Terry Melcher

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Terry Melcher
Birth nameTerrence Paul Jorden
Also known asTerry Day
Born(1942-02-08)February 8, 1942
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 19, 2004(2004-11-19) (aged 62)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Record producer, session musician, songwriter
Associated acts

Terrence Paul Melcher (born Terrence Paul Jorden, February 8, 1942 – November 19, 2004) was an American record producer, singer, and songwriter who was instrumental in shaping the mid-to-late 1960s California Sound and folk rock movements. His best-known contributions were producing the Byrds' first two albums Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) and Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965), as well as most of the hit recordings of Paul Revere & the Raiders and Gentle Soul. He is also known for his brief association with Charles Manson, a songwriter and cult leader who was later convicted of several murders.

Melcher was the only child of actress/singer Doris Day; his father was Day's first husband Al Jorden, and he was adopted by her third husband Martin Melcher. Most of his early recordings were with the vocal surf acts the Rip Chords and Bruce & Terry. In the 1960s, Melcher was acquainted with the Beach Boys, helping connect Brian Wilson to Smile lyricist Van Dyke Parks. Melcher later produced several singles for the Beach Boys in the 1980s and the 1990s, including "Kokomo" (1988), which topped U.S. record charts.

Early life[edit]

Terrence Paul Jorden was born in New York City to singer-actress Doris Day and her first husband, trombonist Al Jorden. Known as "Terry",[1] the boy was named by his mother after the hero of her favorite childhood comic strip, Terry and the Pirates.[2]

Before the birth, Day was planning to divorce Al Jorden due to his alleged physical abuse and violent temper. Upon learning of his wife's pregnancy, Jorden had demanded that Day get an abortion. Shortly after giving birth, Day filed for divorce and left the infant with her mother in Ohio. Doris went back to touring with big band leader Les Brown and after the divorce, Jorden visited his son infrequently and had little presence in his life.[citation needed]

After divorcing her second husband, saxophonist George Weidler, Day married Martin Melcher, who would become her manager and produce many of her films. Martin Melcher adopted Terry, giving the boy his surname. In his freshman and sophomore high school years, Terry attended the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut, then returned to California for his junior and senior years at Beverly Hills High. He subsequently attended Principia College in Illinois for a short time. After Martin Melcher's death in 1968, Day discovered that Martin had mismanaged or embezzled twenty million dollars from her. According to Terry, Martin also mistreated him as a child.[1]


Melcher at left, in the studio with the Byrds' Gene Clark (center) and David Crosby in 1965.

In the early 1960s, Melcher and Bruce Johnston formed the vocal duet Bruce & Terry. The duo had hits like "Custom Machine" and "Summer Means Fun". Melcher and Johnston also created another group, The Rip Chords, which had a Top 10 hit with "Hey Little Cobra". Later, Johnston would join the Beach Boys. By the mid-1960s, Melcher had joined the staff of Columbia Records and went on to work with the Byrds. He produced their hit cover versions of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!", as well as the corresponding albums Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!.[3]

Following conflicts with the band and their manager, Melcher was replaced as producer by Allen Stanton and then Gary Usher, although he would later work with the Byrds again on their Ballad of Easy Rider, (Untitled) and Byrdmaniax albums. Melcher also worked with Paul Revere & the Raiders, Wayne Newton, Frankie Laine, Jimmy Boyd, Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Mark Lindsay and the Mamas & the Papas. He was instrumental in signing Los Angeles band the Rising Sons, led by Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder.[4]

Melcher performed on the Beach Boys' platinum album Pet Sounds as a background vocalist, and introduced Brian Wilson to lyricist Van Dyke Parks in February 1966, beginning their partnership on The Smile Sessions project. Melcher was also a board member of the Monterey Pop Foundation and a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.[citation needed].

