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Eddy Manson

Sure, one can understand the chagrin a person named "Manson" might feel in association with the infamous cult murderer and "Helter Skelter" interpreter of the same name. Dealing specifically with music, it would certainly be quite horrible to have one's music confused with the amateurish treacle of Charles Manson, even if a small audience does exist for his recordings. If one was a world-famous harmonica virtuoso, composer, and Hollywood soundtrack player named Eddy Manson, getting a publishing payment for a Charles Manson tune would surely not be the highlight of one's career, the widespread nature of such accounting glitches not really offsetting the distaste. This is offered up as speculation for why Eddy Manson became such a vocal spokesman for organizations on the Christian Right which are intensely critical of both the pop music and Hollywood film industries. Be they Catholic or Baptist, such organizations seem happy to find someone named "Manson" that is on their side in the battle against the evils represented by artists such as Marilyn Manson.

Eddy Manson's masterwork is considered to be "The Little Fugitive," a musical score played entirely on chromatic harmonica. Listeners who have heard it can judge whether it lives up to the grandiose claims Manson has made about the powers of music, including on-screen quotes used in the anti-rock video entitled Hell's Bells. "Music is used everywhere to condition the human mind. It can be just as powerful as a drug and much more dangerous because nobody takes musical manipulation very seriously." There's more: "Music is a two-edged sword. It's really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits or make you sick without knowing why." And Manson -- remember this is Eddy, not Charlie -- also claims, "You can hypnotize people with music and when they get at their weakest point you can preach into their subconscious minds what you want to say." As for Hollywood, Manson feels "We manipulate people like crazy in films. It's a tremendous release. I can make you feel any emotion I want you to feel at any time. It's a Machiavelli an power we project gut to gut." Mind control with a harmonica? Perhaps it's possible, if one has the right training.

Manson received his at the Juilliard School of Music and the New York University School of Radio and Television. He studied composition with Vittorio Giannini and Rudy Schramm, took on clarinet with Jan Williams and analyzed techniques of orchestration with Adolf Schmidt. Manson's first scores were done for live television productions of the '50s such as Armstrong Circle Theater, Kraft Theater, Westinghouse Theater, Studio One, and Lamp Unto My Feet. The score for The Little Fugitive, which he both wrote and performed, was nominated for several awards in 1953. As the decades passed, the often lonely or haunting sound of his harmonica was heard in many films and television shows. Ben Casey walked the halls of his hospital with Manson noodling in the background, and The Virginian was also unable to jump astride his horse without similar accompaniment. Coal Miner's Daughter, Oklahoma Crude, The Longest Day, Hard Times, and Born on the Fourth of July are among his movie soundtrack credits.

Apart from film work, Manson's musical activities couldn't be more versatile. He has arranged material for Michael Jackson prior to that artist's nose job, as well as the Miracles, the Jackson 5, actor and comedian Red Buttons, and Hawaiian wonder Don Ho. The Rosemary Clooney novelty number "I Found My Mama" was one of Manson's most famous hit parade appearances on harmonica. And Manson has his serious side, with a respectable repertoire of compositions to prove it. These include his "Symphony No. 1," the tasty "Fugue for Woodwinds," the slowly evolving "Ballad for Brass," and the pretty and profound "Parable For 16 Horns, a piece appreciated by the brass players in the musician's union if no one else. Manson has also dabbled in Americana with his arrangements entitled "Yankee Doodle Toccata" and "Bachiana Americana." Under his own name, he produced a series of wild instrumental "hi-fi" type platters in the '50s for labels such as RCA. Throughout his career he kept up appearances as a harmonica soloist, which is where it all began for him:

at 15, his first professional gigs were with Johnny O'Brien Harmonica Hi-Hats. In the '80s, he served as music director and vice president of the Los Angeles Creative Arts Temple and in 1993 began a two-year stint as artistic director of Temple Sholom Aleichem. He also taught film scoring at UCLA and turned out a column for

Overture magazine. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Suite From Little Fugitive

1. Joey's Theme

2. The Plot

3. Joey's Blues

4. Joey In The Baseball Cage

5. Deposit Bottles

6. Ride 'em, Joey!

7. Fugato (Lenny Looks For Joey)

8. Coney Island

9. Polka (From "The Golden Age")

10. To A Wild Rose

11. The Harmonica Player

12. Gavotte

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