Mort Garson

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Mort Garson
Garson at his Moog synthesizer
Garson at his Moog synthesizer
Background information
Birth nameMorton Sanford Garson
Born(1924-07-20)20 July 1924
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Died4 January 2008(2008-01-04) (aged 83)
San Francisco, California, United States
GenresElectronic music, easy listening, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Composer, arranger, songwriter
Years active1940s – 1980s

Morton Sanford Garson (20 July 1924 – 4 January 2008)[1] was a Canadian-born composer, arranger, songwriter, and pioneer of electronic music. He is best known for his albums in the 1960s and 1970s that were among the first to feature Moog synthesizers. He also co-wrote several hit songs, including "Our Day Will Come", a hit for Ruby & the Romantics. According to Allmusic, "Mort Garson boasts one of the most unique and outright bizarre resumés in popular music, spanning from easy listening to occult-influenced space-age electronic pop."[2]

Early life[edit]

Mort Garson was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. He later moved to New York City where he studied music at the Juilliard School of Music. He worked as a pianist and arranger before being called into the Army near the end of World War Two.[2]

Early career[edit]

After leaving the forces he became an active session musician, with an ability to carry out any or all of the musical chores on any given session: composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and pianist as required. In 1957, he co-wrote Brenda Lee's minor hit "Dynamite" with Tom Glazer,[3] and he also co-wrote Cliff Richard's 1961 UK hit "Theme for a Dream".[4] In 1963, with lyricist Bob Hilliard, he wrote one of the great lounge hits of the 1960s, "Our Day Will Come",[5] a hit for Ruby & The Romantics and more recently covered by k.d. lang and Take 6 for the soundtrack of the movie Shag.

Garson spent the mid-1960s on a rapid succession of accompaniment and arrangement jobs: two Doris Day albums (Doris Day's Sentimental Journey and Latin for Lovers), Mel Tormé's Right Now! album of contemporary covers like "Secret Agent Man," and Glenn Yarborough's highly successful cover of Rod McKuen songs, The Lonely Things. He also arranged for the Lettermen on Capitol Records, provided background to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic Records, and provided arrangements for Esther Phillips, Julie London, Nancy Wilson, Chris Montez, Leslie Uggams, Joanie Sommers and many others.[6][7] He was a favorite of producers when the job involved soft pop vocal groups and string ensembles, and was responsible for a wide variety of easy listening records, including Bossa Nova for All Ages by the Continentals, Symphony for the Soul by the Total Eclipse, and Sea Drift by the Dusk 'Til Dawn Orchestra.

With Perry Botkin Jr., he arranged and conducted easy listening arrangements of big pop hits, among them the Hollyridge Strings' Play the Beatles Songbook album series and their Play the Hits of Simon & Garfunkel. He also worked on albums and singles by The Sugar Shoppe, the Sunset Strings, and the Love Strings, and released singles under his own name.[8] He arranged The Sandpipers' 1966 hit, "Guantanamera", and co-wrote its B-side "What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?" with lyricist Jacques Wilson, with whom he worked on later projects.[9] In 1968, he was responsible for the string arrangements on Glen Campbell's international hit "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."[2]

Later career[edit]

In the late 1960s, Garson became one of the first arrangers and composers to work with the newly available Moog synthesizer, and his electronic albums from the period are now highly prized among collectors and exotica fans. A suite of Garson compositions with words by Jacques Wilson, released on Elektra Records, The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds – Celestial Counterpoint with Words and Music includes tracks for each of the 12 signs of the zodiac. While Garson was writing the music, he was introduced to Robert Moog and decided to incorporate his invention into the album.[7] The recording features Paul Beaver on a variety of electronic instruments with voice-overs by Cyrus Faryar. Released in late 1967, it was the first album recorded on the West Coast to make use of the Moog synthesizer.[2] Also in 1967, he arranged the obscure single "See The Cheetah", credited to the Big Game Hunters.[10]

