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A precocious talent, Maltby wrote his first arrangement while in 8th grade, and by the time he graduated from high school, he was working steadily with dance bands in the Chicago area, arranging and playing cornet. He attended Northwestern University briefly, then joined Chicago radio station WBBM as a staff musician.
He was hired by Paul Whiteman in the late 1930s, then moved on to work for Benny Goodman in the 1940s, composing one of Goodman's late hits, "Six Flats Unfurnished." As a free-lance arranger, he also work for Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and the Radio City Music Hall band. After working for radio in New York for over 8 years, he joined Sesac Radio Transcription service, where he arranged and recorded direct-to-radio instrumentals for Sesac licensees.
He found the experience rewarding. "They were willing to experiment and let me use any kind of instrumental combination and pattern," he later told Down Beat magazine. He also recorded several LPs in the 1950s for RCA's budget labels X and Vik and, later, for Columbia. One of his early singles for Vik, "The St. Louis Blues Mambo," infuriated Perez Prado by scoring higher on the Billboard Hot 100 chart than any of Prado's own mambo tunes.
He then settled for the less challenging but more profitable job of arranging for Lawrence Welk's television show. He wrote a serious piece, "Threnody: Requiem for John F. Kennedy" after the President's assassination. His son, Richard Maltby, Jr., is a successful director and lyricist on Broadway.
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