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Space Age Music Maker

Vic Schoen


  • Born 26 March 1916, Brooklyn, New York
  • Died 5 January 2000, Corona del Mar, California

Self-taught as an arranger, Schoen began working in the mid-1930s and had his first hit with a song based on a German saying, "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen", recorded with the Andrews Sisters. He worked for a number of singers and entertainers through the 1940s and 1950s, including Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye. He led bands backing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters on their hit recordings of "Pistol Packin' Mama," "Don't Fence Me In," and "South America, Take It Away!" and wrote the title song for Kaye's movie, "The Court Jester." Schoen married singer Marian Hutton during this period, and the couple moved to Los Angeles, where he continued to work for radio and recording studios.

Schoen worked on several of the great Bob Hope-Bing Crosby Road movies, including "The Road to Morocco" and "The Road to Rio." He accompanied Maurice Chevalier on his first post-war tour of America and arranged and conducted for acts ranging from Count Basie, Dinah Shore, and the Weavers.

In the 1950s, he moved into television work, providing the arrangements and occasionally conducting the stage bands for specials starring Pat Boone, Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, and Andy Williams. He also arranged and conducted some prime space-age bachelor pad albums for RCA's Stereo Action series. While musical director for "The Big Record," a variety series hosted by Patti Page, he and bandleader Les Brown conceived of a suite for two big bands that he and Brown later recorded on the album Suite for Two Bands, later reissued as Impact!.

Schoen struggled with alcoholism and other demons, and found it increasingly difficult to get jobs in the studio world. He arranged two albums for Bobby Shad's Mainstream label featuring a bossa nova-wannabe ensemble known as the Corcovado Trumpets. These are fairly good, somewhat in the go-go vocals with brass vein of Ray Martin's mid-60s albums for RCA Camden. For a number of years, he served as the musical director for Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters, an annual production in which famous works of art are recreated in live tableaux.

He and Hutton were married until she died in 1986. Although his gigs were less frequent, Schoen never fully retired from music. "His music would never leave him alone to do that," remarked his third wife, Sally-Jan Calbeck Schoen. He was proud of his ability to work in a wide variety of styles and joked that he could "write big band falling out of bed." And in 1999, he reunited with Patti Page to record a CD for a Chinese label.


Recordings

  • Music for a Rainy Night, Decca DL8081
  • A Letter to Laura, Decca DL8132
  • Great Songs from All Over the World, Kapp K-1097-S
  • Brass Laced with Strings, RCA Stereo Action LSA-2344
  • Impact! Band Meets Band, Kapp KRL-4504
  • A Swingers Holiday, Liberty LST-7018
  • Corcovado Trumpets, Mainstream 56036-S/6036
  • Girls with Brass, Mainstream MMS 705


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