Tuesday 22 December 2009

The Story of the Men Behind the Music Behind the Stories

Hoyt Curtin’s name will be forever linked to the music of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, thanks to some singable theme songs and burned-in-the-mind underscores for Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Top Cat and The Flintstones. But before Curtin created the background music for cartoons starting with the Loopy De Loop theatrical series in 1959, Hanna-Barbera antics were filled with stock music from the Capitol Hi-Q library. Curtin never wrote for it. The two biggest names are associated with it are Bill Loose and John Seely.

There’ll be a post on the library itself coming. To keep it from getting unwieldy and lengthy, I’m going to do a separate biographical post on Loose and Seely. All this information is cobbled together from the web and it’s probably more than you wanted to know about them.

Seely may the better known of the pair solely because of his credit on six Warner Brothers cartoons. During a musicians strike, Warners assembled scores from snippets of material in the Hi-Q library and instead of giving individual composer credits, simply credited Seely. As a result, other internet sites have wrongly decided to arbitrarily assign Seely sole credit to other cartoons which feature the Hi-Q library. The fact is little of the music in the Warners cartoons was by Seely; the bulk was composed by Phil Green. However, Seely was manager of Capitol’s Film Music Library Service at the time the cartoons were made. Credit goes to the top, you know.

Seely died in 2004 and the Oakland Tribune published a pretty full obituary:

Composer known for TV tunes dies Oakland native John Seely
OAKLAND -- John Seely's name may not strike a chord, but if you've watched TV over the last 50 years, one of his compositions might.
The noted pianist and composer, who worked on themes and background music for "Dennis the Menace," "The Donna Reed Show" and Looney Tunes, died April 23 at the Lake Park Retirement Residence in Oakland. He was 80.
The Oakland native's work is part of the permanent record at the Museum of TV and Radio.
Mr. Seely was born Aug. 23, 1923, as Seely John Gilfilen, family members said. He graduated from Piedmont High School in 1941 and served in the Army during World War II, said daughter Dori Seely Wuepper of the Seattle area.
He earned a bachelor's degree in communications at the University of Southern California in 1949 and got a job at Capitol Records, where he became head of the prerecorded background music department.
With partner Bill Loose, Mr. Seely provided themes and background music for Warner Brothers cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Sylvester and Tweety and others. They also wrote music for "Davey and Goliath," "The Texan," "Frontier Doctor" and "Insight."
Mr. Seely's family grew to three daughters with wife Merry Seely. From 1965 to 1968, the couple joined a Catholic lay missionary organization and lived in Kenya. Although the couple divorced, they remained close, his daughter said.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Seely moved back to Oakland and volunteered with Project Safety Net, Goodwill Bags and Stagebridge. He also taught at Westlake Junior High School.
"He was an incredibly accomplished musician with a very particular talent -- which was being able to create a sound score for live performances," said Stuart Kandell, director of Stagebridge, who worked with Mr. Seely since the late 1980s. "He had a huge, huge heart, and he loved working with children. He still really loved performing."
Another vital part was helping others.
"He looked for ways to be a good person. My dad took these kids, who were struggling with family life," his daughter said. "He taught them computer and music skills, made sure they went to school and had a trade. He was a real mentor."
"He opened his heart for a lot of different people," said Frank Huang of Santa Clara. Huang met Mr. Seely as a student 15 years ago.
"There's a group of us who've became his friends over the years," Huang said. "We see him as a very giving person, an important part of our lives."
Along with daughter Dori, Mr. Seely is survived by daughters Pati- Ann Misskelley of Michigan and Kathleen Beeler of Reno, Nev.; and eight grandchildren. Merry Seely preceded him in death in 2001.

Seely’s parents were Hermon Maxwell Gilfilen and Dorothy Seely; her ancesters came to America in 1630. They were married in 1922 and divorced by 1926. Both remarried. His mother was a coloratura soprano (her second husband was artist and amateur baritone Leonard D’Ooge) and his sister Dorothy sang as well.

The world of commercial music composition seems to be filled with extremely talented people who travel from job to and job and take what they can find. Loose was among them, with a stop as an executive at the time the first Hanna-Barbera cartoons were being created.

