Saturday, 15 August 2015

Hoyt Curtin Scores

Other than reruns of The Jetsons, I can’t think of a single Hanna-Barbera cartoon I’d want to watch on a Saturday morning 40 years ago (the 1974-75 season). That’s despite the presence of some of H-B’s original people from 1957—Ken Muse, Lew Marshall, Daws Butler, Fernando Montealegre, just to name a few. Oh, and Hoyt Curtin.

Curtin wrote some wonderful background music for the prime time Hanna-Barbera cartoons, ones that were supposedly “adult.” But that was the early 1960s. Ten years later, the studio was churning out cartoons as Saturday morning companions for kids. No need for the Gershwin-esque melodies heard on Top Cat or the dramatic horns and drums on the Jonny Quest soundtracks. Something simpler would do. Of course, music styles had changed over the course of the ‘60s, too.

Here’s Hoyt talking about scoring cartoons, mid-‘70s style, in a story in Billboard magazine of December 14, 1974. Remember that Curtin didn’t score to fit the action of each scene. He came up with a tracking library and the sound cutters would simply pick the music they felt would suit the mood of what was on the screen.

KIDDIE ROCK: Hoyt Curtin Uses Today’s Sounds In His TV Programs
LOS ANGELES—The dinosaur churns down the jungle path on Saturday morning television and, entwined with the shuddering sound effects of its footsteps, the music rises in the background like a rock record.
“Kids want to hear the same kind of music that they are buying on records,” says Hoyt Curtin, who creates music for 16 and a half hours of television programming each week, week in and week out.
“So, I have to stay tuned to trends in the music industry in order to give the listeners the sounds they like. Not that I would do rock music . . . in fact, that’s the challenge: To give them sounds they like without going overboard. Even the music to fit the coming of a dinosaur has to have a rock kind of beat.”
Curtin is the head of Soundtrack Music and he spends 10 hours a week in recording studios creating anywhere from 50 to 75 minutes of original music. His music is heard mostly on Saturday morning kiddie TV shows, especially the Hanna-Barbera shows, but you can listen to Curtin music, too, on weeknights on “Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home.”
Curtin composes the music; his firm has four arrangers working constantly on material. He is involved in the cartoons from the initial sketch stages. The music is suggested by the script and is paced along the lines of the action. The music is keyed to the public by digital metronomes, a device that makes clicks when Curtin and his musicians hear via headphones.
The music is written to the tempo of the metronome and “if the music has been written properly, it will fit the picture.” Only about half the time does Curtin have the opportunity to see the film as he’s composing or conducting the music in the recording session.
All music is written via a book that tells how many beats per length of film.
“And the production schedule is so tight,” says Curtin, “there’s no time to redo anything; it has to be right the first time.”
The other day, he says, a music editor was picking up the music “as we finished it in the studio to dub to film. It couldn’t have taken more than half an hour between the time we finished the music and it was on the film.”
Among the sidemen that Curtin uses frequently on his recording sessions are Bud Brisbois, trumpet; Lloyd Ullyate, trombone; Tom Johnson, tuba; Pete Jolly, piano; Frankie Capp, drums; Andy Kostelas, woodwind. Paul DeKorte held in the booth during the sessions as music supervisor. “While I’m out there waving my arms, he’s making sure the music mix is good.”
Curtin praises Jack Sterm, “my arranger. I’ve kept him chained to his desk in a cave and all he’s allowed to do is occasionally come out to look at the sun.” For his band, he demands all professionals. The same goes for his in-house crew. “Sometimes, I would like to try a new writer or musician, but there’s just not any time allowed for mistakes.”
The cartoon field is extremely limited. Hanna-Barbera is the biggest supplier of animation. And Curtin feels there might be a couple of others of note. H-B just celebrated its 100th different series. Their ‘Last Of The Curtaws” and “The Runaways,” both of which Curtin did the music, have won Emmys.
Curtin has been involved with H-B almost from the beginning. He’d worked with them on commercials and around 1957 they called one day and dictated some lyrics over the phone. He called back and gave them the music a while later. Since then, their business association has been “amazing.” Curtin says there’s no contract and no hemming and hawing. “Those two fellows say what they want and say if they like it or not.”
A lot of his business was over the phone in the early days. “It wasn’t until ‘The Flintstones’ that we had a formal meeting about a particular show to decide what we were going to do.”
Curtin, who had been primarily in music for commercials prior to H-B, still does commercials—the beers, Datsun.
His aim is to be consistent in each show—“hopefully, you should be able to identify the show by the sound of the music.” It usually takes a three-hour session to do music for a half-hour TV show. The score for this show will weigh 40 pounds.
On a recent Saturday morning, starting at 7 a.m., Curtin’s music was featured on “Addams Family,” “Yogi’s Gang,” “Chopper Bunch,” “Speed Buggy,” “Emergency Plus 4,” “Hong Kong Phooey,” “Scooby Doo,” “Jeannie, “Devlin,” “Partridge Family,” “Korg: 70,000 BC,” “Valley of the Dinosaurs,” “Super Friends,” and “These Are The Days,” which carried him through 11:30 a.m.

