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Singing a new tune // BOBBY GOLDSBORO

Sometimes just hearing the name of an entertainer, a guy you probably haven't even seen in a while, can fill your head with fluffy nostalgia.

Think of this particular name: Bobby Goldsboro.

Big smile, Southern accent, brown hair, acoustic guitar. Already you're back in 1973 sitting in front of the TV listening to Goldsboro sing "And honey I miss you and I'm being good. And, I'd love to be with you if only I could."

For three years he sang to you during his syndicated series. Now you remember him, right? He's the guy who crooned Honey and Watchin' Scotty Grow.

Goldsboro, now 56, has been producing, writing, creating, singing and fishing in Florida for the past 13 years.

Goldsboro returned to his home state from Nashville, where he spent 28 years working on his recording career. He grew up in the North Florida town of Marianna and now lives on a 120-acre ranch in Ocala, so close to a swamp that visitors need a four-wheel drive to get to his place, he says.

Among other things, he has been scoring music for television and movies, writing and playing music for an audio version of a novel and creating a PBS show for children.

The guy has been doing a heck of a lot more than just watching Scotty grow.

His main project for the past few years has been a children's program called The Swamp Critters of Lost Lagoon. Goldsboro writes the scripts and music, plays all the instruments and puts voices to all the characters. He tapes the show at Tampa's WEDU-Ch. 3 studios.

WEDU has been the stomping ground for other children's shows as well. Dudley the Dragon and The Reppies were presented to national PBS stations by WEDU. The Huggabug Club has been filming at the Tampa studios for two years.

"I get up every day, and this sounds like baloney but, and I'm doing exactly what I want to do," Goldsboro said recently while visiting WEDU for a pledge drive appearance. "If I hit the lottery for $100-million nothing would change."

Goldsboro had more than 25 hit singles between 1962 and 1973, which meant he had to dedicate more time to performing than to his first love _ writing.

During the late '70s, he'd gotten to the point where he could do two things at once: perform his hit songs for audiences while simultaneously creating new tunes and lyrics in his head.

"If I'm lying, may lightning hit me if this didn't happen," Goldsboro says. "I couldn't wait for the show to be over so I could go back and write that song. It spooked me."

Even now, when he is focusing on Swamp Critters, Goldsboro is lining up more work. His buddy Burt Reynolds _ the two met 30 years ago while appearing on the Mike Douglas Show _ just asked him to score his new movie, Hunter's Moon. Goldsboro didn't decline.

Professionally, Reynolds and Goldsboro have collaborated on a couple of projects. Goldsboro scored a CBS movie of the week for Reynolds called The Man in Left Field and in 1993 created the theme song for Reynolds' CBS television series, Evening Shade.

"Burt called me and said: "You've got to do me a favor. I just got the People's Choice Award and we won all these other awards and nobody knew what to play when I walked on stage.' So," Goldsboro says, "I wrote the theme song."

Just him and his "Critters'

Goldsboro's pet project, Swamp Critters, airs on WEDU each Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Starting May 5, it will air Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. It's also on WTVT-Ch. 13 Sunday at 11 a.m.

Nationally, it runs on about 80 other PBS stations and will appear on the Learning Channel starting July 4.

It was Goldsboro's choice to put Swamp Critters on a PBS affiliate.

"If I had gone to a network I would have had to have a lot more action on the show," he says. "On the network shows, everything is fast cuts and fast movements. They think that's what kids want to see in this day and age of videogames."

The half-hour series is aimed at children ages 3 to 12 and uses life-size puppets _ more like H.R. Pufnstuf than Kukla, Fran and Ollie _ to teach kids about topics such as saving the environment, welcoming diversity and telling the truth.

Six main animal characters form the band that performs the show's message songs. Each episode incorporates four to six songs. An assortment of more than 100 additional marionettes and hand puppets appear throughout the series.

The music ranges from blues and Dixieland jazz to pop and classical. The show's songs, unlike other preschool television fare, are more sophisticated and contemporary.

"I'm writing the same way I always did," Goldsboro says. "There are a lot of these songs where I guarantee that if you changed the word "critter' to the word "people' they could be on the radio."

More than 100 songs were written for the first two seasons of Swamp Critters, Goldsboro says. "It's music that's on a children's show but it's not children's music. I've never understood talking down to kids and treating them like they're imbeciles. Several shows do that."

Goldsboro has faith that his new TV series will succeed. He already has a solid track record with other children's projects. Goldsboro created six children's books and four animated videos before Swamp Critters. His first effort, a book and later a video called Snuffy the Elf Who Saved Christmas, was written in 1969. One of his most successful animated shows, Easter Egg Mornin', was purchased by the Disney Channel in 1991 and is still airing.

Being an entertainer helped Goldsboro get his second career off the ground. His name was well-known, so publishers and video companies welcomed his ideas. But Goldsboro wanted to keep control of his creations.

Unlike the days when his career was handled by the William Morris Agency, Goldsboro bounded into the children's entertainment business alone.

"I made a decision a long time ago that if I'm going to put my name and reputation on the line, then I want to control it. I don't want somebody speaking and making business deals for me."

When Goldsboro went solo, he meant it. Instead of getting investors to back Swamp Critters, he put up the money.

"The minute somebody puts in money, they think they have the right to say "You know, Barney is so successful why don't you make that alligator purple instead of green?' I've got enough to worry about without having to appease somebody else," Goldsboro says.

Swamp Critters is an expensive children's television show to produce. Each of the main characters' costume heads costs more than $20,000. The characters are operated by actors but their facial expressions and mouth movements are controlled by animatronics.

Little time for song writing

As a child, Goldsboro spent lots of time in the world of make-believe, he says, so it's not a surprise he's now involved in children's projects. His three children, two daughters and a son, are adults now with careers outside the entertainment field.

Instead of staying in the house, as a kid, Goldsboro was always playing outside. "We didn't have a television until I was 12 years old," he says. "Howdy Doody was on and was already going downhill by then, Howdy's strings were breaking. I didn't see a lot of TV."

He doesn't perform much these days, mostly benefits and once or twice a year he'll do a cruise ship. "You go out for 10 days, go to the islands, have a big time and sing one night. That's it! Those are great to do," Goldsboro says.

Like other performers of the '70s who are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, Goldsboro has been approached to appear on TV specials but says he has no interest in it.

"I thank the Lord for Honey and Watchin' Scotty Grow but I don't want to go out and keep singing the songs I had hits with 20 years ago. I have things I'm doing now and that's what I like to put my efforts into."

In fact, it's not Honey that is one of Goldsboro's favorite songs. He likes the flip side of Honey, a song called Danny that the musician wrote about his son.

With his TV show going well, and other music-writing projects rolling in on a regular basis, Goldsboro says he's doing exactly what he wants to do, exactly where he wants to do it in. In addition to his Central Florida spread, he owns property in Jupiter, on Florida's East Coast, and is thinking of building a home there as well.

"I'm Floridian all the way," Goldsboro says.