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Space Age Music Maker

Frank DeVol


  • Born 20 September 1911, Moundsville, West Virginia
  • Died 27 October 1999, Lafayette, California

After years of seeing "Music by DeVol" flash by on the opening credits of countless TV shows and movies, I had come to assume that "DeVol" was some faceless business, the musical equivalent of "Color by Deluxe." To the contrary, Frank DeVol was a real person who proved more than willing on occasion to put his face in front of the camera--and did so, in fact, playing the bandleader Happy Kyne on Martin Mull's talk-show parody sitcom, "Fernwood 2 Nite" (later "America 2 Nite"). Unlike his character, who was often the brunt of host Barth Gimble's sarcasm, DeVol was a shrewd and able professional, a mainstay of the studio system.

DeVol was raised in Canton, Ohio, where his father was bandleader for the local vaudeville theater. DeVol joined his father's band when he was 14, and was a full-time professional musician before he was twenty. After a variety of gigs, he was hired by Horace Heidt to play and arrange, but when guitarist Alvino Rey left that band, DeVol went with him. By the early 1940s, DeVol was leading his own band on Mutural Network station KHJ in Los Angeles. He soon became musical director for the network, working with Rudi Vallee, Dinah Shore, Jack Carson, and others, and was appearing himself in some of the on-air skits.

DeVol worked in radio until the early 1950s, when director Robert Aldrich hired him to score a low-budget movie, "World for Ransom." Other studio jobs followed, and by the early 1960s, most of his time was spent writing and conducting music for series such as "My Three Sons" and "The Brady Bunch" and movies like "Pillow Talk," "Good Neighbor Sam," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Krakatoa: East of Java." He won five Oscar nominations for his scores and five Emmys for his television themes and scores. He was in steady demand as an arranger for vocalists such as Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Vic Damone, June Christy, and Peggy Lee. And in his spare moments, he did occasional acting bits, appearing in movies such as "The Parent Trap" before his "Fernwood/America 2 Nite" stint.

But DeVol was also a recording artist with Capitol, Columbia, and finally, ABC, and released over a dozen albums of fairly standard--although not so hackneyed as Mantovani's--string-laden easy listening music. The most noteworthy of these for space age pop fans is Bacchanale, a suite of compositions by Albert Harris centered on the theme of the gods of Greek mythology.

In the mid-1980s, after the death of his first wife, DeVol married the big band-era singer Helen O'Connell, and together the couple performed on cruise ships for several years until O'Connell's death in 1997.


Recordings

  • Waltzing on Air, Capitol T-288
  • Concert of Waltzes, Capitol T-588
  • Portraits, Columbia CL-1108
  • The Columbia Album of Irving Berlin, Columbia CL-1260
  • Fabulous Hollywood, Columbia CL-1371/CS-8172
  • Old Sweet Songs, Columbia CL-1413/CS-8209
  • More Old Sweet Songs, Columbia CS-8273
  • Peyton Place, ABC ABCS-513
  • Italian Romance, ABC ABCS-534
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? soundtrack, Colgems COS-108
  • The Happening soundtrack, Colgems COSO-5006


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