|Birth name||Ronald Erle Grainer|
11 August 1922|
Atherton, Queensland, Australia
|Died||21 February 1981
Cuckfield, Sussex, England
Ronald Erle “Ron” Grainer (11 August 1922 – 21 February 1981) was an Australian composer who worked for most of his professional career in the United Kingdom. He is mostly remembered for his film and television music, especially the theme music for Doctor Who.
Ron Grainer was born on 11 August 1922 in Atherton, Queensland, Australia, the first child of Margaret Clark, a talented amateur pianist, and Ronald Albert Grainer, a storekeeper and postmaster in Mt Mulligan, a small town built to support the extraction of coal from a 400 metre high tabletop shaped sandstone monolith squatting in the hinterland 100 km west of Cairns. Although physically very isolated, the usually rough edged community kept morale high with regular dance and social entertainments. This outlet became very important after a massive mine explosion on 19 September 1921 killed 75 workers (one third of the adult population). Helping to restore confidence in the possibilities of the future were young local talents such as Ron Grainer. Around the age of four he had started showing an interest in music so his mother taught him how to play simple melodies on the piano  while an old Welsh miner awakened in him an appreciation of the violin. Amongst his other musical abilities he could reconstruct tunes he had heard at school or on gramophone records. Classical music singer and former Mt Mulligan resident Mary Wardle remembers Grainer performing on piano from a young age “when he could barely reach the pedals”.
The Grainer family left Mt Mulligan in 1930. By April 1932 they were living on the far north Queensland coast, in a sugar growing rural community called Aloomba situated on the eastern side of another rock monolith, the 922 metre high Walshs Pyramid. At the age of 9, as part of the Aloomba school team, Grainer won second prize for solo violin at the inaugural Cairns and District School Eisteddfod. This is the first newspaper mention of him giving a music performance in public. In early 1933 the Grainers moved to Cairns where, apart from school work at Edge Hill State [1933-1934] and Cairns High [1935-1936], he commenced a serious study of music theory and interpretation. His family relocated south to Brisbane in 1937 where he completed his secondary school education at St Joseph's College Nudgee Brisbane matriculating in 1938. In 1939 he enrolled at Brisbane University to study civil engineering and music  studying harmony, counterpoint and musical composition under Percy Brier and gaining his A.T.C.L. (Associate of Trinity College London Diploma) on piano.
With the outbreak of World War Two, Grainer joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in December 1940 and was sent to Amberley, Queensland, posted to 73 Signals, given a course at Point Cook and assigned to Radar Station No. 58, Townsville. While stationed there, and in subsequent similar postings, he contributed to barracks entertainment by scoring and organising numerous servicemen shows. In February 1940 he joined the RAAF entertainment unit. In the report on his audition performance, the only music piece that is mentioned by title was Ravel's Bolero, a seemingly simple instrumental rift which holds listeners' attention in a similar manner to Grainer's later themes and signature tunes. Grainer had only a few months entertaining his fellow airmen. In July 1944 he was admitted to the 3 RAAF Hospital as seriously ill after sustaining a severe leg injury, for which amputation was considered for a while. He was discharged from the RAAF as permanently medically unfit in September 1945. A rehabilitation course took him to the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, where he studied under Eugene Goossens.
Early musical education and career
Grainer received his teaching and performing diploma for pianoforte in December 1949. During 1950 and 1951 he began appearing in a series of solo artist radio shows for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In August 1951 a presentation of Delius, Faure and Milhaud compositions by Grainer on Piano and Don Scott on violin was ridiculed in a newspaper review for the duos “uncompromising disregard of mob appeal" "lack of practical concert sense" and "unrelievedly pastel colouring” set list that was “in need of a more impulsive and heartfelt spirit on the well tendered surface" having earlier said "by the time the programme ended the recitial badly needed blood transfusion”. By the mid 1950s Grainer had abandoned his classical repertoire and live concert work with such a determined change of attitude that he claimed in a 1964 magazine interview that he'd "always loathed performing" 
In 1952 Grainer left Australia for London with his wife Margot and 10-year-old stepdaughter Rel. He managed to find a three-month engagement playing piano in a nightclub along with other occasional jobs the worst of which became a twelve month stint with a comedy act called The Allen Brothers and June. This required the classically trained Grainer to suffer the humiliation of being nightly hit on the head by a falling grand piano lid and then to topple over into the orchestra pit. An experience he later said was even harder to do than building fences in the Australian outback. 
At one stage to pay the rent on their room Grainer and his wife had to work as caretakers of a large block of London flats where he stoked two large boilers morning and night while Margot washed stairs and cleaned rooms. 
To increase his public profile Grainer had two attempts at song contests “England's Made Of Us” (1956) an entry with lyricist David Dearlove for the First British Festival of Popular Song which received the depressing score of no points from the judges  and the following year “Don't Cry Little Doll” (1957)(also written with David Dearlove) which reached fourth place in the British Eurovision entry decider heats.
