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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vic Mizzy And The McClayvier

Vic Mizzy, who's music will forever be known to millions of people as the composer of the theme music for the 60's iconic television shows, Green Acres and The Adams Family, passed away yesterday at his home in Bel Air. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1981, I briefly met Vic, and he made an impression upon me, though probably not the one he intended.

After I moved to LA I briefly worked as a salesman at Everything Audio, a pro audio dealership who happened to have the exclusive for McClayvier sales. The McClayvier was the first keyboard workstation and was way ahead of it's time. In fact, it was so far ahead that it couldn't really be produced (but that's another story).

The one thing that it had that gave the Hollywood types goose bumps was the ability to transcribe what was played on the keyboard into printed notation. This is a no-brainer today and a feature of just about any inexpensive software package, but back then, music transcription was all done by hand, and each film studio had a building with people that did nothing but manually copy music all day long. Any hint of automating the process was big news to them.

We gave an exclusive, appointment-only McClayvier demo one day and Vic Mizzy showed up. I didn't know who he was at the time, but he arrived looking sort of like a Jewish Sammy Davis Jr., in a plaid suit with an open satin white shirt, lots and lots of gold, a huge gold watch, and extraordinarily hip sun glasses. He also had the Beverly Hills, "Yo, Babe," vocabulary that immediately made me think that everything I'd seen about Hollywood on TV and in the movies when I grew up in Pennsylvania was true. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but clearly thought that he was definitely too hip for room and decided early on that we weren't cool enough to deal with and disappeared after a few minutes. The fact was, we didn't think he was that cool either and kind of giggled about his appearance after he left.

That was my first brush with "old Hollywood," an archetype that was already pretty much dead by that time. The new Hollywood of Armani suits and cocaine was replacing it, no better or no worse, just hipper than thou (as always).

As an aside, the McClavier brought a number of music celebs who all wanted a unit if it were given to them for free, a trend that still continues to this day. The ones who can afford it most are usually the ones that don't have to pay. Endorsements maybe meant a lot more in those days than it does today, and what manufacturer can afford to give things away these days anyway?

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