Loose’s obit in the Los Angeles Times of February 26, 1991 is brief:

William Loose, the Emmy-winning composer-arranger whose music was heard in such TV series as “Your Hit Parade,” “The Untouchables,” “Dennis the Menace” and “The Donna Reed Show,” died Friday. He was 80. Loose suffered a heart attack and died in a Burbank hospital.
A musical arranger for radio stations in the Midwest, he arranged for the U. S. Army Air Force Orchestra in New York during World War II and afterward began scoring for TV. He wrote with John Seely the “Happy Days” theme for the Reed show. He won his Emmy for “In the Shadow of Vesuvius,” a National Geographic Special broadcast on PBS in the 1987-88 season. Jack Tillar collaborated on that score.

William George Loose was born in Michigan on June 5, 1910. The 1930 census shows he was living in Dawes, Nebraska. By 1938, he was in the Dusty Rhoades band and married to Opal Cowell, a Nebraska native (she was a composer who died in 1961). Loose enlisted in the U.S. Air Corps in 1942 and his draft card said he had four years of college and was married. The Western Michigan College of Education shows a William George Loose attending in 1932, and a clarinettist. I haven’t a clue if it’s the same guy.

After the war, Loose’s career went in two simultaneous directions. He did what a number of musicians did at the time—formed an orchestra in the waning days of the big bands. His boys recorded instrumentals for Capitol starting in 1954 and backed such artists as Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, Gisele MacKenzie and later Dale Darling (1958 on Roulette) and Eartha Kitt (1961 on MGM). Loose arranged for no less than Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on their Reprise album ‘Guys and Dolls’ (1963). He was evidently well enough known, as his orchestra headlined a couple of editions of the radio show ‘Here’s to Veterans.’

But he was also writing music and several melodies in conjunction with John Seely appeared in the Sam Fox library. Seely then gave him a new job. Billboard magazine of February 11, 1956 reports Seely hired him to be in charge of Capitol’s studio operations on the West Coast, which is the time the Hi-Q Library was in development. Loose stayed at Capitol until 1964 when Ole Georg, the label’s former A&R producer in Copenhagen, took over from him. Variety reported on March 17th that Loose had been hired at Decca as the head of A and R.

In the meantime, Loose continued writing and publishing music, solo and with various partners, including Jack Cookerly (who was Hoyt Curtin’s keyboardist) and Emil Cadkin. He came up with a new-ish theme in 1969 for the game show Hollywood Squares by reworking the old one written by Jimmy Haskell. Syd Dale hired him to write material for his Amphonic library. He conducted the Hollyridge Strings (for Capitol) and the Hollywood Symphonette. In 1975, he produced some records for the Good Music Company, which supplied low-key, uncomplicated instrumentals of pop and rock songs for “easy listening” radio stations.

Loose also found himself writing scores at both ends of the movie spectrum. On one hand, he was responsible for setting the mood for the heart-warming adventures of “Whiskers” in the family documentary Cougar Country (1970). On the other, he scored a bunch of X-rated and soft-core porn movies. Perhaps his experience with sexiness went back to the days when he was Kitt’s pianist at the El Mocambo on the Sunset Strip in the early ‘50s. Anyway, he soon became the composer of choice for the somewhat infamous Russ Meyer, creating musical romps for such epics as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cherry; Harry and Raquel! (both 1970); Supervixens (1975) and Up! (1976) and for lesser auteurs of the genre in The Adult Version of Jeckyll and Hide; The Erotic Adventures of Zorro (both 1972) and The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974). Yes, the same guy who brought you the happy theme to ever-so-wholesome The Donna Reed Show. Well, that’s show biz.

He accepted other low-budget movie jobs, too; you can find a list at the IMDB. One of them was for Alaska Productions’ Joniko and the Kush Ta Ta (1969), whose co-composer was Hanna-Barbera’s Hoyt Curtin. It was the only time they actually worked together.

After Loose’s death on February 22, 1991, there were several court battles over his compositions which apparently had been in the Hi-Q library. We’ve already mentioned one on the blog between co-writer Emil Cadkin and the Loose family. You can read about another one here where widow Irma Loose (his second wife) won a $2 million jury award.