Grainer's most dramatic pre-success music involvement was with Before The Sun Goes Down, a TV play which caused audience panic and questions to be raised in the British Parliament when it was shown on 20 February 1959. Taking inspiration from Orson Welles 1938 radio drama The War of the Worlds the production used a similar format in which a regular program broadcast was interrupted by a fake public service announcement. In this instance it was about a mysterious and "terrifying" satellite seen hovering over the city of London.
Maigret and after
In 1960 Grainer achieved public recognition with his theme and incidental music for the TV series Maigret. When Maigret was given the Ivor Norvello “Outstanding Composition for Film, TV or Radio” award in 1961 commissions from a wide range of genres poured in Goon Show silliness - “A Square World” (1961), one off pilots - "Comedy Playhouse"), documentaries - "Terminus"(1961), kitchen sink drama - “A Kind Of Loving”), quirky domestic sitcoms - “Steptoe and Son” (1962), teen flicks - “Some People” (1962), late night satire - “That Was The Week That Was” (1962), outpost angst - “Station Six Sahara” (1962), ballet - "The Kings Breakfast” (1963), science fiction - "Doctor Who" (1963), psycho killers - “Night Must Fall (1964), children's adventure stories - “The Moon Spinners” (1964), patriotic biography - “The Finest Hours” (1964), big budget musicals - “Robert And Elizabeth" (1964), unusual love stories - “Boy Meets Girl” (1967), paranoid escapism - “The Prisoner” (1967) crime caper movies - “Only When I Larf” (1968).
Most of these projects required considerable research, group discussion and creative team effort and given that they are only a small sample of work completed by Grainer in the period 1960 – 1968, it is perhaps not surprising that he once indicated he felt a “trifle wistful” that so many people just associated him with the Doctor Who theme  the only tune in his extensive portfolio that had its sound dynamics realised by someone else [BBC Radiophonic Workshop whiz kid Delia Derbyshire] . Grainer also worked with the early sixties British guitar led group The (Original) Eagles (who hailed from from Bristol - not to be confused with the later famed Amercan group of that name), the band recorded many of his compositions including; 'Johnny's Tune','Bristol Express', 'Old Ned' (Theme from 'Steptoe and Son'),'Maigret Theme', 'Happy Joe' ('Comedy Playhouse' theme) all 1962, and 'Theme from 'Station Six' , 'Oliver Twist' (both 1963) and 'Andorra' (1964), Grainer playing calliope on some of the band's recordings, a sixties LP; 'The Eagles Smash Hits' ( and 1989 compilation Compact Disc - SEECD 277) featured Grainer's compositions.
The time-consuming work commitments eventually contributed to the breakdown of Grainer's relationship with his wife and he and Margot divorced in 1966. Later that year he married Jennifer Dodds, a member of the cast of Robert And Elizabeth, which was followed by the birth of their son, Damian.
In September 1968, tired of London traffic jams  and worried about his intensifying eyesight problems, Grainer moved permanently to his former retreat property in Southern Portugal where he and Jenny started a farm growing organic fruit and vegetables and undertaking such physical labour intensive projects as the planting and maintaining of 1000 peach trees.
Between 1969 and 1975 Ron composed themes and soundtracks for a general average of about one TV series and one film a year.
In April 1974 the Carnation Revolution had prompted Ron and his family to leave Portugal and return to England until the political climate cleared. Damian went first to boarding and then to day school. Ron was being offered work again so he set up house in Brighton. In 1976 Ron and Jenny went through an amicable divorce as Jenny had gone back to Portugal while Ron decided to stay permanently in London. Over the next five years Ron demonstrated a second round of creativity achieving respect with the Emmy and Bafta award winning miniseries Edward and Mrs Simpson  and the well-received scores for Tales Of The Unexpected (1979) and Rebecca (1979).
Grainer had two TV signature tunes debut the year of his sudden illness and death from cancer on 21 February 1981. Sunday Night Thriller, with its eerie funeral music theme and separation of bodies credits sequence, was broadcast on 18 January 1981, followed by the last of his TV themes, the droll and no-frills It Takes A Worried Man, which aired posthumously on 21 October 1981.
Only three compilations of Grainer's extensive output have been commercially released. 1969's Themes Like — (RCA) was a collection of his better known 1960s compositions. This was followed by Exciting Television Music of Ron Grainer (RCA, 1980), which covered the 1970s. In 1994 a career-spanning thirty-track CD was released as part of the A to Z of British TV Themes project on the Play It Again label.
