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Richard Hayman and “Pops Hoedown”

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Richard (Warren Joseph) Hayman (March 27, 1920 – February 5, 2014) was an American musical arranger, harmonica player, and orchestra conductor all without any formal musical training.  Hayman was born in Cambridge, MA, on March 27, 1920, the son of Fred and Gladys Hayman.  He started out as a harmonica soloist and music arranger in the 1930s while still in high school. When he graduated at seventeen, he found a place with Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals, a big name band at the time, featuring twelve harmonica players and plenty of comedy.  Following this phase, he briefly worked with Leo Diamond and the Solidaires. Then he went to Hollywood to become an arranger for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios during the early 1940s. He did arrangements, often uncredited, for the MGM films Girl Crazy, Meet Me in St. Louis, Thousands Cheer, and vehicles for the likes of Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth. Hayman soon began appearing in films himself, among them Sweet Rosie O’Grady, Coney Island, and Always in My Heart.  It was during his Hollywood years that Hayman deepened his compositional and arranging skills, studying with Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Victor Young, Georgie Stoll, Herbert Stothart, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Returning to Boston, from 1945 to 1950 Hayman was musical director for the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra, a big band.  He met Arthur Fiedler in 1949 and started arranging for the Boston Pops, doing arrangements for the Pops for more than fifty years, and his award-winning arrangements are still used today.  He also studied conducting with Fiedler.   Beginning in the mid-1950s, he served as artists and repertoire chief for Mercury Records, where he worked as the music director for recordings by Patti Page and Vic Damone, among others, a post he held until 1965.  He also served as music director for a spate of famous entertainers, including Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Red Skelton, the Osmonds, Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, and Johnny Cash, and made albums of his own. His 1953 rendition of “Ruby,” the theme song from the movie “Ruby Gentry” arranged for harmonica solo, became an international hit, along with the single’s flip side, “Dansero.”   The single sold thousands or perhaps millions of copies for several years in the early to mid-1950s worldwide.  His 1957 outing “Havana In Hi-Fi” was first in the label’s pop music stereo LP series.  In 1960 Hayman was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  He continued to chart into the early 1960s with titles like “Night Train” and even into the late-’70s with the album A Fifth of Beethoven, a disco take on the classic Beethoven symphony.

Hayman occasionally guest-conducted with the Boston Pops, and when Arthur Fiedler had a time conflict with his job as pops conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, he recommended Hayman for the post.  His success there led to the call from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to become its Principal Pops Conductor in 1976 leading both the Pops at Powell and Queeny Park concerts.  He ran the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s pops concerts for three decades, while drawing on a seemingly endless collection of sequined jackets.  That ended when a financial crunch in 2001, coinciding with a realization that the SLSO’s pops concerts had not changed with the times, led to the cancellation of the Queeny Pops series and a marked reduction in overall pops concerts by the orchestra, leading to his retirement in 2002.  Hayman also frequently led other pops orchestras in the United States and held Principal Pops Conductor posts with Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, and Orchestra London Canada.   In 2006 he was conductor of Florida’s Sunshine Pops and the principal pops conductor of Michigan’s Grand Rapids Symphony.  He retired from these two posts in 2012 at the age of 92.

Hayman also scored Broadway shows, and in television, he was responsible for the music for innumerable series, specials, documentaries and commercials, including a PBS series based on the writings of Mark Twain, of which one episode, “Life on the Mississippi”, was recorded by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.  Hayman’s last event with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, where he held the title of Pops Conductor Emeritus, took place on June 27, 2010, to honor his ninetieth birthday. The St. Louis Metro Singers, who performed with him at many Pops concerts, were also on stage at the event.  Hayman died on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in New York City, of natural causes. He was 93 and had recently entered hospice care, survived by his wife of 53 years, Maryellen Hayman; two daughters, Suzy Hayman DeYoung and Olivia Hayman Kidney; and four grandchildren.  His awards have included a Certificate of Recognition from Cosmopolitan Magazine for Achievement in Bettering Popular Music, a Certificate of Merit for the Secretary of the Navy, the Edison Award for Creative Achievement in Recorded Arts from the Academy of Musical Recorded Arts and Sciences, the National TV Festival and Forum Award, and the Maile Award from the State of Hawaii for outstanding contribution in the furthering of Hawaiian tourism and the promotion of Hawaiian music throughout the USA and Canada.

My collection includes the following works by Richard Hayman:

Christmas Medley.

Pops’ Entertainment.

Pops Hoedown (1963).

Servicemen on Parade (1966).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources


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