Sunday, 16 August 2009

Spencer Moore — Cartoon Music Mystery Man

A number of composers are listed on different albums/reels of the Capitol Hi-Q library at the time Hanna-Barbera used it, and you can find a little bit of information about most of the more common ones on-line. John Seely’s name comes to mind first because he got a credit on the six Warners cartoons that used the same library. Bill Loose’s name is connected with him.

You’ve read on this blog about Phil Green and Geordie Hormel adding to the sound of the 1950’s H-B cartoons through their cues picked up by Capitol (Green from EMI, Hormel from Zephyr). But there’s one composer who is a complete mystery. A chap named Spencer Moore.

You have to dig deep in the BMI database to find him; he’s not in the composer index. And a hunt for him on-line will find a reference to his stock music being used in the movie Night of the Living Dead (from the Hi-Q ‘D’ series). And that’s it.

So, just who was this guy? Was the name a pseudonym for some other composer?

Well, yes. And no.

Eventually on the blog, I’m going to do a piece on the Hi-Q library itself, but I want to focus on Mr. Moore. Let us go back to Geordie Hormel and the founding of Zephyr Records. Billboard Magazine reveals this in its edition of May 12, 1956:

Hormel Forms Zephyr Disks
HOLLYWOOD—Geordie Hormel, jazz pianist scion of the meat packing clan, has organized Zephyr Records, with the firm expected to get under way via its first initial release by June 1.
The disk firm will also operate Zephyr Music Library to supply music for radio, television and commercial films, and Austin Music, Inc. (BMI). Officers of the corporation, in addition to Hormel, include Roy Anderson and Marilyn Vaile, both associated with the Hormel Foundation of Austin, Minn.
Spencer Moore has been named general manager of the company, with Bill Hitchkock [sic] to helm a repertoire post.

There was a small, brief flurry of articles about Zephyr in mid to late 1956. On July 16, Billboard revealed Hormel was attending a convention “along with the firm’s comptroller-library chief, Spencer Moore.”

So it would appear that Moore was a money guy in charge of the Zephyr Music Library, which provided cues for the new Capitol Hi-Q library.

Moore didn’t stay with Zephyr very long. Variety of May 24, 1957 reports Moore had left the company amid reports Hormel was going to streamline operations (he was looking to sell the label a month later; Variety reported by November it was defunct). Moore went back to the music rep business. Variety mentions him again on October 1, 1958 in connection with a global tour for Arwin Records.

Hormel, if nothing, was ambitious. Billboard of September 29, 1956 tells that five projects were in the works, including “radio station management, artist representation, and TV film, motion picture and legit theater production.”

He actually did get a film company going. Eventually. From Boxoffice Magazine, April 26, 1965:

Geordie Hormel, record producer-arranger, is branching out into motion picture production and distribution, having formed Cinema-One, with plans for a slate of six features during the first year.

And guess who went along for the ride? This is from Boxoffice, Feb. 20, 1967:

SPCA Documentary Set
HOLLYWOOD—The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been documented in a half-hour film produced by Pacific Newsreel, a subsidiary of Hormel Films. To be shown in 600 Human Society Branches, the film was produced by Geordie Hormel and directed by Spence Moore. Action scenes of the sheriff’s aero squadron using helicopters in a chase of a “slasher” is part of the color film.

So was Spencer Moore a money guy, composer and movie director? It’s not clear about the last two, but he certainly qualifies for the first category. A book from the U.S. Library of Congress called Performing Arts: Broadcasting has a wonderful section on stock music by the premier scholar on the subject, Paul Mandell, and contained therein is this pertinent information:

Some hotshots of Capitol were able to grab performance royalties by bankrolling music packages. George Hormel, a pianist related to the Hormel meatpacking empire, laid claim to Hi-Q music which he financed but did not write. Spencer Moore was another. Composer Nick Carras recalled the scene: “Moore made his money by bringing his investors to Capitol and putting his name on our music...”

Maybe he could write a note of music. Or three or four. But it seems pretty clear that Spencer Moore was mainly a crony of fun-loving millionaire Geordie Hormel. And because of that, “his” music can be heard on some of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

While Moore’s name is attached to different styles of music, H-B seems to have picked those with quirky violins, bassoons and horns. There are nine of them that I can attribute to him.