Melcher has been credited with helping to shape the sound of 1960s surf music in California.[5][6][7]

Encounter with Manson family[edit]

In 1968, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson introduced Melcher to ex-con and aspiring musician Charles Manson. Manson and his "family" had been living in Wilson's house at 14400 Sunset Boulevard after Wilson had picked up hitchhiking Manson family members Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey. Wilson expressed interest in Manson's music and also recorded two of Manson's songs with the Beach Boys.[8]

For a time, Melcher was interested in recording Manson's music, as well as making a film about the family and their hippie commune existence. Manson met Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive, the home that Melcher shared with his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen, and with musician Mark Lindsay.[9]

Manson eventually auditioned for Melcher, but Melcher declined to sign him. There was still talk of a documentary being made about Manson's music, but Melcher abandoned the project after witnessing Manson fighting with a drunken stuntman at Spahn Ranch.[1] Wilson and Melcher severed their ties with Manson, a move that angered Manson.[10] Soon after, Melcher and Bergen moved out of the Cielo Drive home. The house's owner, Rudi Altobelli, then leased it to film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Manson was reported to have visited the house on more than one occasion asking for Melcher, but was told that Melcher had moved.[1]

On August 8–9, 1969, the house was the site of the murders of Tate (who was eight months pregnant at the time), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, hairdresser Jay Sebring, writer Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent by members of Manson's "family". Some authors and law enforcement personnel[who?] have theorized that the Cielo Drive house was targeted by Manson as revenge for Melcher's rejection and that Manson was unaware that he and Bergen had moved out. However, family member Charles "Tex" Watson stated that Manson and company did, in fact, know that Melcher was no longer living there,[11][dead link] and Melcher's former roommate Mark Lindsay stated:

Everybody speculated that Manson sent his minions up there to get rid of Terry because he was angry about not getting a record deal. But Terry and I talked about it later and Terry said Manson knew (Melcher had moved) because Manson or someone from his organization left a note on Terry's porch in Malibu.[9]

At that time, Melcher was producing singer Jimmy Boyd's music for A&M Records. After initial tracks were recorded, the Manson murders took place, prompting Melcher to go into seclusion, and the session was never completed. When Manson was arrested, it was widely reported that he had sent his followers to the house to kill Melcher and Bergen. Manson family member Susan Atkins, who admitted her part in the murders, stated to police and before a grand jury that the house was chosen as the scene for the murders "to instill fear into Terry Melcher because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them".[1] Melcher took to employing a bodyguard and told Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi that his fear was so great, he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment. Melcher was the most frightened of the witnesses at the trial, even though Bugliosi assured him that "Manson knew you were no longer living (on Cielo Drive)".[1]

Later years[edit]

Melcher again acted as producer for the Byrds on Ballad of Easy Rider, their eighth album, released in November 1969.[12] The album peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard charts. At the time it was met with mixed reviews but is today regarded as one of the band's stronger albums from the latter half of their career.[13]

In the early 1970s, Melcher produced the Byrds' 9th and 10th albums, (Untitled) and Byrdmaniax. However, Byrdmaniax was not well-received; band member Gene Parsons referred to the album as "Melcher's Folly" because of its heavy overdubs of horns and strings, which were done without the band's knowledge. During this time, Melcher dabbled in real estate and served as the executive producer of his mother's CBS series, The Doris Day Show. He later recorded two solo albums, Terry Melcher and Royal Flush.[14] Writing of the former in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau said:

Most will find this producer's daydream sterile at best and noxious at worst, but I like the song about his shrink and am fascinated by his compulsion to defend his Manson connections. With the requisite show of wealth and taste, he insists that he's only a spectator — why, he wouldn't even know about the hand jive if it weren't for Soul Train. Alternate title: It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Watching.[15]

In 1985, Melcher co-produced the cable show Doris Day's Best Friends, and worked as the director and vice president of the Doris Day Animal Foundation. He and his mother, to whom he remained close throughout his life, also co-owned the Cypress Inn, a small hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.[14]

In 1988, Melcher earned a Golden Globe nomination for co-writing the song "Kokomo" with John Phillips, Scott McKenzie and Mike Love. Recorded by the Beach Boys, the song was featured in the 1988 Tom Cruise film Cocktail, and hit No. 1 (the band's career fourth overall) on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was certified gold for U.S. sales of more than one million copies.[14] Melcher produced the band's 1992 studio record Summer in Paradise, which was the first record produced digitally on Pro Tools.[citation needed]