Another moog album, Electronic Hair Pieces, covered songs from the hippie-influenced musical, Hair. The mod album cover art for Electronic Hair Pieces featured a model with a wired-up skull; liner notes were provided by Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers. Another album, The Wozard of Iz, a psychedelic satire based on The Wizard of Oz, also with words by Jacques Wilson, featured Bernie Krause providing environmental sound effects and Suzie Jane Hokom voicing Dorothy.[2]

Following the success of the original Zodiac LP, Garson went on to compose and arrange a 12 album series of zodiac albums for A&M Records, one album for each sign. Like Zodiac, each album contained original tunes with heavy use of electronics. In 1971, he composed an entirely instrumental electronic Black Mass album, released on Uni Records under the pseudonym Lucifer, that again featured the Moog. Jason Alkeny at Allmusic describes the Black Mass album as "undoubtedly... his masterpiece".[2] Garson also released, in 1972, a record of music-and-moans to capitalize on the best-seller at the time, The Sensuous Woman by "Z". In 1974, he composed the electronic music score for the 18th Annual Grammy Award winning Best Children's Recording of The Little Prince narrated by Richard Burton. The following year, he released an album titled Ataraxia: The Unexplained designed to accompany meditations to the mantra of the listener's choice. Mother Earth's Plantasia, which was released in 1976, was a series of Moog compositions designed to be played for growing plants. According to his daughter, Day Darmet, Garson made the album inspired by her mother's plants.[11] Despite its extremely limited distribution, the album became a cult hit in the late 2010s when it was circulated online. In 2018, independent reissue label Rubellan Remasters[12] licensed and released on CD for the first time Garson's two Occult themed albums, remastered from original studio tapes.

Films, television and theatre work[edit]

Garson also worked in television and film, scoring a wide variety of music for many different movies and TV shows, from Beware! The Blob! to Kentucky Fried Movie to National Geographic specials, although it is Elmer Bernstein who is credited with composing the well-known National Geographic orchestral theme that first appeared in on the magazine's TV specials in 1966.

Garson's music was used as incidental music during the television transmissions of the Apollo 11 manned moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969. He said:[7]

"The only sounds that go along with space travel are electronic ones... The Apollo film shows different facets of the flight – blastoff, separation of the stages of the rocket, scenes of the moon at close range, of the astronauts playing games in the ship and of earthrise. [The music] has to carry the film along. It has to echo the sound of the blastoff and even the static you hear on the astronauts' report from space. People are used to hearing things from outer space, not just seeing them. So I used a big, symphonic sound for the blastoff, some jazzy things for the zero-G game of catch, psychedelic music for a section that uses negatives and diffuse colors on shots taken inside the ship, and a pretty melody for the moon. After all, it's still a lovely moon."

In 1972 he wrote the music for the Larry Hagman-directed movie Son of Blob (also known as Beware! The Blob). He also scored the 1974 Fred Williamson film Black Eye, and adapted the music for Mel Brooks' and Carl Reiner's 1975 animated television special The 2000 Year Old Man.[7]

In 1983 he composed the score for the West End musical Marilyn!, which opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 17 March 1983. Jacques Wilson wrote the lyrics for the show which starred Stephanie Lawrence as Marilyn Monroe. He then scored the action films Treasure of the Amazon (1985) and Vultures (1987), which both starred Stuart Whitman.[13]

In 2002 Garson composed the score for "When Garbo Talks!," a musical with book and lyrics by Buddy Kaye that had its world premiere 15 October 2010 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, International City Theatre.[14][15]

Garson was very closely associated with Heatter-Quigley Productions, creating the theme songs and music cues for the following TV game shows:

The music for the first five featured Garson playing synthesizers, but the Battlestars package used more conventional marching band orchestration.

Death[edit]

Garson died of renal failure in San Francisco in 2008, at the age of 83.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

A sample from Garson's "Planetary Motivations (Cancer)" was incorporated into DJ Shadow's 1996 song "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt," from the album Endtroducing...... In the 1994 Peter Lynch short film Arrowhead, Ray Bud (played by Don McKellar) manipulates a dead fish while singing Mort Garson's closing theme to the 1970s Canadian nature program Untamed World. The song "Plantasia" from the album "Mother Earth's Plantasia" is used in the documentary Lil Bub & Friendz.

