Earle Hagen; Composed Themes to 'Andy Griffith' And Other TV Classics

Hagen can be heard whistling on his theme to the
Hagen can be heard whistling on his theme to the "Andy Griffith Show." (Prn)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Robert Jablon
Associated Press
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earle H. Hagen, who co-wrote the jazz classic "Harlem Nocturne" and composed memorable themes for "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Mod Squad" and other TV shows, has died. He was 88.

Mr. Hagen, who is heard whistling the folksy tune for "The Andy Griffith Show," died May 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., his wife, Laura, said Tuesday. He had been in ill health for several months.

During his long musical career, Mr. Hagen performed with the top bands of the swing era, composed for movies and television, and wrote one of the first textbooks on movie composing.

He and Lionel Newman were nominated for an Academy Award for best music scoring for the 1960 Marilyn Monroe movie "Let's Make Love."

For television, he composed original music for more than 3,000 episodes, pilots and movies, including theme songs for "That Girl," "I Spy" and "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C."

"He loved it," his wife said. "The music just flowed from him, and he would take off one hat and put on another and go on to the next show."

Mr. Hagen enjoyed the immediacy of the small screen, he told the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers in 2000.

"It was hard work, with long hours and endless deadlines, but being able to write something one day and hear it a few days later appealed to me," he said. "Besides, I was addicted to the ultimate narcosis in music, which is the rush you get when you give a downbeat and wonderful players breathe life into the notes you have put on paper."

Mr. Hagen was born July 9, 1919, in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles as a youngster. He began playing the trombone while in junior high school.

"The school actually furnished him with a tuba, and his mother made him take it back," his wife said.

He became so proficient that he graduated early from Hollywood High School and at 16 was touring with big bands. He played trombone with Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey and arranged for and played with Ray Noble's orchestra.

He and Newman wrote "Harlem Nocturne" for Noble in 1939. It has been covered many times since and served as the theme music for "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" television series in 1984.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company