Association with Sly Stone[edit]

Melcher and Sly Stone spent time together at Melcher's home in the late 1960s, and on more than one occasion Stone saw Charles Manson there.[16] According to Stone in a 2009 interview with LA Weekly's Randall Roberts, he was once at Melcher's home playing music and had a small disagreement with Manson there, though Stone did not know who Manson was at the time.[17] Stone met Doris Day through Melcher when he was interested in an old car that he thought that one of them had owned. When he met Day, he told her how much he liked her song "Whatever Will Be, Will Be," and they sat at the piano and sang it. After that, a rumor spread that Stone and Day were involved romantically.[18][19]


On November 19, 2004, Melcher died at his home after a long battle with melanoma; he was 62 years old. He was survived by his wife Terese, his son Ryan, and his mother Doris Day (who died on May 13, 2019).[1][20]


Act Release Catalogue Year Notes #
Terry Day "That's All I Want" / "I Waited Too Long" Columbia 4-42427 1962
Terry Day "Be A Soldier" / "I Love You, Betty" Columba 4-42678 1963 [21][22]
Terry Melcher & Bruce Johnston "Take It To Mexico (Tulsa County Blue)" / "Rebecca" RCA Victor NB-10238 1975 [23]
Terry Melcher "Fire In A Rainstorm" / "So Right Tonight" RCA Victor NB-10587 1976 [24]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Obituaries: Terry Melcher". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph (London, GB). November 23, 2004. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  2. ^ McKay (January 1983). "Two Faces of Cincinnati". Cincinnati: 94. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 33 – Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. Track 2.
  4. ^ westcoastmusic: Terry Melcher dies, Terry Melcher passed away, legendary artist who worked with the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Ry Cooder
  5. ^ boston.com News, November 22, 2004 - OBITUARIES, Terry Melcher; helped create surf music sound By Myrna Oliver, Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ ABC Online, 22 Nov 2004, - Surf music producer Terry Melcher dies
  7. ^ Spotify - Terry Melcher, The son of Doris Day, Terry Melcher was a key player on the L.A.
  8. ^ Dowd, Katie (November 20, 2017). "How the Beach Boys ended up recording a song written by Charles Manson". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California: Hearst Publications. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Adamson, Nancy (June 8, 2013). "Mark Lindsay talks about new music, cats and Charlie Manson". Midland Reporter-Telegram. Midland, Texas: Hearst Corporation.
  10. ^ "Charles Manson. Charlie. The Charles Manson Family. Cielodrive.com: The Story of the Manson Family and their Victims". cielodrive.com. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  11. ^ Chapter 14 Helter Skelter I (August 8-9): Will You Die For Me? Archived 2010-11-19 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 542–547. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  13. ^ "Ballad of Easy Rider review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  14. ^ a b c Blog of Death: Terry Melcher, blogofdeath.com; accessed March 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  16. ^ Toronto International Film Festival Inc. - A Tale of Two “Serás”: How Heathers references Doris Day and Sly Stone’s non-family affair
  17. ^ LA Weekly, May 25, 2009 - Sly Stone Interviewed on KCRW: Discusses Doris Day, Terry Melcher, Charles Manson and "Que Sera Sera." - RANDALL ROBERTS
  18. ^ Doris Day: Sentimental Journey, By Garry McGee - Page 41
  19. ^ Pop Matters, 02 May 2017 - MUSIC, On Wanting Sly Stone to Take Us Higher Yet Again BY MARK REYNOLDS
  20. ^ Doris Day's beloved son Terry Melcher dies at 62..., dorisdaytribute.com, November 25, 2004.
  21. ^ Surf & Hot Rod Music of the 60's: Collectors Quick Reference, By R. Duane Cozzen - Page 32 BRUCE & TERRY, Bruce Johnston & Terry Melcher, Singles (45's)
  22. ^ Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records: 1950-1975, Tim Neely - Page 815
  23. ^ Cash Box, May 17, 1975 - Page 23 cash box/singles reviews
  24. ^ Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records: 1950-1975, Tim Neely - Page 815

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