I like Curtin’s careful phraseology that he wanted to give kids (I presume he means teenagers) the sound of music they buy, not the real thing, because he had no intention of writing rock music. Production music libraries of the ‘70s and beyond do the same sort of thing; they supply music that evokes a genre but it’s watered down enough not to distract anyone from the announcer’s voice reading the pitch over top.

The last time a Curtin post popped up on the blog, it was accompanied by some of his unreleased music. So let the same thing happen again! If you think I’m going to post Curtin’s 1975 work, forget it. We mentioned The Jetsons off the top, so let’s give you some Jetsons cues. A number of people have pointed out the first two bars of the “B” melody used in various arrangements on the show was reworked as the start of the chorus of the theme to Josie and the Pussycats. The first tune below is a snappy little version that I don’t believe was actually used on The Jetsons. The second one is a big band-ish arrangement that is quintessential Curtin. Hoyt loved cues with button endings and you’ll hear a bunch of them below. These sound like they came from a cassette dub, so you’ll hear some tape hiss. These cues may have been from a second session; there’s another full set that start with “J.” Some were used in the first Jetsons cartoon. Only one of these cues has an alternate name besides an alpha-numeric.






CUE V101

CUE V302

CUE V304

CUE V313

CUE V315

CUE V320

CUE V322

CUE V323

CUE V324

CUE V326



  1. So cue #V315 was by Curtin,too? I usually remember that starting in mid 1960s as a Ted Nichols cue....SC

    1. It was used in the Jetsons so it had to be a Curtin cue. I haven't got my Nichols notes around by I don't think he was at HB in 1962. Wasn't he at L.A. State College then?

    2. I think Ted Nichols started at Hanna-Barbera around 1965. Does anyone know the reason why he left Hanna-Barbera around 1973 or so?

    3. V101 is the one I thought came later as well (used heavily in '65-6; probably even more in '66; which was the last season of several shows and basically the end of the era). But I think that's originally from the Jetsons as well. Anything with that "spacey" sounding accordion and vibraphone, I believe.
      Some Jetsons score took longer to be used on other shows.

      I call these the "Screen Gems" scores, since they accompanied all of that period of HB, from 1960 on. and then the newer Magilla et al. themed ones too. (Which a few of those I would associate more with).

    4. Many of these decidedly 'unspacelike' cues seemed to have debuted on the episode "Test Pilot". But because they were used so heavily in 1963-66 H-B shows, we tend to forget they started on THE JETSONS.

      You're correct in that the distinctive JETSONS cues weren't used at all at the concurrent Gator/Turtle/Lion/Hyena trilogy, which I had long assumed was made for the 1960 or '61 seasons because they used all older cues. The earliest Season 3 FLINTSTONE episodes largely eschewed the Jetson score as well, although it was used more and more towards Pebbles' birth.

  2. One of Curtin's earliest scores was for Ron Ormond's SF schlock-buster "Mesa of Lost Women," remembered for its giant spider puppet that would be reused in "Cat-Women of the Moon." The score, with its insistent flamenco guitar, would also be reused, in Ed Wood's "Jail Bait" (the credits misspelled Hoyt's surname "Kurtain").

