I thought maybe I’d revisit the subject of easy listening music, the sweet and melodious kind that was the specialty of a few band directors I’ve written about before, like Mantovani, Kostelanetz, and Percy Faith. But I don’t think any of those particular guys had a background like George Melachrino, who in addition to his musical talents was also once a military policeman.
Melachrino was the British-born son of Greek immigrants whose real name was Militiades, although not much is known about why he later changed it for something almost as difficult to spell. What is known is that he was always musically-inclined, learning violin at a very young age and continuing with a solid musical education throughout his formative years. Along the way, the immensely talented young man learned to play just about every instrument around, and he could sing too.
By the time he’d reached adulthood in the late 1920s he was ready for a life as a professional musician, and wasted no time employing his skills in a series of jobs that gradually led him from classical music to jazz. By 1939 he was even leading his own orchestra, but unfortunately World War II was starting and that changed everything.
Melachrino joined the British army and was assigned to the Military Police division, but eventually his musical abilities were recognized and he spent the majority of the war as the leader of several different musical groups. By the time the war ended, he was well-positioned for a career as an orchestra leader and he was soon doing just that, with a lot of attention paid to the group that would generate his signature sounds — the Melachrino Strings.
Specializing in lush and romantic music, Melachrino spent the next couple of decades staking his claim as one of the busiest music directors around, selling countless records with his Music For Moods series. Among his 50+ albums were also light classics, show tunes, and music from the many movies he wrote for. He died in 1965 in a home accident, but his orchestra continued for a few years under new direction.