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Warren Barker and That’s Entertainment

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Warren Barker (April 16, 1923-August 3, 2006) was an American composer known for work in film, radio, and television, who also worked in Las Vegas, Nevada clubs.  Barker was born on April 16, 1923, in Oakland, CA.  He attended the University of California at Los Angeles as a music major. His primary instrument was the saxophone, and he later studied composition with Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco and Henri Pensis. At the age of 24 he was appointed chief arranger for the National Broadcasting Company’s prime musical program, THE RAILROAD HOUR, a position he held for six years. Barker was very busy during the late ’50s and early ’60s as an arranger and conductor of pop-instrumental music, some of which has re-emerged on CDs in recent years in various “Bachelor’s Den”-theme compilations.   Barker was associated with 20th Century Fox, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Studios as a composer arranger-conductor for motion pictures but principally for their television divisions. At the end of the 1950s, he served as musical director and conductor on the soundtrack album 77 Sunset Strip, one of the better pop-jazz releases to come out of television.

Barker later contributed to the composing, scoring, arranging, and conducting of more than thirty television series and is best known for his seven years of composing and conducting the incidental music for the 1960s highly rated hit comedy TV series Bewitched; some of his cues of which were used on other Screen Gems shows. He also wrote a proposed theme for the second season of Lost In Space in 1966, but it was rejected. He composed and arranged numerous pieces for concert bands, which are frequently performed today by school and community symphony bands. Contrary to popular belief he did not write the theme to The Flying Nun; this tune was composed by Dominic Frontiere.  His career in film has been more scattershot and interesting — during the early ’60s, he composed the music for the groundbreaking film Strange Lovers.  At MGM in the mid-’60s, he also wrote the score for the low-budget movie Zebra in the Kitchen, which was marginally notable in rock circles for including a totally uncharacteristic recording by the Standells of the title song.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Barker in 1970 for his original music written for the award winning series, “MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT,” based on the life of James Thurber. And at Fox he was a member of the arranging staff for the Oscar winning blockbuster musical motion picture “HELLO DOLLY.” He also served as conductor-arranger and recording artist for Warner Bros. and Capitol Records. His compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by a variety of musical artists from Frank Sinatra to the Hollywood Bowl and Cincinnati Pops Orchestras. After 1971, Barker concentrated exclusively on concert band music for a variety of ensembles.   He received writing commissions from many outstanding music organizations including The United States Air Force Band, The Royal Australian Navy, the Northshore Concert Band, and the Norwegian Army Staff Band. Barker was a member of the American Bandmasters Association, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, and Broadcast Music, Inc.  The Warren Barker Orchestra published recordings such as Music of Desire andWarren Barker Is “In.”

Barker also composed pieces for specific occasions, principally in the idiom of band music. He was still active at the outset of the 21st century, and his arrangements of various Broadway and film scores continue to sell.  One of Barker’s most popular pieces is an arrangement of some of the tunes from That’s Entertainment!, a 1974 compilation film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to celebrate its 50th anniversary.  The film, compiled by its writer-producer-director, Jack Haley, Jr., under the supervision of executive producer Daniel Melnick, turned the spotlight on MGM’s legacy of musical film from the 1920s through the 1950s, featuring performances culled from dozens of the studio’s famous films. Archive footage of Judy Garland, Eleanor Powell, Lena Horne, Esther Williams, Ann Miller, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Jeanette MacDonald, Cyd Charisse, June Allyson, Clark Gable, Mario Lanza, William Warfield, and many others was featured.  The title of the film derives from the anthemic song “That’s Entertainment!”, by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, which was introduced in the 1953 MGM musical, The Band Wagon.  The background music was composed by Henry Mancini.  Barker passed away on August 3, 2006, at Greenville, SC.

My collection includes the following work by Warren Barker:

That’s Entertainment.

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