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Meredith Willson

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Biography

Robert Meredith Willson (18 May 1902 – 15 June 1984) was an American composer, songwriter, conductor and playwright.

He is best known for writing the book, music, and lyrics for the hit musical The Music Man, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1958. The cast recording of The Music Man won the first Grammy Award given for best cast album. Willson also is remembered for his work on films, the Burns and Allen radio program, among other radio shows, and was nominated for two Academy Awards

Early life

Born Robert Meredith Reiniger in Mason City, Iowa, Willson attended Frank Damrosch’s Institute of Musical Art (later The Juilliard School) in New York City. A flute and piccolo player, Willson was a member of John Philip Sousa’s band (1921–1923) and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini (1924–1929). Willson then moved to San Francisco, California as the concert director for KFRC, and then as a musical director for the NBC radio network in Hollywood.[1]

His work for films included writing the music for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) and William Wyler’s The Little Foxes (1941), both of which garnered him Academy Award nominations. During World War II, he worked for the United States’ Armed Forces Radio Service. His work with the AFRS teamed him with George Burns, Gracie Allen and Bill Goodwin. He would work with all three as the bandleader, and a regular character, on the Burns and Allen radio program. He played a shy man, always trying to get advice on women. His character was dizzy as well, basically a male version of Gracie Allen.

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