Thursday, 16 August 2012

Broadway’s Meece-tro

“Music to Chase Meeces By” could very easily have been the title of a record album by Jack Shaindlin. It could have been the title of several of the hundreds of albums Shaindlin made over the years.

Unless you worked in the radio, television or film industries, you would never have seen any of these albums. Shaindlin was a composer and conductor who had several simultaneous careers—one of which was being in charge of a music library service, first called Filmusic, then Langlois Filmusic. Anyone who wanted Shaindlin’s mood music for the background of their movie or TV show could buy it. And Hanna-Barbera did; using stock music was a common (and comparatively inexpensive) practice on television in the ‘50s. There were maybe 15 of Shaindlin’s cues which were cut into the sound tracks of Pixie and Dixie and the other pre-1960 cartoons; Joe Ruby once said the cutters themselves picked the music.

Shaindlin was certainly known to the public in the late ‘40s for some of his work. He was employed by Lang-Worth Feature Programs where he conducted for a couple of musical shows the company transcribed for sale to radio stations, especially small ones without a network affiliation. The music varied from pop favourites to waltzes from ballets but was so generic, stations could play them for years; I found one was still running the discs in the mid-‘50s. At the time, Shaindlin was also conducting the Carnegie Pops. He was famous enough for newspaper columnists to write about him. We went into Shaindlin’s life in this post but have saved the newspaper stories until now. First, from 1951:

BROADWAY . . . . by Mark Barron
NEW YORK, June 2 (AP) — The audience in Carnegie hall which saw and heard maestro Jack Shaindlin conduct an all-George Gershwin concert tonight were witnessing one of the few times that this notes Broadway musical director has been seen in public in full formal dress.
In show business, Shaindlin has long been known as “the shirt-sleeve” conductor because the attire he usually wears when he mounts the podium is more appropriate for a gymnasium instructor.
Despite these “strip tease” appearances in front of his orchestra, he probably is heard by more people who listen to music than any other conductor in show business. Besides such occasional formal concerts as the Gershwin program tonight, he provides music for more than a hundred films a year. Fresh in mind are “Teresa,” “Lost Boundaries,” “The Roosevelt Story,” “Farewell to Yesterday,” and “Whispering City.” Two recent ones are “The Whistle at Eaton Falls,” which was filmed in New Hampshire and “The Man With My Face,” which was filmed in Puerto Rico.
But the greatest “circulation” for Shaindlin’s music comes from his putting sharps and flats onto the sound tracks of “The March of Time,” Fox-Movietone and Universal newsreels and innumerable short features and documentary films.
Export on Timing
Watching this tall, sun-tanned conductor set the music on a March of Time release—a story on Morocco—the other day was a lesson in precision timing.
“In conducting an orchestra on radio or in a Broadway musical show,” he said, “I do not have to worry particularly about a margin of time. But for films I must synchronize the music to each portion of the film to one twenty-fifth of a second’s precision. The problem of timing sometimes gets me into serious trouble.
“Once when putting music to a March of Time film on Brazil I was told five minutes before we recorded the music that a sequence to be accompanied by the Brazilian national anthem had been cut 24 feet or 16 seconds less time—and that’s a lot of time.
“I had to record immediately and wondered how I could cut a piece of music which is sacred to a whole nation. I decided, instead, to quicken the tempo and just made it. Later I got a letter from an indignant gentleman in Rio De Janerio [sic] bawling my out unmercifully for playing his national anthem at a galloping pace. He said the next time he was in New York he was going to avenge the insult by pounding me in the nose. Needless to say, I haven’t been answering the phone to any Brazilian gentlemen since.”
Shaindlin, who looks more like a Texas cowboy than a Russian was born in the Crimea where his father was a wholesale oil dealer. That was during the revolution and Shaindlin, then a youngster of twelve, found it difficult to keep at his piano lessons while so much shooting was going on outside.
Led Army Band
“One day the commander of one of the Red army units was killed,” Shaindlin said, “and it was necessary to have some music at his funeral. There was a six-piece army band but no one to lead it. Although I was only 12 they drafted me for the job and the fellows in the band all said I did fine.
“My father was killed by a bandit, so my mother decided to take the family and join her brother in Chicago. We got to Constantinople before out money ran out. I played piano in waterfront dives for eight months to get money to get us as far as Rome. There I played piano some more to get us to Marseilles, and then piano some more to get us to Chicago.
“There I entered a musical contest being run by a newspaper and I won only to discover that the first prize was a trip to Europe, the place I had worked so hard to get away from. So I traded in first prize for the second prize, a baby grand piano.
“Then I started hiring out with my piano to work my way to Broadway and I’m nailing my piano to the floor here. I’m not moving again. I’ll let my music on films, records and radio do all my traveling henceforth.”

Shaindlin must have had some stock stories. The one about winning a trip to Europe (to study music) was reported in Leonard Lyons’ Broadway column in 1947. And the Brazil tale appeared in a June 15, 1947 column, one very similar to what was written four years later.

