Jerry Fielding

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For the American politician, see Jerry L. Fielding.
Jerry Fielding
Birth name Joshua Itzhak Feldman
Also known as Credited as Jerry Feldman prior to June, 1947 [1][2][3]
Born (1922-06-17)June 17, 1922
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Origin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died February 17, 1980(1980-02-17) (aged 57)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation(s) Radio, record, film and television composer, conductor, bandleader and musical director

Jerry Fielding (June 17, 1922 – February 17, 1980[4]) was an American radio, record, film and television composer, conductor, bandleader, and musical director.

Childhood and education[edit]

Jerry Fielding was born as Joshua Itzhak Feldman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,[4] to Hiram Harris Feldman and Esther Feldman. After trying the trombone, he took up the clarinet and joined the school band. He was offered a scholarship to the Carnegie Institute for Instrumentalists. After a short attendance, because of ill health he was bedridden for two years with an undiagnosed ailment. While housebound, he listened to the radio, and became a fan of the big band sound and Bernard Herrmann’s music for Orson Welles’s radio dramas.

Freelance arranger[edit]

Somewhat recuperated, he worked at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theater (where his fellow players included Erroll Garner, Billy May and Henry Mancini),[5] learning composition and arranging there from the theater's pit orchestra conductor, Max Adkins (as did Mancini and another notable Pittsburgh native, Billy Strayhorn).[6] In June 1941, shortly before his nineteenth birthday, Fielding left Pittsburgh to work for Alvino Rey’s swing band.[7] His arrangement of Picnic in Purgatory in 1942 became highly popular.[8][9]

This job ended when most of the band was drafted. He was too frail for service. He became vocal arranger for Lucy Ann Polk’s Town Criers [10] and then joined Kay Kyser’s band. He became their chief arranger in 1945.[11] He also arranged for the big bands of Mitchell Ayres,[12] Claude Thornhill, Jimmie Lunceford, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and Les Brown.

Radio work: from Feldman to Fielding[edit]

Feldman arranged for Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge radio program, and then became the band leader for several radio programs: The Jack Paar Program (1947–1949), The Hardy Family 1952-1953, as well as work on The Fitch Bandwagon,[13] The Life of Riley, and the Sweeney and March Show.

In the spring of 1947, having suitably impressed prospective employer Jack Paar (and/or his production team), Feldman was compelled to change his name as a prerequisite to securing the position. Thus was born the not-quite-25-year-old arranging wunderkind, Jerry Fielding, who would recount this transformation with some bitterness almost 25 years later:

"They told me I was not going on with any name as Jewish as Feldman. I don't think there's any lessening of prejudice today. There's just more politeness about where and when it happens now. I think it's going to be the downfall of Homo sapiens."[3]

In 1948, Fielding replaced Billy May as musical director on Groucho Marx’s radio program You Bet Your Life; from 1951 to 1953, he served in the same capacity on the television version of the show.[14] In June 1952, drawing upon the same musicians Fielding had employed regularly during his time in Hollywood, he formed the Jerry Fielding Orchestra for the purposes of rehearsing, performing and recording his music.[15][16] (Just months later, the group would be featured on Fielding's own short-lived but well-received all-music TV series;[12] by the following summer, the group had released its debut LP, Jerry Fielding and His Great New Orchestra {Trend, 1953}.[17])

Exiled by Hollywood, welcomed in Vegas[edit]

Due to his membership with the Hollywood Writers Mobilization (later the Independent Progressive party, groups considered by some to be communist fronts) Fielding was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in December 1953. He took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to divulge the names of fellow members, and was then blacklisted by the Hollywood film and television studios.

Notwithstanding this near decade-long interruption in Fielding's embryonic film-scoring career, the blacklist did serve to jump-start both his performing and recording careers, both as a featured artist and a freelance arranger. In Las Vegas, Nevada he led a band at the Royal Las Vegas Hotel; in addition, he toured for the only time with his name orchestra, which also released several albums during this period, including, Jerry Fielding Plays a Dance Concert (Trend, 1954), as well as Sweet with a Beat (1955), Fielding’s Formula (1957), and Hollywoodwind Jazztet (1958), all on Decca.

Return to Hollywood[edit]

Fielding's Hollywood lockout continued until 1961. In 1962, Otto Preminger selected him for the score of Advise and Consent, his first major film composition.

Television work[edit]

In 1959, Fielding was assigned to direct a short-lived Betty Hutton TV series, building on his previous musical arranging and conducting work with Hutton.[18] Fielding is well known for scoring two episodes of the first Star Trek television series: The Trouble With Tribbles and Spectre of the Gun. He also wrote the title themes for such classic TV shows as Hogan's Heroes; Run, Buddy, Run; He & She and The Bionic Woman. He also composed the music for the 1970 situation comedy The Tim Conway Show.[19]

Film composition[edit]

While well known for his scores for such filmmakers as Clint Eastwood, Michael Winner, and Sam Peckinpah, most of which were collaborations in traditionally masculine-themed genres like westerns and action films, Fielding's background in jazz gave him the versatility to produce such diverse works as The Nightcomers (1972), a neo-romantic musical score for acoustic orchestra (reputed to be the work of which he was most proud), to Demon Seed (1977), a startling musical work that included electronic instruments and non-tonal passages. He also did notable work with Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) and Funeral Home (1980), and also The Bad News Bears (1976) of which the score is an adaptation of the principal themes of Carmen.

