Thursday, July 1, 2010

Composer Allyn Ferguson R.I.P.

Allyn Ferguson, who composed the themes for Barney Miller, Charlie's Angels, and other TV series, passed on June 23, 2010. He was 85 years old.

Allyn Ferguson was born on October 18, 1924 in San Jose, California. As a child he was something of a musical prodigy. He took trumpet lessons when he was only 4 years old and began studying piano when he was only 7. During World War II he was trained as a P-38 pilot, but the war came to an end before he could see any combat. After the war he attended San Jose State University where he received bachelor and master's degrees in music. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.

By the early Fifties Allyn Ferguson was attending Stafford University to earn a doctorate. It was at this time that he formed the Chamber Jazz Sextet, who would record three albums. It was in 1958 that he would move to Hollywood. His first work in film would be as the composer for the 1962 movie The Devil's Hand. He would score the films The Magic Tide (1962), Terror at Black Falls (1962), and Airborne (1965).  From 1966 to 1967 he would serve as a conductor on The Andy Williams Show. He would also score incidental music for episodes of the TV shows The Monkees and Bewitched.

By 1970 Allyn Ferguson had entered into a partnership with Jack Elliott, and together they would compose scores for TV shows and movies. The team of Messrs. Ferguson and Elliott composed the score for the movie Myra Breckinridge (1970). They went on to compose themes for the TV shows Lotsa Luck, Get Christie Love, Barney Miller, Charlie's Angels, Big Hawaii, A. E. S. Hudson Street, and Fish. Mr. Ferguson also served as a conductor on such TV movies as The Count of Monte Cristo, The Four Feathers, and The Man in the Iron Mask. In the Eighties and Nineties Mr. Ferguson composed scores for TV movies such as The Christmas Gift, The Last Days of Patton, Ironclads, Shadow of a Doubt, and High Noon. He also composed music for episodes of The Hallmark Hall of Fame, Murder She Wrote, and Diagnosis Murder.

There can be no doubt that Allyn Ferguson was one of the best composers to ever work in television. Indeed, with Jack Elliott he wrote two of the most memorable themes in the history of the medium, the themes to Barney Miller and Charlie's Angels. His work in TV movies and other TV shows was of an equally high quality, so much so that Mr. Ferguson was nominated several times for Emmy awards. He had talent that was matched by only a few other composers in the television industry.

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