Nelson Riddle (June 1, 1921 - October 6, 1985) was a famed bandleader, trombonist, TV and film music composer, and highly sought-after arranger with a long career spanning the late 1940s through the mid 1980s. He had a string of instrumental hits beginning in 1954 that included his hugely popular rendition of the Portuguese song, "Lisbon Antigua" (1956).
Born Nelson Smock Riddle Jr. in Oradell, New Jersey, he began his studies of classical piano at age 8 before switching to the trombone at 14. After graduating from high school, he worked for several years as a trombonist and arranger for various dance bands that included the Charlie Spivak Orchestra. Riddle entered the United States Merchant Marine in 1943 and served for about two years while studying orchestration under composer and fellow merchant mariner, Alan Shulman. Riddle joined Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in 1944 and served as a trombonist until he was drafted into the Army in 1945. After his military stint ended in 1946, he moved to Hollywood and worked for several years as an arranger on a multitude of record and radio projects. He then joined Capitol Records in 1950 where he served for many years as an arranger and orchestra leader and recorded with such top artists as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
Riddle made his chart debut in 1954 with "Brother John," an instrumental adaptation of the French nursery rhyme, "Frere Jacques." This was followed in 1956 by several other instrumental hits that included "Port Au Prince," "Theme From The Proud Ones," and the chart-topping "Lisbon Antigua." A sung version of the latter hit was included as part of the soundtrack he wrote for the 1956 film noir crime movie, "Lisbon." Riddle's hits also included "Theme From The Untouchables" (1960), "Naked City Theme" (1962), and "Route 66 Theme" (1962).
During the 1960s and 1970s, Riddle increasingly turned his attention to composing music for TV and film while also serving as the bandleader on "The Smothers Brothers Show" and other programs. His many movie soundtrack credits included "Ocean's 11" (1960), "Lolita" (1962), "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" (1967), "The Great Gatsby" (1974), and "Harper Valley PTA" (1978), and he also wrote the music for such popular TV series as "Emergency!" and "Batman." In 1982, he began a collaboration with Linda Ronstadt that culminated in a trio of albums of jazz and pop standards which all went Platinum and three Adult Contemporary chart hits: "What's New" (1983), "I've Got A Crush On You" (1984), and "When You Wish Upon A Star" (1986), with "I've Got A Crush On You" also becoming a Billboard Hot 100 hit.
Riddle numerous honors and accolades included an Academy Award and three Grammys.
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Nelson Riddle And His Orchestra
- Route 66 Theme 1962
(This instrumental hit was the TV theme song for "Route 66" which co-starred Martin Milner and George Maharis and ran from 1960-1964.)
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