Loose apparently enjoyed boating. He was an active member of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, California and in 1964 was living on Balboa Island. In the ’50s, they had a place at 4560 Carpenter Avenue, variously described as being in North Hollywood and Studio City. He and Irma were both registered Democrats at the time.

Since we’re now talking recreational activities, houses and politics, it’s probably a good time to bring this post to a close. Suffice it to say, Loose and Seely put together the library which contained stock music heard on many TV shows and cartoons of the mid-to-late 1950s. In a post soon, we’ll tell you how it happened. Oh, and we’ll have music galore, most of which should be familiar to fans of Huck and Yogi.

But since you have been so patient, Santa Yowp will reward you with a couple of Hi-Q cues. They may not sound familiar, as they were never used in Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but there’s always the chance they were in some ‘50s TV Show. The first is TC-40 Metropolitan, an atypical urban bustle piece of the era by Loose and Seely. The second is a solo composition by Loose called C-12 Domestic Lite, also known on some record labels as Fashion Fox Trot, which has a very Donna Reed Show quality. I have tried using embedded players but the coding was displayed differently in Explorer and Firefox, so you’ll have to click on the title and let your audio player do the work.



  1. Thanks. Can't wait to read more on this subject. I haven't heard TC-40 Metropolitan before, but C-12 Domestic Lite was played in the bondfire scene from an " Ozzie & Harriett " ep titled " Rick's Riding Lesson ". But, I don't want to stray too far from Hanna-Barbera. Wasn't it also part of the cuts listed as " Pedigree Parade " on some albums? I could be wrong.

  2. thanks yowp!!!
    Happy Holidays

  3. Thanks..C-12 in addition to Errol's hearing, was used in
    A Gumby episode from 1956 "Lost and Found/Mirrorland" [right at the beginning]
    A WB/Bell Science featurette "The Alphabet Consirpiracy" from 1959
    And a few other educational films

  4. Great information on these talented composers...thanks for posting! Does anyone know if there is a CD or mp3s available of Seely's and Loose's soundtracks?

  5. No, anon. Such a thing does not exist.

  6. John Seely's name and his firm "..Associatrs" does turn up, in addition to that solo credit on those 6 WB shorts [not the only WB productions to use those libraries] on almost ALL "Davey and Goliaths"!

  7. A LOT of Bill Loose cues have traces of that old "Donna Reed Show" theme, such as TC-304A.[The one heard exclusively on "Ruff and Reddy" as far back as the Pinky the Elephant one.]

    Pokey[whose adventures with Gumby had C-12 in "Toy Crazy", one of "Wiley207'"s favorites as well as mine, and which was used in Gumby's episode before meeting "Me","Lost & Found".

  8. Bill was a great guy and the lawsuits against him were by malicious ghouls and vultures that tried to steal from the dead. They almost destroyed his estate and his legacy, and they almost drove his son to the grave with stress. Bill will always be remembered as a talented musician, a true friend, and a wonderful husband and father.

  9. he was also part of the capitol recording EBF376 ,Songs we remember. background music. really great cover of 40's, 50's cocktail party!!!!! 2-45 rpm records and his orchestra does side 1 , I'll see you in my dreams ,side 2 let me call you sweetheart ,and side 4 , A pretty girl is like a melody. these records were on green label capitol. W/ jack stern and charles romo. the background music was a series of 4 . Was he on the other three also ?

    1. Charles Romo was my Grandfather. Such a talented and handsome man.

  10. Actually, if, as noted, John Seely won recognition for music he didn't actually write, it can also be said that he was denied fame for some music which he did write. The by now familiar "attack" theme in the 1969 horror classic "Night of the Living Dead" was composed by Seely as part of an original score (in fact also the "attack" theme) for the 1959 B-movie "The Hideous Sun Demon." Seely was not given credit in the Romero flick, which used a hodgepodge of various studio tracks to fit out its score, although Seely's themes dominate the movie.

  11. Thanks, GJ. I haven't seen "Sun Demon."
    Incidentally, blogs are magnets for spam. To prevent spam from filling the comment section, people responding to old posts are asked to type in some characters before their comment goes through.