewsader in 1985 and they had two children.)
The gag was we have this dance competition, the younger Mice doing the moon walk, etc., and the older Mice (Mouse Sharon and me) doing the jitterbug.and the older Mice outlast the younger ones. I got the gig because Sharon's partner, Mouseketeer Bobby, was on a Lawrence Welk tour. So once again, I was a fill in.
On our first date, Ginny and I went up to the Griffith Park Observatory, and outside on the cement walk we had our own competition trading time steps, a tap-dancing term. I was a little better...OR, she let me win. After three dates Disney sent her to perform for six months in Tokyo, Disneyland. We wrote letters back and forth, getting to know each other without the physical complications. It was a wonderful courtship. That's when I fell in love with her.