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Melvoin, Mike (10 May 1937-22nd February 2012)

Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Mike Melvoin was raised in Milwaukee, and was singing by age two, and playing piano by age three.  He could read music before he could read words, and by his own admission, perhaps facetiously, thought the alphabet ended with G.

As a teenager, he was playing classical music and jazz, sometimes in the local clubs.  After graduating high school, he went on to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he led a dance band called the Barbary Coast, and The Sultans, a jazz quintet, even though his major was English.  He kicked around the East Coast for a while, but put himself into the L.A. jazz scene in 1962, and never looked back.  It was here he would continue to receive his unofficial education from a litany of jazzmen, including Plas Johnson.

Before long, he found himself in demand as a session musician, working with a plethora of artists and groups too long to list here, including Ed Ames, Herb Alpert, Paul Anka, The Association, Hoyt Axton, The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Bobby Darin, Duane Eddy, Eddie Fisher, The Grass Roots, John Hartford, Burl Ives, Sammy Johns, John Lennon, The Manhattan Transfer, Laura Nyro, The Platters, Jimmie Rodgers, Diana Ross, Carole Bayer Sager, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, The Ventures, and John Williams.  He also arranged, conducted, and served as musical director on several albums for Peggy Lee, and arranged all of The Partridge Family albums.

Living and working in Los Angeles led to film and television work, both media in which Melvoin served as composer, conductor, and keyboardist.  He composed and conducted music for the TV shows BarettaBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyEarly EditionFameThe Krofft SupershowLou Grant, and MacGyver, and the movies Armed & DangerousThe Big Town, and The Main Event, and lent his keyboard virtuosity to The French ConnectionPlay Misty For Me, and Rocky.  He also played the piano on the “Theme from Mission:  Impossible” and the synthesizer on “We Are the World”.

He served as National President of the Recording Academy (the folks responsible for the Grammys) from 1984 to 1985, the first active musician to do so, and served on the Board of Directors of the Academy’s charitable foundation, MusiCares.

He was involved in the Grammys in a variety of capacities, including composer, conductor, keyboardist, and musical director.

He returned to his roots with the Mike Melvoin Trio, recording Oh Baby in 2002 and You Know in 2006, and performed at venues such as The Cutting Room, in New York City, and Fino, in Washington, D.C.  That very same year, the Friends of Jazz, honoured him with the Musician’s Musician award, at the University of California in Los Angeles.

He died from cancer in Burbank, California, in February 2012 when he was 74 years old.

Lalo Schifrin recordings
All for the Love of Sunshine (Lalo Schifrin)
Theme from “Medical Center” (Lalo Schifrin)