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Early life and career
Camarata, born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and studied music at Juilliard School in New York - a student of Bernard Wagenaar, Joseph Littau, Cesare Sodero, and Jan Meyerowitz. His early career was as a trumpet player for bands such as Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and others, eventually becoming the lead trumpet and arranger for Jimmy Dorsey (arranging such hits as Tangerine, Green Eyes and Yours). He also did arranging for Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and many others. He conducted and orchestrated a recording of Jascha Heifetz, the legendary violinist.
In 1944, J. Arthur Rank summoned him to London, England, to write a musical score for the film London Town. He became good friends with Sir Edward Lewis, CEO of the U.K. arm of British Decca, and often visited Bridge House in Felsted (this was Sir Edward and Lady Lewis's summer home) and the two founded London Records with the aim of distributing classical music from the U.K. in the U.S. market. One of his assignments was to see that London Records maintained the best classical catalog in the industry. In addition to his "administrative" duties at London Records he also served as a classical artist orchestrating and conducting a number of classical albums including the works of Puccini, Verdi, Bach, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff.
He joined the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1948. His popular songs and instrumentals include Mutiny in the Brass Section, Story of the Stars, Hollywood Pastime, Dixieland Detour, Moonlight Masquerade, Louis, and No More. He also composed Verdiana Suite.
He also recorded other albums, including the popular Tutti's Trumpets (1957) and Tutti's Trombones, titles which featured his compositions and arrangements and are considered classics of the genre.
Sunset Sound Recorders
In 1956 Walt Disney hired him to form Disneyland Records and to be Music Director and producer for the label. Camarata had suggested Disney build his own recording studio, but Disney declined and instead encouraged Camarata to build his own. In 1958 Camarata purchased the first building, an old auto repair shop on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, that would become the location of Sunset Sound Recorders. He produced over three-hundred albums there during his 16-year association with Disney. He scored several albums at Disney to help children gain a knowledge of, and love for, classical music.
By the early 1960s, Sunset Sound Recorders became an independent recording studio - and remains so to this day - one of the largest independents in the industry. Clients over the years have included:
and many, many more.
Television and cinema work
Camarata was the musical conductor for several TV series, including Startime, The Vic Damone Show and The Alcoa Hour. He was also the vocal supervisor for the 1963 movie Summer Magic, which included musical performances by Hayley Mills and Burl Ives. A great many Disney movie sound tracks were also made at Sunset.
In November 1981, Camarata would also purchase The Sound Factory, previously owned by David Hassinger. Like the Sunset Sound studios, the Sound Factory is one of the top recording studios in Hollywood, and has been used by many top music artists including Jackson Browne, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, T Bone Burnett, Bette Midler, Richie Furay, Warren Zevon, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, Sam Phillips, Tonio K., Neil Diamond, Cher, Los Lobos, The Wallflowers, KISS, Kenny Rogers, Beck, Brian Wilson, Victoria Williams, Ben Folds Five, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Danny Elfman and many others..
Camarata's last album was The Power and the Glory on which he worked for four years. Once completing the arrangements, Camarata returned to England (St. John's Smith Square) to conduct a large orchestra and choir for the recording of the album which he had noted in one of his last interviews to be one of his most important works.