Pictured (L-R) are Ray Charles, Vic Mizzy, and SCL President Dan Foliart at the 2004 SCL Holiday Dinner.
Vic Mizzy was born in Brooklyn, New York where every boy was pressured to study the piano or violin. The saxophone, drums and trumpet were considered potentially inferior. The average girl might study the piano or violin, but the aim of her parents was to channel her talents toward becoming a schoolteacher or bookkeeper.
As for Vic, upon receiving a toy accordion on his 3rd birthday, he immediately mastered the instrument, which prompted his parents to buy a player piano at age 4. A series of piano teachers lasted until he reached 13. He was into Bach Clavichord at that time, but his desire to play popular music overwhelmed his lukewarm desire to be a possible concert pianist, or even worse, a cocktail lounge impresario. At home he amused himself playing the accordion in the kitchen because the high ceilings provided a natural echo chamber effect.
He joined the Boy Scouts at age 12, which gave him an opportunity to break away from the rigors of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms to the melodies of Jerome Kern, Harry Warren and Sammy Fain. Vic played piano from the age of 13 in the orchestra of Alexander Hamilton High School consisting of musicians who later on became top studio players.
A turning point in his life occurred when he was 14. He met Irving Taylor, also from Brooklyn, who became his lyric partner and collaborator for many years. Vic entered N.Y.U. at age 16 and together with Taylor started writing songs and sketches for various variety shows. These proved to be the best stepping stones to potential success in the music business. The two won notoriety on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, but the occasion that pushed them farthest ahead was winning the Fred Allen Collegiate Amateur Hour.
They received $100, plus a one-week booking at the Roxy Theater in New York. Their first published song, from the variety show, was called Your Heart Rhymes With Mine, which catapulted them forward to becoming full-fledged songwriters. They also became the busiest special material writers for leading performers on Broadway.
Mizzy also became a studio pianist at Radio Station WLTH in Brooklyn at 15, which made him very popular with the neighborhood girls. He received no money, but everyone seemed to know him. Mizzy also learned how to orchestrate at the same time while playing in little bands on Saturday night gigs. Since the band couldn’t afford to buy orchestration, Mizzy would listen to the radio, copy down the melodies and arrange them in time for the next wedding job. He happened to look very young at the time and in order to get work he had to paint on a moustache with an eyebrow pencil because the fathers of the bride didn’t like paying money to “kids”!
Then came the war–rat tat tat tat! Mizzy and Taylor both enlisted in the U.S. Navy where they survived four years of battle and greasy food. During the war, the two had a number of popular song hits, including There’s A Far Off Look In Your Eye, Three Little Sisters, Take It Easy and many more. Eventually both moved on with Mizzy forming a partnership with Mann Curtis. A succession of Number #1 hits followed with My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time, Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes, The Whole World Is Singing My Song, Choo’n Gum, The Jones Boy, With A Hey And A Hi and A Ho-Ho-Ho and dozens of others.
Mizzy married one of the leading radio singers, Mary Small, who introduced many of Vic’s songs. They had two daughters–Patty and Lynn. Small had many of her own shows on radio in which Mizzy did the arrangements. She also performed one of the biggest shows as a guest, which gave Mizzy the chance to arrange for the popular leaders such as Ray Bloch, Andre Kostalonetz and others. At the time, Mizzy became interested in the Schillinger System of Music, and as a result, was offered a job teaching the system at N.Y.U. for 2-1/2 years.
Mizzy’s closest friend, David Levy, head of NBC programming, became his greatest champion, allowing him to write scores for dramatic TV shows in New York. Levy later sent the composer to California to write music for The Shirley Temple Storybook and other TV pilots. A year later, Mark Goodson hired Mizzy to score background music for the Richard Boone Anthology on NBC. Thanks to typical Hollywood luck, Felix Jackson, head of NBC Productions in Burbank, offered Mizzy the job to score Kentucky Jones, a series starring Dennie Weaver. Another series, Hank, followed at Warner Brothers.
Shortly after, David Levy, now in California, invited Mizzy to score The Addams Family. Filmways opted not to pay for singers on the show’s Main Title, so Mizzy sang it while overdubbing himself three times to give the impression of multiple vocalists. Next came Green Acres for CBS which he scored for seven seasons, along with writing cues for Mr. Ed, Petticoat Junction and many others.
More luck arrived with Stanley Shapiro, the most successful producer and writer at Universal Studios, who literally bumped heads with Mizzy at the Beverly Hills Hotel swimming pool! One splash led to another as Shapiro arranged a meeting with Joe Gershenson, head of music at Universal. Gershenson immediately gave Mizzy the assignment to score The Night Walker directed by William Castle and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. Based on this score alone, Lew Wasserman, then-head of the studio told Gershenson to use Mizzy as much as possible. The request lead to many of Universal’s most memorable scores, including The Ghost And Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun In The West, The Love God, How To Frame A Figg–all starring Don Knotts, and others. The producer of these films, Ed Montagne, became Mizzy’s friend and mentor on many of his other productions, including Quincy, Delta House and numerous movies-of-the-week.
At MGM, Mizzy composed the scores for Don’t Make Waves and Easy To Love, and while at Paramount, he scored The Caper Of The Golden Bulls, The Busy Body and The Spirit Is Willing. More TV followed, including The Don Rickles Show, The Double Life Of Henry Phyffe starring Red Buttons, The Pruitts Of Southampton with Phyllis Diller, as well as Did You Hear The One About The Traveling Saleslady? Years later, renewed interest in Mizzy’s work lead to the CD release of Vic Mizzy – Suites & Themes, a compilation of the composer’s film and TV themes, followed by other releases including the complete scores to The Night Walker, The Caper Of The Golden Bulls with The Perils Of Pauline, and The Busy Body with The Spirit Is Willing. Each CD was produced by Mizzy and soundtrack producer Taylor White for Percepto Records and are all currently available exclusively from www.percepto.com.
Most currently, Mizzy has recorded twelve new songs on his own label, The Vicster Records, in which he both writes and sings his own songs. His songs have a great advantage over today’s music for three reasons: 1) The words rhyme. 2) He uses more than three chords to harmonize his melodies, and 3) He has natural distortion, which puts him in the same class as many hit vocalists of today. We shall see!
In 2001, Mizzy married Shirley Leeds at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Although she wished for the ceremony to be performed next to her favorite slot machine, she was prevailed upon to do the rites in the Bellagio Chapel and walked up the aisle to the familiar strains of Vic’s theme from The Addams Family! Mizzy says the reason he married Shirley was because she was the first woman he dated who made him hot cereal!
At this moment, Vic Mizzy is between fantasies…
© 2004 Vic Mizzy For Promotional Use Only