"Deja Vu" was used as the main theme for most of the first campaign, Balance, of the Maximum Fun podcast The Adventure Zone, with "The Unexplained," "Astral Projection," "Cabala," "Wind Dance," and "Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant" also being used later on the series as an alternate theme and as background music, respectively, along with a cover version of "Plantasia," arranged by Griffin McElroy.

Discography[edit]

Studio Albums[18]
Title Release Date Label Peak Chart Position
Dusk 'Til Dawn Orchestra – Sea Drift[19] 1967 Elektra
The Love Strings Of Mort Garson – Love Sounds 1968 Liberty
The Connection Patch Cord Productions
The Wozard Of Iz – An Electronic Odyssey[20] A&M Records
Electronic Hair Pieces 1969
Signs Of The Zodiac – Aries
Signs Of The Zodiac – Taurus
Signs Of The Zodiac – Gemini
Signs Of The Zodiac – Cancer
Signs Of The Zodiac – Leo
Signs Of The Zodiac – Virgo
Signs Of The Zodiac – Libra
Signs Of The Zodiac – Scorpio
Signs Of The Zodiac – Sagittarius
Signs Of The Zodiac – Capricorn
Signs Of The Zodiac – Aquarius[21]
Signs Of The Zodiac – Pisces
Didn't You Hear? 1970 Custom Fidelity
Lucifier – Black Mass[22] 1971 UNI Records
"Z" – Music For Sensuous Lovers[23] Sensuous Records
Edgar Allen Poe's Tell-Tale Heart – With Paul Frees 1972[24] Custom Fidelity
Ataraxia – The Unexplained (Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult)[25] 1975 RCA
Mother Earth's Plantasia 1976 Homewood Records 6 (US Independent Albums)[26]
Posthumous Releases
Title Release Date Label Recorded
A Mixed Tape of Music By Mort Garson 2019 Sacred Bones Records 1957–1978
Singles / Eps
Title Release Date Label From The Album...
Mort Garson's Orch. And Chorus – Wild Child / Big Guitar – With David Hill[27] 1958 RCA
Mort Garson & His Orchestra – A Little Girl Cried / Oo La La La La – With Barbara Evans[28] 1959
Pray For Me Mother – With Barbara Evans[29]
Mort Garson And His Orchestra – Drum Tango[30] Todd
Puppet On A String / Scotch Freight[31] Carol
Madagascar[32] 1960 MGM Records
Mort Garson Orchestra – Cry For Happy[33] 1961 Oriole
The Conductor With Mort Garson Orch. – Pony Train / Bla, Bla, Bla Cha Cha Cha[34] Jamie
Soft Rain / Big Big Change – With Guy Mitchell[35] Columbia
Mort Garson & His Orchestra – Honeysuckle Rose / Early Sunday[36] 1962 Joy Records
Mort Garson & His Orchestra – Bowl-A-Rama Stomp / The Stripper's Sister[37] 1963 G-Note Records
Allison[38] 1965 Columbia
The Love Strings Of Mort Garson – A Quiet Sunday / The Apartment[39] 1968 Liberty The Love Strings Of Mort Garson – Love Sounds
(Prologue From) The Wozard Of Iz[40] A&M Records The Wozard Of Iz – An Electronic Odyssey
Pure Electronics The Amazing Sound Of The Moog Synthesizer[41] 1969 Electronic Hair Pieces
Z – Theme From Sensuous Lovers[42] 1971 Sensuous Records "Z" – Music For Sensuous Lovers
The Lords Of Percussion – The Kung-Fu / Geisha Girl[43] 1974 Old Town Records
Ataraxia – The Unexplained[44] 1975 RCA Ataraxia – The Unexplained (Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult)
Captain D.J – Disco UFO[45] 1978 G-Note Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jaques Cattell Press (ed.) (1980). ASCAP Biographical Dictionary (4th ed.). R.R. Bowker Co. p. 177. ISBN 0-8352-1283-1. Retrieved 9 January 2008.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Biography by Jason Ankeny at Allmusic.com. Retrieved 18 March 2013
  3. ^ "Dynamite" at Black Cat Rockabilly. Retrieved 19 March 2013
  4. ^ "Cliff Richard And The Shadows – Theme For A Dream". 45cat.com. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks – RUBY & THE ROMANTICS". Uncamarvy.com. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  6. ^ Mort Garson, Credits, at AllMusic. Retrieved 19 March 2013
  7. ^ a b c d Dennis McLellan, Composer was a synthesizer pioneer, Los Angeles Times, 11 January 2008
  8. ^ Mort Garson discography, at 45cat.com Retrieved 19 March 2015
  9. ^ "Guantanamera" by the Sandpipers, at Discogs.com. Retrieved 19 March 2013
