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Copeland, Alan (6 October 1926-28th December 2022)

Arranger and singer-songwriter, sometimes credited as Weaver Copeland, who was born in L.A. and started playing piano at the age of ten, which prompted him to want to become a vocalist.

He started out with the Robert Mitchell Boy Choir which led to movie work in films such as Angels With Dirty Faces, Foreign Correspondent, Going My Way, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Meet John Doe, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Altogether, the choir is reputed to appear on over one hundred soundtracks.

Alan would return to film later, but a fast friendship with David Street led him back to the piano stool, where he would further hone his keyboard skills.  In spite of this brief period of further music education, Alan was still much more interested in singing and dreamed of being a member of his favourite group, The Modernaires, who were most famous for their collaborations with The Glenn Miller Orchestra .

Instead, Alan wound up in the U.S. Navy, in which he served until 1946.  After his tour of duty, he started up his own vocal group, the Twin Tones, with Doris and Gwen Brian and Tom Kenny .  The quartet scored an audition with Jan Garber, who hired them on the spot, and they took the show on the road, performing in a nation-wide tour.  They also did a little bit of recording for the Capitol label.  It was around this time that Alan was bitten by the arranging bug:  He wrote an arrangement of “Peg O’ My Heart” and got such a high from hearing his stuff performed, arranging would eventually become his favourite part of the musical process.

During a gig in L.A.’s Biltmore Ballroom, Virginia Mancini pulled Alan to one side and suggested he seek out; guess who; The Modernaires, who were in need of a tenor.  In 1948, Alan joined his favourite vocal group and he must have been a good luck charm, because they landed on Bob Crosby’s Club 15 radio variety show, which eventually made the transition to television in the 1953.  It was a lucky year for Alan, who was asked to appear as himself in The Glenn Miller Story.  Also, Jo Stafford recorded one of his original compositions, “Make Love To Me” on 8thDecember 1953, and it became a massive hit the following year, topping the Billboard charts and reaching #2 on the Cash Box Magazine chart.

Alan’s stint on The Bob Crosby TV Show ended in 1956, but he was not out of work long, popping up on Your Hit Parade the following year.  This gig lasted until its final telecast on 24th April 1959.  Again, Alan found work quickly, reuniting with The Modernaires.  In 1960, they released The Modernaires Sing The Great Glenn Miller Instrumentals, for which Alan did arranging duties as well as putting words to “In the Mood” and “Tuxedo Junction”.  The formula worked again in 1964 with the release of New Top Hits in the Glenn Miller Style, featuring Tex Beneke, who had infamously refused to appear in The Glenn Miller Story.  Also, Alan was mystifyingly not given credit for the arrangements.

That same year, he returned to television, this time wearing the hat of choral conductor on An Hour With Robert Goulet.  The following year, The Modernaires won a spot on The Red Skelton TV Show, where they would stay for four years.  In the meantime, Alan continued to moonlight, arranging and conducting on “Cuando Caliente El Sol”, which became a huge hit for Jim Nabors.  He performed similar duties on The Jim Nabors Christmas Album in 1967, when he also returned to the big screen as an uncredited (and unseen) singing voice in Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Eventually, The Modernaires morphed into The Skel-tones, then The Alan Copeland Singers.  The Alan Copeland Singers released an album a year from 1966 to 1968:  Cool Country, Bubble Called You, and If Love Comes With It.

In 1968, Alan would arrange his magnum opus, the unlikely pairing of the theme from Mission Impossible with The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”.  It won a Grammy the following year in the mouthful of a category, Best Contemporary Pop Performance by a Chorus.

Hollywood called in 1970, when Blake Edwards asked him to wear yet another hat, that of choral supervisor, on the Julie Andrews/Rock Hudson film, Darling Lili.  Alan even did an acting stint on a couple of episodes of The Odd Couple in 1974.  He returned to the Grammys in 1977 as some of his repertoire was honoured in a special performance at the awards show.

Two years hence, he re-united with Frank Sinatra , with whom he had recorded decades before, on the box set Trilogy.  (You can hear him on “My Shining Hour”.)  In the 1980s, Alan teamed up with wife Joyce (a.k.a. Mahmu Pearl) on a string of albums:  Chen Yu Lips, Goin’ Through Changes, and Zanzibar.

He reunited with The Modernaires again in 1995 and  performed with them off and on.  They even recorded another album, The Modernaires Now, in 1996.  It was the last album on which Tex Beneke ever appeared.  Neither did Alan slow down in the new millennium:  He performed arranging duties on Peter Marshall’s 2001 offering, Boy Singer.

For more info on this fascinating and multi-talented musician, check out his autobiography, Jukebox Saturday Nights.

He died in Sonora, California in December 2022 when he was 96 years old.

Here is Alan’s Grammy Award winning Mission Impossible/Norwegian Wood…