Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We Pause to Remember Another Guy Who Could Say, "This Song Bought My House."

Once again, the world mourns the loss of someone whose name is virtually unknown, but his contribution to the culture is immediately recognizable. In fact, the name Vic Mizzy might only ring a very small bell with fans of classic TV shows, while drawing blank stares from others at its mention. But I bet I can refresh your memory in a few short syllables. Here goes:

Ba-da-da-DUM (click, click)

That's right--Mizzy was the composer of the famed Addams Family TV theme, and many others, including the well-known opening to Green Acres. A great L..A. Times story about him features some interesting trivia connected with the Addams theme:
For his theme song, Mizzy played a harpsichord, which gives the theme its unique flavor. And because the production company, Filmways, refused to pay for singers, Mizzy sang it himself and overdubbed it three times. The song, memorably punctuated by finger-snapping, begins with: "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."

In the 1996 book "TV's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From 'Dragnet' to 'Friends,' " author Jon Burlingame writes that Mizzy's "musical conception was so specific that he became deeply involved with the filming of the main-title sequence, which involved all seven actors snapping their fingers in carefully timed rhythm to Mizzy's music."
The story also identifies the unusual instrument employed in the Green Acres theme as a bass harmonica; that was a new one on me.

Mizzy was smart enough to retain the publishing rights to the theme, and it literally did end up buying his house:
"I sat down; I went 'buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap], buh-buh-buh-bump," he recalled in a 2008 interview on CBS' "Sunday Morning" show. "That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air."
As I noted just over a year ago, the composer Neal Hefti likely found himself in a similar situation with the theme from the Batman TV show, no matter how many great jazz tunes he wrote (which he did; think "Li'l Darlin'," "Splanky" and "Cute," just to name a few).

R.I.P, Vic. Your tunes will live on in reruns (and the back of people's minds) for years to come.

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