Award-winning composer/musician Pete Rugolo died Sunday in Los Angeles, so I thought I’d repost a piece from last year.
The Long Musical Journey Of Pete Rugolo
It might be unfair to call TV’s Richard Diamond show a Peter Gunn clone, because even though both shows featured private eyes and a jazz-laden soundtrack, Diamond actually predated Gunn. It’s just that the latter seemed to have made a more lasting impression, at least in part because of Henry Mancini’s music.
Richard Diamond is probably most remembered as the show that provided a look at young Mary Tyler Moore’s legs in her role as the hidden, mysterious receptionist, ‘Sam’. But the music was pretty good too, and it was provided by a talented guy named Pete Rugolo, who has had a long and fulfilling life and career since his birth in Sicily on Christmas Day, 1915.
Still very young when his family emigrated to America, Rugolo grew to adulthood determined to pursue a musical career. He learned to play several instruments well enough to turn professional and find work during the big band era. But he really made his name as an arranger and composer, most notably when he worked with Stan Kenton’s well-regarded band in the post-war years.
Rugolo eventually gravitated toward pop music and a job as musical director for Capitol Records, where he worked with Nat King Cole, the Four Freshmen, and many others. He later moved to Mercury Records, and even led a band of his own for a while, but eventually became a specialist in writing and arranging music for TV shows, including everything from 87th Precinct to Leave It To Beaver.
And he was — of course — on board for a TV show that came along a few years after Richard Diamond, and featured the same lead actor. The Fugitive, starring David Janssen, would go on to become one of the biggest success stories in TV, and its theme song would be one of Rugolo’s most-remembered pieces. (Video below.)