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Space Age Music Maker

Mort Garson


  • Born 20 July 1924, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Died 4 January 2008, San Francisco, California

Somedays, Mort Garson's name seems to pop up on just about every other 60s recording I flip past. Conducting the "Love Strings" on Liberty, arranging for the Lettermen on Capitol, providing background to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic, accompanying Doris Day on Columbia, experimenting with the Moog on A&M.

Garson pushed out some serious quantities of product in the 1960s.

Garson studied music at Juilliard and worked as a pianist and arranger before getting pulled into the Army near the end of World War Two. Garson could carry out any or all of the musical chores on any given session: composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor, and even pianist if that was required. With lyricist Bob Hilliard, he wrote one of the great lounge hits of the 1960s, "Our Day Will Come," a hit for Ruby and the Romantics and more recently covered to perfection by k.d. lang and Take 6 for the soundtrack of the otherwise forgettable movie, Shag.

Garson spent the mid-1960s on a flurry of accompaniment jobs: two Doris Day albums (Sentimental Journey and Songs for Latin Lovers), Mel Torme's great Right Now! album of contempo tunes like "Secret Agent Man," Glenn Yarborough's highly successful cover of Rod McKuen songs, The Lonely Things, and Glen Campbell's even more successful By the Time I Get to Phoenix. He also appears to have been a favorite of producers when the job involved soft pop vocal groups and string ensembles, since his handiwork appears on albums and singles by the Lettermen, the Sandpipers, the Sugar Shoppe, the Hollyrdige Strings, the Sunset Strings, and the Love Strings.

The most highly prized Garson albums among exotica fans are his electronic albums of the late 1960s. Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds, featuring Paul Beaver on a variety of electronic instruments with voice-overs by Cyrus Farrar on a suite of Garson originals covering the 12 signs of the zodiac, was the first album recorded on the West Coast to include Robert Moog's new Moog synthesizer. Garson returned to the Moog for his album Electronic Hair Pieces, a choice artifact of the late 1960s, featuring a mod model with a wired-up skull on the cover, versions of "Hair," "Good Morning Starshine," and other hippy-dippy tunes, and liner notes by Tom Smothers. The Wozard of Id, a psychedelic satire with Bernie Krause providing a rich array of environmental sound effects and Suzy Jane Hokum as Dorothy, is another favorite.

Garson appears to have had a philosophy of, "No job too silly to take seriously." For A&M, he composed and arranged a series featuring a whole album for each sign of original tunes with heavy use of electronics. He wrote an album called "Plantasia" that you were supposed to play to make your indoor plants grow better. When someone had the bright idea of putting out a record of music-and-moans to capitalize on the best-seller, The Sensuous Woman by "Z," Garson was their man. He wrote an electronic "Black Mass" album that probably spun at many an acid party, and followed that with one called, Ataraxia designed to accompany meditations to the mantra of your choice. Garson also worked in television and film, scoring all creations great and small, from "The Son of the Blob" to "Kentucky Fried Movie", from short-live game shows such as "Baffle" and "The Magnificent Marble Machine" to serious fare such as National Geographic specials.


Recordings

  • Bossa Nova for All Ages (by the Continentals), Canadian-American SCALP-1009
  • Symphony for Soul (by the Total Eclipse), Imperial LP-12353
  • Sea Drift (by the Dusk 'Til Dawn Orchestra), Elektra EK 4008/EKS 74008
  • Zodiac Cosmic Sounds, Elektra EK 4009/EKS 74009
  • Electronic Hair Pieces, A&M SP 4209
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Aires, A&M 4211
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Virgo, A&M SP 4212
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Gemini, A&M SP 4213
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Leo, A&M SP 4215
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Scorpio, A&M SP 4218
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Sagittarius, A&M SP 4219
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Aquarius, A&M SP 4221
  • Signs of the Zodiac: Pisces, A&M SP 4222
  • Wozard of Id, A&M SP 4156
  • Do Not Disturb (soundtrack), Columbia 4-43459
  • Lucifer : Black Mass, United Artists UAS 73111
  • Music for Sensuous Lovers by "Z," Sensuous Anthem-5800
  • Ataraxia: The unexplained, electronic musical impressions of the occult, RCA Victor APL1-1217


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