The Caped Crusaders Composers: Nelson Riddle - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Caped Crusaders Composers: Nelson Riddle

Riddle me this! Which Caped Crusader Composer is Chris Morley looking back at today?
A real life Riddler of sorts awaits in this week's look back at the Caped Crusaders Composers, as we turn to the life & career of Nelson Riddle, the man behind the incidental music of the 1966 Batman series after Neal Hefti was unable to commit beyond the famous theme tune.

And much like the man he in effect replaced, Nelson proved something of a child prodigy. He took up the piano at just eight years old and trombone by the time he was fourteen, becoming enamoured of Ravel's Bolero after hearing a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
"...I've never forgotten it. It's almost as if the orchestra leaped from the stage and smacked you in the face..."
But while Riddle would abandon his initial ambition to become a jazz trombonist, saying that he lacked the necessary co-ordination, he would find no such barriers to composition & arrangement- which led to lessons with Bill Finegan, himself only actually four years older than his student & school friend!

Following his graduation Riddle would continue to gain experience composing & arranging in local bands in New Jersey before a stint in the US Merchant Marine corps led to further study under fellow sailor Alan Shulman. After fifteen months of Army service, he made the move to Hollywood to pursue a career as an arranger, and spent the next several years writing arrangements for multiple radio and record projects. Doris Day was one of the first to enjoy a hit backed by his arranging work on Again in May of 1949.

The following year would see the fruits of Riddle's first work with Capitol Records, Nat King Cole's Mona Lisa becoming a gateway to work with another famous crooner in the shape of Frank Sinatra, whose version of I've Got The World On A String, arranged by Nelson, is popularly supposed to have provided fresh impetus to what was then seen as Sinatra's flagging career, at least by his own high standards.

It was Only The Lonely, though, which became a favourite of Riddle's decade long work with Sinatra. The arranger found solace in it after the deaths of his mother & daughter.
"If I can attach events like that to music...perhaps Only the Lonely was the result."
And as Matt Micucci would write for Jazziz...
“Sinatra signed with Capitol Records in the early fifties. Despite his wishes of continuing to work with his faithful Columbia Records collaborator Axel Stordahl, it was only after the first sides they made together for Capitol fared disappointingly that his new label convinced him to work with the young and upcoming composer and arranger Nelson Riddle on I’ve Got the World on a String.

The song became a hit, which is considered the most symbolic of Sinatra’s musical rebirth, thus starting one of music’s most fruitful collaborations.

The two worked together again on Sinatra’s first album for Capitol later that year. On Songs for Swinging Lovers, Riddle was only the orchestrator, with uptempo man George Siravo taking care of arrangements aside from Riddle’s own Like Someone in Love.

Both however left a clear imprint that provided a distinctive sound to the album. Siravo was more committed to the swing sound, while Riddle had no time for such conventions. In the end, however, it was Riddle that received full credit for arranging and had to personally apologize to Siravo, despite the whole affair not being his fault at all.

The following year’s Swing Easy was officially the first Riddle arranged Sinatra album. The two shared common interests as far as swing was concerned, itself recalling the style of Count Basie with whom Sinatra would collaborate prominently in the sixties.

Swing Easy was designed as an album of standards aiming to give a new confidence to the vocalists, and the rich orchestration helped make it happen.”
Whether Riddle ever donned a crisp green suit or not for such sessions is lost to history, but before he turned his not inconsiderate musical talents to the 1966 Batman TV series, Riddle found time to work with Ella Fitzgerald, orchestrating two albums for her, as well as regularily featuring with his orchestra on the Rosemary Clooney Show.

It was television producer William Dozier who reached out to Nelson to create the music for the Batman television series starring Adam West. Riddle did the first two seasons of Batman (sans two episodes scored by Warren Barker), along with the theatrically-released Batman: The Movie.

Declining a return for the third and final season, Billy May took the composing reigns for Adam West's last year under the Bat-cowl, and that is who we will turn our attention to next time.  did the third season's music.

Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.

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