    By "Last of the Curtaws," the Billboard writer probably meant "Last of the Curlews," which was a special - I think it may have been an ABC After-school Special.
    I don't recall "Emergency+4" being a HB production.

  3. Thank you for unearthing these classic underscores beautifully devoid of dialogue or sound effects! I initially didn't realize those in the 300s were created for THE JETSONS because they were steadily recycled for the remaining three seasons of THE FLINTSTONES, as well as the Gorilla/Potamus and Ant/Squirrel franchises.

    1. I'd have to pull out my DVDs but I think V324 is in the episode where George and Astro think they've witnessed a bank robbery.

    2. It's also used in "Millionaire Astro" during the lawyer/"Uncle Charlie" chase through the apartment. ( Can't believe your alter-ego, Tralfaz, would forget his own episode. Yuck!).

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Also in the last episode, "Elroy's Mob", when Elroy and Astro are with the crooks and they head back to the Jetsons' apartment to hide out. (Sorry - had a spelling error in the last post and fixed it here; I'm getting very old.)

    5. I remembered cue V315 from the mid-1960s, "Ted Nichols era", (expanding on my comment that started the replies here), Punkin Puss/Mushmouse's weird Middle Ages dream episode, "Feudal Feud", and always mistook it for a Nichols cue....

    6. Nichols became the music director for the 1965-66 season, but Curtin's older scores going all the way back to 1960 continued to be used on the comedic series into the 1967-68 season (the sole comedic series at that point being the Abbott & Costello cartoons). A 1966 Laurel & Hardy cartoon could have a mix of 'Yogi Bear Show', 'Flintstone', 'Jetson', 'Magilla Gorilla' 'Jonny Quest' (all Curtin), 'Secret Squrrel' (Nichols), and 'Alice/Man Called Flintstone' (Marty Paitch) score all in the five-minute duration of the cartoon.

  4. V322 was used very heavily, for almost every 'thinking' or 'walking casually' scene in post-childbirth FLINTSTONE episodes, and was recycled all the way to 1972's ROMAN HOLIDAYS.

    V320 was also a durable go-to cue to extended chase scenes.

    1. V322 also was many used in The Jetsons.

    2. Oops, rather V313 was a durable chase scene cue. It was probably first used in "The Little Man" when Cogswell chases a six-inch George with a fly swatter ("With all the marvelous advancements of the past 1,000 years we still don't have a decent fly swatter!"). By the time I was six, if I heard it I knew Peter Potamus, Breezely and Sneezely, or any mid-60s character was in trouble

  5. Great part from these tracks composed and arranged by the late master Hoyt Curtin are from the Jetsons classical series (1962-63).

  6. V302 is another one that seemed to get very heavy use in the Nichols years, turning up very frequently in the Laurel & Hardy cartoons and late as 1971's HAIR BEAR BUNCH.

  7. You are correct: to my knowledge, Cue V1 was only heard in three FLINTSTONE episodes from Seasons 5 and 6, long after THE JETSONS was cancelled.

  8. I'm driving myself absolutely berserk because I can't find anyone(and I do mean ANYONE)who has any of Hoyt's music from Space Ghost and The Herculoids. I'm referring to the awesomely cool and complex background music heard during the episodes. I would pay lots of money for such recordings, on vinyl or cassette or anything. Any help you can provide would be so appreciated.

  9. Ultra-Gor, there seems to be a huge demand for that music and the compositions of Ted Nichols from the mid-to-late 60s. I don't know why whoever owns the cues now doesn't make a deal to have them released. Same with the Jonny Quest cues.

  10. A lot of great Ted Nichols music was featured in The New Adventures of Huck Finn. In fact the majority of the music featured in the first year of Scooby Doo ...Where Are You came from Huck Finn. I would love to see all of that released as wee as the Herculoids music.

  11. Seeking lead sheets for Flintstones underscore music, particularly bass clarinet parts. Any thoughts? Thanks!