'Star Trek,' 'Have Gun, Will Travel,' 'Rawhide,' 'Hogan's Heroes,' 'The
Bullwinkle Show' and other TV series.
By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles TimesJune 25, 2011
Television and film music composer Fred Steiner, creator of the bold and
gritty theme for the "Perry Mason" TV series and one of the composers of
the Oscar-nominated score for "The Color Purple," has died. He was 88.
Steiner died of natural causes Thursday at his home in the town of
Ajijic in the Mexican state of Jalisco, according to his daughter Wendy
Waldman, a singer-songwriter.
One of the busiest composers working in Hollywood in the 1950s and '60s,
Steiner also crafted music for "Gunsmoke," "The Twilight Zone," "Star
Trek," "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Rawhide," "Hogan's Heroes" and other TV
Steiner said he wanted to create music for Mason, writer Erle Stanley
Gardner's legal-eagle lawyer, that projected two key facets of his
personality: suave sophistication and the underlying toughness that
allowed him to go head-to-head with the criminals with whom he often
came into contact. The piece he came up with, titled "Park Avenue Beat,"
pulsed with the power of the big city and the swagger of a beefy hero
played to perfection by actor Raymond Burr.
"In those days, jazz - or in those days, rhythm and blues was the big
thing - represented the seamier side of life," Steiner told National
Public Radio interviewer Nina Totenberg in 2002. "Don't ask me why -
that's a sociological question."
Frederick Steiner was born Feb. 24, 1923, in New York City, the son of
violinist, composer and arranger George Steiner. He began playing the
piano at 6 and took up the cello at 13. He received a scholarship to the
Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he studied with composer
His early jobs included composing, arranging and conducting music for
New York City-based radio shows in the 1940s, and he was appointed
musical director for the ABC radio series "This Is Your FBI."
After moving west in 1947, he soon found film and TV work in Hollywood.
Among his early assignments for CBS-TV were "Man Against Crime," "The
Danny Thomas Show" and "Gunsmoke."
Steiner and the other members of Hollywood's thriving musical community
got together often, Waldman recalled.
"I remember them all very well, remember them playing chamber music at
our house, remember Bernard Herrmann pounding on the piano, Elmer
[Bernstein], Jerry Goldsmith, Earle Hagen, Henry Mancini, Leonard
Rosenman, Nathan Van Cleave, it goes on and on," she said.
In 1958 Steiner moved the family to Mexico City for 2 1/2 years after
landing a job as director of an independent record company and was
commissioned to create a library of music for Mexican television and
"It was fantastic, really fantastic," his daughter Jillian Steiner
Sandrock told the Albuquerque Journal in 1996. "It contributed to my
interest in traditional culture. There was poverty, but especially in
the rural areas there was the traditional culture, and that was a way
those communities stayed knit together."
Steiner returned to Southern California in 1960 and resumed his career
in Hollywood. He also continued his studies at UCLA and at USC, where he
received a degree in musicology and where he later taught composition.
"Fred was one of those people who always made my work better," longtime
KUSC-FM host and film music aficionado Jim Svejda said Friday. "I
remember one night when I introduced the Schoenberg Cello Concerto as
being a work based on music 'by that Baroque non-entity Georg Matthias
Monn.' The next day, Fred called and proceeded to gently rip me,
explaining who Monn was, describing in detail all the wonderful things
he'd written, patiently illustrating his importance in the subsequent
development of Baroque music, etc.
"Keep in mind, Monn is a name that 99.9% of all music lovers have never
even heard," Svejda said. "From then on, I knew I had to watch myself
because Fred might be listening."
The serious, classical music aspect of Steiner's life was a
counterweight to the lighthearted character of one of his more widely
recognized compositions, the jaunty Broadway-style theme he wrote for
"The Bullwinkle Show" - a later incarnation of "The Adventures of Rocky
& Bullwinkle" - and the charged-up, forthright Dudley Do-Right theme
used in the series.
Steiner contributed music to more than two dozen episodes of the
original "Star Trek" TV series, music that resurfaced in 1979's "Star
Trek: The Motion Picture" and, most recently, for "Star Trek New
Voyages: Phase II." He also provided music, although uncredited, for
"Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" in 1983.
Contrary to the stereotype in Hollywood, Steiner was known for his
down-to-earth personality. "In a profession often marked with
personality conflicts and frayed nerves," film historian Tony Thomas
wrote in 1991, "Steiner is notable for his even temper and affable
nature. It is no exaggeration to claim him as one of the best-liked men
in the film music community."
In addition to his daughters, Steiner is survived by his wife of 64
years, Shirley; a sister, Kay Gellert; two grandchildren; and two
Born: 2/24/1923, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 6/23/2011, Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
Fred Steiner's westerns - composer,orchestrator
Son of Paleface - 1952 [orchestrator]
White Feather - 1955 [orchestrator]
Man from Del Rio - 1956 [composer]
Union Pacific (TV) - 1958 [composer]
Saddle the Wind - 1958 [orhcestrator]
Boots and Saddles (TV) - 1957-1958 [composer]
The Man from Blackhawk (TV) - 1959-1960 [composer]
Riverboat (TV) - 1959 [composer]
Hotel de Paree (TV) - 1960 [composer]
Have Gun - Will Travel (TV) - 1960-1962 [composer]
Rawhide (TV) - 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 [composer]
The Hallelujah Trail - 1965 [orchestrator]
Gunsmoke (TV) - 1965, 1966 [composer]
The Loner (TV) - 1965, 1966 [composer]
The Wild Wild West (TV) - 1968 [composer]
The Guns of Will Sonnett (TV) - 1967, 1969 [composer]
Lancer (TV) - 1969, 1970 [composer]
Daniel Boone (TV) - 1964, 1965, 1967, 1970 [composer]
Wild Women (TV) - 1970 [composer]
Bonanza (TV) - 1971 [composer]
Hec Ramsey (TV) - 1972 [composer]
The Deadly Trackers - 1973 [composer]