Up and Down Broadway
By Jack Gaver
United Press Staff Correspondent

Jack Shaindlin reversed his usual procedure when he conducted one of Carnegie Hall “Pop” concerts by donning a coat and tie before he mounted the podium. Ordinarily he shucks down to a wide open collar and rolled-up shirtsleeves before he lifts a baton.
For Shaindlin is not accustomed to public shows. When he conducts, the only people around are the musicians, the place is a studio and the work at hand consists of scoring movies.
His work probably has been heard by more persons than that of any other conductor, for he specializes in assembling, arranging and conducting the background music for newsreels, short subjects of various kinds and “The March Of Time.” When you do this for a dozen years or so, your work gets around even if the general public doesn't know you from a cymbal player.
The walls of Shaindlin’s office are lined with cabinets containing musical scores all carefully labeled so that he can immediately lay his hands on a chunk of whatever type of music the newsreel of the moment calls for.
“I use only the best musicians in New York,” Shaindlin said. “About 30 of them at a time. I hardly dare tell you how few out of the hundreds of members of Local 802 I can use. I have to have men who can get a score perfect the first time. A few, but by no means all, are symphony orchestra men.”
Shaindlin appreciates the musical art as much as the next one, but his present work is strictly a business with him and he refuses to waste any time and money fussing around with numerous false starts the way they do in Hollywood. His theory is that if a conductor knows what he wants and he has men who can deliver it, there’s no need for a second take.
The conductor comes by his impatience with dawdling naturally because he grew lip in a hard school. He was a piano-playing kid in Russia when the revolution caused him and his family to flee by degrees to the United States. They had to stop in practically every country along the way to earn more money to keep going.
“I never got much of a chance at a formal musical education after we got here,” Shaindlin said. “Therewas always the need to work. I used to play the piano accompaniment to silent movies and graduated from that to pit bands in movie and vaudeville houses. You don’t learn how to waste time being fancy in that sort of work.”
Scoring short subjects may seem like an easy job, but Shaindlin has to give them extreme care. Even though his music is merely for background purposes, somewhere there are a few sharp-eared critics just waiting to catch mistakes. There was the Brazilian incident, for example:
“It involved a ‘March of Time’ documentary on Brazil,” Shaindlin explained. “There was one spot just long enough for the Brazilian anthem. I had it all worked out, then just as we were ready to record I was advised that the footage of that sequence had been cut and I had 12 seconds less time for the anthem. Rather than cut it short, I decided to get the whole piece in by stepping up the tempo ever so slightly. Who would notice?
“Well, one Brazilian did. The company got a hot letter from this fellow, who said the conductor had insulted Brazil by playing the anthem too fast and that he was taking the next boat for New York to erase the blot by assassinating the conductor. Needless to say, I didn’t meet the boat.”

A sense of humour had Shaindlin, at least according to Broadway columnist Earl Wilson, who quoted him on occasion. One column included the random witticism: “Jack Shaindlin offers his psychology on humility: ‘The only thing you’ll get by asking for it in a low voice is a low salary’.”

Not much in this post has had something to do with Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but let’s change that. Prior to the release of the Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound DVDs by Warner Home Video and the Pic-A-Nic Basket music CDs by Rhino, the late Earl Kress had been responsible for researching background music in the cartoons so the rights could be acquired. In the course of his work, he was given copies of the original Hanna-Barbera music clearance sheets. They were found going through Earl’s effects and were sent to me by Earl’s buddy Rick Greene.

The sheets are for music from the very first Huckleberry Hound show, which would have been in 1958, but the sheets are from June 1960. Perhaps the little cartoons-between-the-cartoons were changed for rebroadcast, meaning a change in music.

You’ll notice Charlie Shows gets a composing credit on the theme songs, and that each of the cartoons had a 20-second before cue before them, indicating that individual credit titles appeared before each cartoon, not just a title card. And only one cue has a formal title. I suspect that’s because it didn’t come from Langlois Filmusic or Capitol Hi-Q, which used alpha-numeric titles. It came from the Sam Fox library, probably the Variety series.

If I recall, Guyla Avery was Bill Hanna’s secretary.

Earl, unfortunately, never collected these sheets for all the cartoons. But it’s nice that he photocopied one set and would no doubt be very happy that fans of Jack Shaindlin, and his fellow stock music composer, are getting the chance to see what played when Jinksie chased them miserable meeces.


  1. Yoqp, thnks for this...I only wish some for the next seasons and for the Quick Drawws and Ruff and Reddys cou;ld be found as well. I wonder if Guyla Avery was any relation

  2. Thanks Yowp. Great to take a close look at these sheets. It would be great if more of Shaindlin's cues were made available.

  3. Puzzled by the "P" partial designation in the use of LAF-10-7 "Grotesque #2" in the Yogi cartoon; as I recall the complete cue was played, start to finish.

  4. Not only that, Dave, but the first two cues are also heard in their entirety.
    Errol, even the current owners don't have some of the cues. Earl Kress found that out when he talked to them.