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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Les Baxter born 14 March 1922


Leslie Thompson "Les" Baxter (March 14, 1922 – January 15, 1996) was an American musician and composer. After becoming well known as an arranger and composer for swing bands in the 1940s, he developed his own style of world music-influenced easy listening music, known as exotica, during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Baxter learned to play the piano at five years of age and studied at the Detroit Conservatory and at Pepperdine College in Los Angeles, California. Abandoning a concert career as a pianist, he turned to popular music as a singer. At the age of 23 he joined Mel Tormé's Mel-Tones, singing on Artie Shaw records such as "What Is This Thing Called Love?". 

Baxter then turned to arranging and conducting for Capitol Records in 1950, and conducted the orchestra of two early Nat King Cole hits, "Mona Lisa" and "Too Young". In 1953 he scored his first movie, the sailing travelogue Tanga Tika. With his own orchestra, he released a number of hits including "Ruby" (1953), "Unchained Melody" (1955), "The Poor People of Paris" (1956) and is remembered for a version of "Sinner Man" (1956), definitively setting the sound with varying tempos, orchestral flourishes, and wailing background vocals.
 
 
                               

"Unchained Melody" was the first million seller for Baxter, and was awarded a gold disc. "The Poor People of Paris" also sold over one million copies.He also achieved success with concept albums of his own orchestral suites: Le Sacre Du Sauvage, Festival Of The Gnomes, Ports Of Pleasure, and Brazil Now, the first three for Capitol and the fourth on Gene Norman's Crescendo label. The list of musicians on these recordings includes Plas Johnson and Clare Fischer.

On his early-'50s singles Baxter was relatively straightforward, performing versions of standards like the number one hits "Unchained Melody" and "The Poor People of Paris," but on his albums he experimented with all sorts of world musics, adapting them for his orchestra. As he was recording his exotica albums, Baxter was also the musical director for the radio show Halls of Ivy, plus Abbott & Costello radio shows; he also composed over 100 film scores, concentrating on horror movies and teenage musicals and comedies, though he also did dramas like Giant. Baxter also wrote the "Whistle" theme from the TV show Lassie. 

Baxter did not restrict his activities to recording. As he once told Soundtrack! Magazine, "I never turn anything down". 

In the 1960s, he formed the Balladeers, a be-suited and conservative folk group that at one time featured a young David Crosby. He operated in radio as musical director of The Halls of Ivy and the Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello shows.

Like his counterparts Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin and James Horner, Baxter later worked for the film industries from 1960s to 70s. He worked on movie soundtracks for American International Pictures where he composed and conducted scores for Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films and other horror stories and teenage musicals, including The Pit and the Pendulum, Panic in Year Zero!, Beach Party, The Comedy of Terrors, The Dunwich Horror, and Frogs. Howard W. Koch recalled that Baxter composed, orchestrated, and recorded the entire score of The Yellow Tomahawk (1954) in a total of three hours for $5,000. 


With less soundtrack work in the 1980s, he scored music for theme parks and Sea Worlds. In the 1990s, Baxter was widely celebrated, alongside Martin Denny and the Arthur Lyman Group, as one of the progenitors of what had become known as the "exotica" movement. In his 1996 appreciation for Wired magazine, writer David Toop remembered Baxter thus: "Baxter offered package tours in sound, selling tickets to sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo emotions before lunch, view a pagan ceremony, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home hi-fi comforts in the white suburbs". 

Baxter died of heart and kidney problems on January 15, 1996 in Newport Beach, California at the age of 73. Survived by his daughter Leslie, he was buried at Pacific View Memorial Park, in Corona del Mar, California.

He has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6314 Hollywood Blvd. (Info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)
 

2 comments:

boppinbob said...

For “Les Baxter- Thinking Of You” (2CD) go here:

Disc 1 https://www.sendspace.com/file/w9u7ge

1. THE POOR PEOPLE OF PARIS
2. BLUE STAR
3. ZING ZING - ZOOM ZOOM
4. WITH MY EYES WIDE OPEN I'M DREAMING
5. THE SHRIKE
6. TROPICANA
7. RUBY
8. QUIET VILLAGE
9. NEVERTHELESS
10. PADAM, PADAM
11. TEMPTATION
12. THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
13. MONIKA
14. SO LONG (It's Been Good to Know You)
15. NIGHTINGALE
16. PLEASE MR. SUN
17. SWAY
18. BECAUSE OF YOU
19. LITTLE WHITE LIES
20. GIANT
21. I'LL NEVER STOP LOVING YOU
22. GREEN EYES
23. HANG YOUR WISHES ON THE TREE
24. SANTA CLAUS' PARTY
25. SUDDENLY
26. NORMANDY
27. SPEAK LOW
28. MISS YOU
29. MELODIA LOCA
30. AUF WIEDERSEH'N, SWEETHEART

Disc 2 https://www.sendspace.com/file/j8ghue

1. UNCHAINED MELODY
2. THE NEARNESS OF YOU
3. THE ROVING KIND
4. OUT OF THIS WORLD
5. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY
6. THE BREEZE AND I
7. SHRIMP BOATS
8. THE CLOWN OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
9. BLUE TANGO
10. LONELY WINE
11. APRIL IN PORTUGAL
12. IF YOU'VE FORGOTTEN ME
13. KISS OF FIRE
14. Theme From 'HELEN OF TROY'
15. WAKE THE TOWN AND TELL THE PEOPLE
16. BLUE MIRAGE (Don't Go)
17. I LOVE PARIS
18. THINKING OF YOU
19. VIENI, VIENI
20. UNLESS
21. ROMANTIC RIO
22. SINNER MAN
23. MY NAME IS GOD
24. I'M YOURS
25. THERE'S NEVER BEEN ANYONE ELSE BUT YOU
26. TANGO OF THE DRUMS
27. LOST IN MEDITATION
28. MINE
29. PURPLE ISLANDS
30. ADIOS

Les Baxter was one of the most popular arranger/conductors of the 1950s, and his singles and albums were on the Billboard charts throughout that time.

Included in this Jasmine 60 track compilations are his major hit records: 'Ruby', 'Because Of You', 'The High And The Mighty', 'April In Portugal', 'Because Of You', 'Wake The Town And Tell The People', and his two multimillion sellers 'Unchained Melody', and 'The Poor People Of Paris'.

With several television and movie themes plus tracks from some of his exotic albums this is the most complete Les Baxter collection to date!

Pudge said...

Thanks Bob. Great music.