On October 13, the Warner Bros. recording stage was the site for a remarkable event: Henry Mancini’s family (notably daughters Monica and Felice, plus Monica’s producer husband Gregg Field) arranged for a new recording of Mancini’s classic TV theme Peter Gunn. Invited to play were John Williams (who played piano on the 1958 original), Herbie Hancock (also on keyboards), Arturo Sandoval (trumpet) and Quincy Jones (longtime friend of the Mancinis) as conductor. The recording will later be heard, and seen, in a documentary aimed at the Mancini Centennial in 2024. I was thrilled to attend and wrote it about it for Variety.
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a relatively new theater in the heart of Beverly Hills. The family of the late, Oscar-winning composer Henry Mancini assembled an incredible lineup of talent as a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization on Saturday, April 1, and we were thrilled to be invited to cover it for Variety. The event, which featured Julie Andrews, John Williams, Quincy Jones, Kristin Chenoweth and many other stars, was a memorable concert of Mancini’s greatest hits, from Peter Gunn to The Pink Panther, “Moon River” to “Days of Wine and Roses” and more. Here is my story for Variety‘s online news page.
As part of an 80th-birthday tribute, Variety asked me to assemble a list of 10 key moments from Quincy Jones’ career writing music for films and TV. It was a fascinating challenge, and while I had to omit a few personal favorites just because they’re now so obscure (John and Mary, $, The Hot Rock), I came up with 10 that I thought fit the bill. Started out with The Pawnbroker (of course) and ended with The Color Purple, sneaking in such TV classics as Ironside and The Bill Cosby Show along the way. Variety built it into a slideshow for the web. Incidentally, here is my two-and-a-half-hour interview with Quincy, done in 2002 for the Archive of American Television; and here is my 2001 review of his autobiography.
When I learned that Universal was renaming one of its streets after Stanley Wilson, I jumped at the opportunity to write about it — and composers John Williams, Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones and Dave Grusin all immediately agreed to talk with me about him. That’s because he helped launch all of their careers at Revue/Universal TV in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Wilson is an unsung hero in the film/TV music business. Anyone who grew up in the 1960s will remember seeing “Music Supervision… Stanley Wilson” at the end of practically every show that came out of Universal City. And sharp-eyed jazz fans will recall seeing his name as conductor or producer on albums by Benny Carter and Quincy Jones. He was a great man who deserves to be remembered. In 2001 I wrote a 52-page biography of him for The Film Music Society’s Cue Sheet (available here) and it’s still among my proudest accomplishments.
This was a genuine labor of love. The U.S. Postal Service was about to issue a Mancini stamp, and there was to be a big ceremony downtown. So the Times asked me for a retrospective piece, yet one that would quote friends, family and give a sense of his impact on popular culture. This is one of my all-time favorite pieces for the L.A. Times.
Not so much a book as a journal: The July/October 2013 issue of The Cue Sheet, the quarterly publication of The Film Music Society. Utilizing nearly four dozen never-before-seen photographs, this 64-page booklet goes behind the scenes to tell the previously untold story of the greatest film-music concert in history, Sept. 25, 1963 at the Hollywood Bowl.
That night Elmer Bernstein, John Green, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, Alfred Newman, Alex North, David Raksin, Miklos Rozsa, Dimitri Tiomkin and Franz Waxman conducted their own scores — with Percy Faith conducting Max Steiner and Nelson Riddle conducting a medley of TV themes, plus guest artists Jack Benny, Mahalia Jackson and Andy Williams. It was the largest-scale public project ever attempted by the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America. (Amateur photographers Raksin, composer of Laura, and Alexander Courage, later the composer of Star Trek, documented the rehearsals.) In addition to the photographs, images of the posters, tickets, even parking passes and newspaper clippings of the reviews, accompany my 9,000-word chronicle of this once-in-a-lifetime event (and its April 1964 sequel, with fewer participants, that was taped for later TV showings).
Editor Marilee Bradford — who originally discovered Raksin’s previously unseen Polaroids — did a stunning job of preparing the photos and laying out the issue. Here’s an overview and a link showing how to order it.
This is one of many writing projects that I’ve done for The Film Music Society of which I’m very proud. (Another is my 52-page biography of Revue/Universal music director Stanley Wilson, published in 2001 and shown here in the hands of Quincy Jones, Wilson’s 1960s scoring protege.)