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Holiday Issue Letter by Keith Pawlak

One of the most striking qualities about Nelson Riddle was his ability to remain musically active during tough times. This was evidenced by an archive inventory in 2006 of more than a dozen newly acquired boxes that had been previously locked away in storage. This treasure revealed hundreds of arrangements written for television, radio and casuals in the 1970s and 1980s. The arrangements showed that unlike Nelson’s colleagues, he was able to survive the revolutionary changes of the record industry and culture shift in the 1960s. The resulting era, which swept many artists into retirement, was merely another challenge for Nelson to overcome in his career. Although the musical landscape had altered, Nelson continued to be creative and productive throughout these years.

The bulk of the material in these newly discovered boxes pertained to Nelson’s involvement  as  a  music  director for numerous television appearances that  honored  Hollywood entertainers from Hollywood. These events were produced by organizations like The American Film Institute, The Variety Guild and The Director’s   Guild  of   America.     In    addition, corporate sponsors like Sears and ABC produced similarly themed honorariums. Sociologically these shows could be best classified historiographically into a time period known as the Golden Era of Tribute Shows.

In the collection are at least 31 of these shows that contain original arrangements written by Nelson. However, documents in the collection suggest that this number could be much higher. The following table is an overview of the productions and manuscripts that have so far been identified. There are at least 208 arrangements in the archive that were written for these entertainment shows. Of these, 45 have yet to be linked to a specific production.

-Keith Pawlak

Music Curator, University of Arizona, School of Music

Production, Production date

Salute To James Cagney (AFI) 3/12/1974

Tribute To Orson Welles (AFI) 2/9/1975

The 1975 Entertainment Hall of Fame Awards 2/22/1975

1st Annual Rock Music Awards 8/9/1975

Salute To William Wyler (AFI) 3/8/1976

1976 Directors Guild Of  America Award 3/20/1976

Carol Burnett Benefit 4/3/1976

The 1976 Entertainment Hall of Fame Awards 6/10/1976

Tribute To John Wayne 11/5/1976

Tribute To Bette Davis (AFI) 3/1/1977

An All-Star Tribute To Elizabeth Taylor (Sears Special) 11/13/1977

The 7th Annual Las Vegas Entertainment Awards 11/21/1977

Variety ’77 – The Year In Entertainment 1/3/1978

Salute To Henry Fonda 3/1/1978

Tribute To Neil Simon 3/11/1978

ABC Presents Tomorrow’s Stars 6/14/1978

Tribute To Jimmy Stewart 11/19/1978

Tribute To Alfred Hitchcock 3/6/1979

The 7th Annual Las Vegas Entertainment Awards 11/21/1979

Tribute To Ingrid Bergman (Sears Special) 12/6/1979

Salute To James Stewart (AFI) 2/28/1980

All Star Party for Jack Lemmon (Sears Spec.) 11/15/1980

Salute To Fred Astaire (AFI) 4/9/1981

An All Star Tribute To Burt Reynolds (Sears Spec.) 11/29/1981

Salute To Frank Capra (AFI) 3/4/1982

34th Director’s Guild Awards 3/13/1982

All Star Party for Carol Burnett (Variety Guild) 11/20/1982

35th Director’s Guild Awards 3/12/1983

All Star Party for Frank Sinatra (Variety Guild) 11/20/1983

All Star Party for Lucille Ball (Variety Guild) 11/18/1984

Tribute To Jim Murray (not televised) unknown

(Nelson Riddle Appreciation Society “Nelson’s Notes” ARCHIVES, January 2009)

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