L-75 is a string-and-woodwind melody that is very reminiscent of some of Hormel cues on Hi-Q; perhaps the same ghost-writer came up with it. L-85 was heard on only one cartoon, the nascent Pixie and Dixie adventure Little Bird Mouse. L-1158 is a collection of short bassoon pieces that were snipped and used as musical effects.

If you click on the name of the cue, it should download into your computer’s audio player.


Late note from Yowp: Reader Steve Carras has pointed out a tenth cue, L-1147 Animation Movement, was used in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon Hop To It. It is not found in this post.


  1. Wait.....there was a NICK CARRAS, a relative of MINE..?:) Actually I do have quite a few in the older movie business..

    1. Dear Steve,
      Carras was used as orchestrator for some of the cues composed for Moore by George Antheil. Contact me if you like I have a letter from Morre to Antheil. Cheers, Mauro

  2. Great work on digging up the Spencer Moore-Geordie Hormel connection. But even though Moore worked for Sephyr, the cues that he is creditd for in the Hi-Q library were first published under Mission ("L" code) and later as Lesmor ("LM" code). Hormel's Zephyr cues were published by Bistro and still are to this day.

    There are at least a dozen Mission reels and about half dozen Lesmor reels in Hi-Q's D-series which contain the "space" music used in 'Night of the Living Dead' as well as the animated 'Space Angel.' Ole Georg bought the rights to the Lesmor material, which is now published under Group Pro Music. The Lesmor ("LM") cues which were previously credited to Spencer Moore as composer are now being credited to Stan Livingston, which sounds like a pseudonym. Meanwhile, Mission seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. Even the BMI database has no information on them.

    1. Spencer Moore was my Grampa.

    2. My dad, also Spencer Moore, was pals with Geordie Hormel

  3. Thanks, Anon, for writing and filling in some stock music blanks. I'm still hoping to find biographical information on Mr. Moore eventually.

    I didn't want to get into the D series because I don't know if any of Moore's D stuff was used in the HB cartoons cartoons.

    "Stan Livingston" also appears to be Charlotte Georg, Lee Ashley, Leslie Peel, Richard Sterling and Peter Vander Lohren.

    1. Spencer Thomas Moore was born in 1910 in Yonkers, NY. He moved to Hollywood in 1949, with my Grandma, my dad and my uncle Carl. Carl himself became known for Carl’s Curve up on Mulholland

    2. Spencer thanks for the information.
      The Moore music is very cool.

  4. Interesting comments, Anon. Explains the "L" part of the code used.

    Steve C.

  5. For whatever reason, a 1958 book 'Amendments to the Communications Act of 1934' lists composers or publishing companies used by TV shows for their music.

    I can only read snippets but I see 'Mission' listed for a couple of shows, including 'Fu Manchu' and 'Lux Video Theatre'. 'Diane Music' is also mentioned on both, which was Harry Bluestone's publisher, I gather. Lux also mentions Jack Shaindlin and a BMI company called Cormoran.

  6. these are some great posts any idea where i may be able to find this whole capitol hq production music album??

  7. M. Miz, there seem to be a lot of people wondering the same thing. However, there are hundreds of albums. Hi-Q had releases in several categories - 'D' for 'Dramatic,' 'L' for 'Light,' 'M' for 'Melodic,' 'S' for 'Short' and 'X', which seems to have been a speciality category (foreign-type music, jazz, some electronic).

    Hi-Q is on vinyl. Nobody uses vinyl. The place where I work doesn't even have production music on CD (which became popular in the mid-'80s); it's all downloaded now. Vinyl gets thrown into the garbage can. That's why it's hard finding this stuff.

  8. interesting i appreciate the info tons of thnx to yuh i swear i,m gonna keep searching for more and more h.b cartoon background music , i,m just curious to know if yuh have the opening song with the fiddle playing in the first auggie doggie episode (foxhound hounded fox)now if theres a god maybe some of those songs will magicly appear on the yowp! blog = )

  9. Miz, the song was by Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin in the C-B Library.

    It has been (re)named Happy Home and you might be able to play it HERE if Blogger isn't too finicky.

  10. strange the link tells me i,m forbidden to view the content thnx anyway tho , once again 5 stars and three cheers to the yowp blog keep doing what yuh do best provding us with great H.B cartoon knowledge i look forward to more future posts

  11. I can't find tp Spencer Moore in BMI. How I have to search it?

  12. I have found Spencer Moore in BMI.