- Maigret 1961 Ivor Novello Award Outstanding Composition for Film, TV or Radio
- Steptoe And Son 1962 Ivor Novello Award Outstanding Composition for Film, TV or Radio
Notable television credits
- Maigret (1960)
- Comedy Playhouse (1961)
- That Was The Week That Was (1962)
- Steptoe and Son (1962)
- Giants Of Steam (1963)
- The Home-Made Car (1963)
- Doctor Who (1963)
- Man in a Suitcase (1967)
- The Prisoner (1967)
- Paul Temple (1969)
- Tales Of The Unexpected (1979)
- Shelley (1979)
- Sunday Night Thriller (1981)
Notable film credits
- A Kind of Loving (1962)
- Some People (1962)
- Station Six Saraha (1962)
- The Kings Breakfast (1963) - shown at 1963 Cannes Film Festival
- The Caretaker (1963)
- To Sir, with Love (1967)
- Only When I Larf (1968)
- The Assassination Bureau (1969)
- Before Winter Comes (1969)
- Hoffman (1970)
- The Omega Man (1971)
- Australian Dictionary of Biography vol 17 2007 “Ron Grainer” *sister Margorie was born in 1924
- Mt Mulligan Notes Cairns Post 27.7.1920 p3
- Mt. Mulligan Notes Cairns Post 16 Feb 1914 p7 / Brisbane Courier 22.9.21 p7
- Peter Bell “If Anything Too Safe” 2nd ed James Cook Uni 1996 p1
- Mike Rimmer “Up The Palmerston” Glovers Printing Works Bundaberg 2004 p 209
- Peter Bell “If Anything Too Safe” 2nd edition James Cook Uni 1996 p87
- “Composer Lumped Coal” Sunday Mail 1.3.1981 p8
- “Ron Grainer The Man Behind “The Maigret Theme”' Decca Records 1961
- Mike Rimmer “Up The Palmerston” Glovers Printing Works Bundaberg 2004 p209
- Ron Grainers fathers store is listed in the Mt Mulligan section of the Queensland Post Office Directory from 1916 until the 1931-32 edition. RA and wife M Grainer were regularly mentioned in the Cairns Post MM social notes columns as members of the MM rifle club the MM Queensland Country Womens Association or MM school functions from Jan 1918. The mentions abruptly stop with the childrens fancy dress ball article “Mareeba District Notes Mt Mulligan Items”, Cairns Post, 30 August 1930, p.15
- “Aloomba Notes” Cairns Post 11.4.1932 p11
- “Aloomba Notes / Eisteddfod” Cairns Post 24.6. 1932 p8
- “Farewell Function At Alomba” cp 29.3.33 p10
- National Archives of Australia Ronald Erle Grainer RAAF air crew appl. p15/80, p25/80
- Veni Parker concert cp14.12.36 p3
- “Mrs R Grainer Farewelled” cp 2.11.37 p3. Grainer boarded at St Joseph's from start of school year
- National Archives of Australia Ronald Erle Grainer RAAF application for air crew p25/80
- National Archives of Australia Ronald Erle Grainer entertainment party application p31/80
- "On The Trail Of Inspector Maigret", Australian Women's Weekly, 27 June 1962, p. 42.
- National Archives of Australia, "Ronald Erle Grainer RAAF entertainment audition report", p. 7/80.
- National Archives of Australia, Series A9301, Control symbol 23963, Barcode 4564067: Grainer, Ronald Erle 1939–1948
- "As soon as I was discharged in '46 I went to the Sydney Conservatorium to study under Sir Eugene Gossens" Ron Grainer statement quoted in article "Move Over Rodgers Here Comes Grainer" Australian Womens Weekly 5 August 1964 p9
- Sydney Morning Herald, 23 December 1949, p. 8.
- “Radio”, Adelaide Advertiser, 18 September 1950, p. 16, cp 5.4.51 p6, Townsville Bulletin 4.5.51 p3, cp 4.9.51 p6
- Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 1951, p.4.
- "Move over Rodgers Here Comes Grainer" Australian Womans Weekly 5 August 1964 p9
- "Music from Paradise" New Idea 29.1.66 p49
- "ABC On The Trail Of Inspector Maigret" Australian Women's Weekly 27 June 1962 p42"
- Gordon Roxburgh “Songs For Europe” Telos Publishing Denbighshire p. 53–60
- http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1959/mar/16/television-bogus-news-broadcast#S5CV0602P0_19590316_HOC_407 / British Parliament Hansard Common Sitting HC Deb 16 March 1959 Vol 602 cc 161-72
- Ivor Norvello 1961 / 1963 http://www.bucksmusicgroup.com/about/ivor-novello-awards/
- “Ron Grainer Compositions ” IMDb http://www.rongrainer.org.uk/bio.php
- “Churchill's Music Will Go Ringing Around The World” Glasgow Times Scotland 7.5.1964
- “The Music Man” The Age Newspaper Melbourne 17 June 1966 p2
- Wikipedia “Delia Derbyshire” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delia_Derbyshire. The composition was not a rush job by Grainer. Dr Who Producer Verity Lambert said that after being given the brief Grainer 'went to work at his Putney home and three weeks later came back with the required notes written on music manuscript paper' "Veritys Tune Is Way Out" Daily Mirror 1.12.1963 p12.
- Ancestry.com “Ronald Erle Grainer” Births Marriages Deaths
- RonGrainer.org Biography
- “The Missing Music Man's Secret” Chris Greenwood The Sun London c1973
- “Music From Paradise” New Idea 29.1.1966 p5
- Jenny Grainer “Portugal and the Algarve Now And Then ” Pen Press 2010 p71
- Radio Times, 18 January 1981.
- "It Takes A Worried Man", IMDB website./
- Ron Grainer at the Internet Movie Database
- Ron Grainer web-site
- Ron Grainer The Australian Years blog