  10. ^ "See The Cheetah" at The Calico Wall Archived 14 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine. retrieved 19 March 2013
  11. ^ https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr3030-mort-garson-mother-earths-plantasia
  12. ^ "Rubellan Remasters – New Wave and Obscure Music Reissues". Rubellan Remasters. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  13. ^ Vito, John De; Tropea, Frank (7 December 2006). The Immortal Marilyn: The Depiction of an Icon. Scarecrow Press. p. 171. ISBN 9781461706748. mort garson marilyn.
  14. ^ "When Garbo Talks". Whengarbotalks.com. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  15. ^ "`Garbo' a musical look at screen legend – Press-Telegram". Whengarbotalks.com. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  16. ^ https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8q7e85/mort-garson-essay-plantasia
  17. ^ Los Angeles Times (12 January 2008). "Mort Garson: 1924 – 2008". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Mort Garson". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Dusk 'Til Dawn Orchestra – Sea Drift". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  20. ^ "The Wozard Of Iz – An Electronic Odyssey". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Signs Of The Zodiac – Aquarius". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  22. ^ "Lucifer (2) – Black Mass". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  23. ^ ""Z"* – Music For Sensuous Lovers". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Paul Frees & Mort Garson – Edgar Allen Poe's Tell-Tale Heart". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Ataraxia (2) – The Unexplained (Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult)". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  26. ^ "Independent Albums". Billboard. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  27. ^ "David Hill (4) With Mort Garson's Orch. And Chorus* – Wild Child / Big Guitar". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Barbara Evans (2), Mort Garson & His Orchestra – A Little Girl Cried / Oo La La La La". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  29. ^ "Barbara Evans (2), Mort Garson – Pray For Me Mother / Oo la la la la". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  30. ^ "Mort Garson And His Orchestra* – Drum Tango". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  31. ^ "Mort Garson – Puppet On A String / Scotch Freight". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  32. ^ "Mort Garson – Madagascar". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  33. ^ "Mort Garson Orchestra* – Cry For Happy". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  34. ^ "The Conductor (4) With Mort Garson Orch.* – Pony Train / Bla, Bla, Bla Cha Cha Cha". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  35. ^ "Guy Mitchell, Mort Garson – Soft Rain / Big Big Change". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  36. ^ "Mort Garson And His Orchestra* – Honeysuckle Rose / Early Sunday". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  37. ^ "Mort Garson & His Orchestra – Come Conquistare Un Ragazzo". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  38. ^ "Mort Garson – Allison". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  39. ^ "The Love Strings Of Mort Garson* – A Quiet Sunday / The Apartment". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  40. ^ "Mort Garson – (Prologue From) The Wozard Of Iz". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  41. ^ "Mort Garson – Pure Electronics The Amazing Sound Of The Moog Synthesizer". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  42. ^ "Z (5) – Theme From Sensuous Lovers". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  43. ^ "The Lords Of Percussion – The Kung-Fu / Geisha Girl". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  44. ^ "Ataraxia (2) – The Unexplained". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  45. ^ "Captain D.J. – Disco UFO". Discogs. Retrieved 8 February 2020.

External links[edit]