Personal life[edit]

Fielding married twice, first to Kay Kyser band production assistant, Ann Parks(d), in December 1946 in Tijuana. They raised two children, Georgia (d) and Hillary. This marriage ended in the spring of 1963. His second marriage took place on August 6, 1963, to Camille J. Williams, a Las Vegas dancer. They had two children.

He died, at the age of 57, from a heart attack followed by congestive heart failure, while in Toronto where he was scoring the motion picture Funeral Home (aka: Cries In The Night.) He was survived by wife Camille and two daughters: Claudia and Elizabeth; and former wife Ann(d) and daughter Hillary. He is interred in Crypt 30 at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[20]

Awards and honors[edit]

Year Award Result Category Film or series
1970 Academy Award Nominated Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) The Wild Bunch
1972 Best Music, Original Dramatic Score Straw Dogs
1977 Best Music, Original Score The Outlaw Josey Wales
1980 Emmy Award Won Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special (Dramatic Underscore) High Midnight

On Thursday November 12, 2009, Jerry Fielding was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his composition in "The Wild Bunch" which celebrated its 40th anniversary. It was received by his daughter Claudia Fielding.



  1. ^ "Music Popularity Chart: New Records". Billboard. June 15, 1946. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  2. ^ Lohman, Sidney. "Radio Row: One Thing and Another". The New York Times. April 27, 1947. Retrieved 2014-04-14 via ProQuest. "Jack Paar, comedian, will occupy jack Benny's time spot (Sunday, 7 P.M., NBC), beginning June 1. Music will be provided by the Page Cavanaugh Trio and Jerry Fielding's Orchestra."
  3. ^ a b Blank, Edward L.. "Fielding Mercurial Over Film Music; Changed Name". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 14, 1972. Retrieved 2014-04-15. "He worked for Kay Kyser under the name Feldman but had to change it when he was 23 to get a job on a Jack Paar show."
  4. ^ a b - accessed January 2010
  5. ^ "The Gambler". Focus on Film. Volume 19. 1974. Retrieved 2014-04-15. "In his youth, he played in the local theater's orchestra pit alongside, at times, Henry Mancini, Billy May and Errol (sic) Garner."
  6. ^ "Composers / Arrangers". Pittsburgh Music History. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  7. ^ Cohen Harold V.. "The Drama Desk; Local Scrappings". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 12, 1941. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  8. ^ "'I'm Glad There Is You': fox trot (Music, 1942)". WorldCat. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  9. ^ "Just Released - B11501 'I'm Glad There Is You' and 'Picnic in Purgatory'". Billboard. April 18, 1942. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  10. ^ Johnson, Erskine. "In Hollywood". The Courier News. January 17, 1945. Retrieved 2014-04-15. "Cradle row has something new to crow about, Hollywood's "hottest" singing group, The Town Criers, average 19 years of age [...] Their arranger is a baby, too - 22-year-old Jerry Feldman."
  11. ^ "Arranger for Band". The Jewish Criterion. March 9, 1945. Retrieved 2014-04-15. "Jerry Feldman, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Feldman, of Wightman Street, is now head arranger for the Kay Kyser Band."
  12. ^ a b Ames, Walter. "Frustrated Jerry Fielding Scoring On Own Video Show". The Los Angeles Times. October 17, 1952. Retrieved 2014-04-16 via ProQuest.
  13. ^ Rodack, Jaine (1980). "LA Years". Be Of Good Cheer: Memories Of Harmonica Legend Pete Pedersen. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4259-6006-3. 
  14. ^ You Bet Your Life (quiz, with Groucho Marx). ClassicThemes. Retrieved 2014-04-16.
  15. ^ Ames, Walter. "Television, Radio, News and Programs: Radio and TV Tidbits". The Los Angeles Times. June 25, 1952. Retrieved 2014-04-16 via ProQuest. "Jerry Fielding, Groucho Marx's musical director, has organized a band for recording sessions during the summer lull."
  16. ^ Tomkins, Les. "Jerry Fielding Interview One: From the Bands to the Films". Jazz Professional. !974. Retrieved 2014-04-16. "So a couple of guys formed little bands, not to go in buses on the road, but to record with, do a few weekends at the Palladium, just rehearse, and keep the thing going. We were doing it for each other, really. And the first records I made—that’s what they were. Frank had put a band together for the Palladium: and I said: “If he can do it, I can do it.” I had five radio shows at the time, or something: so we put this bunch together, and we started to do some wild things. [...] In that band were Conrad Gozzo, Sam Donahue, Shelly Manne, Johnny Williams, Buddy Collette, Red Callender—everybody. I knew what these guys could do, and I wrote to the absolute limit of their abilities, which no one else did. We did some spectacular performances. Albert Marks recorded us a couple of times, and those are the early Trend records which are such collector’s items now. I think they were collector’s items the day they went in the store; they never really sold well."
  17. ^ “Album and LP Reviews”. Billboard. August 15, 1953. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  18. ^ Cook, Howard. "Fielding Inked by Signature". Billboard. October 26, 1959. Retrieved 2014-04-16.
  19. ^ The Tim Conway Show (1970)
  20. ^ The Jerry Fielding Papers 1950-1977 at Brigham Young University in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections.


  • Gelfand, Steve. Television Theme Recordings: An Illustrated Discography, 1951-1994. Ann Arbor, MI: Popular Culture, Ink., 1994
  • "Jerry Fielding, Writer of Scores for Movies; Named for 3 Oscars" New York Times, February 19, 1980, page B4.
  • Redman, Nick. “Jerry Fielding” Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 10: 1976-1980. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, Gale, 2008.
  • Terrace, Vincent. Radio Programs, 1924-1984. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.

External links[edit]