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Les Baxter
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Musician
    (March 14, 1922-January 15, 1996)
    Born in Mexia, Texas
    Pianist, conductor, arranger, and composer
    Member of Mel Tormé’s Mel-Tones
    Conducted the orchestra on Nat ‘King’ Cole’s songs ‘Too Young’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ and Yma Sumac’s album ‘Voice of the Xtabay’
    Recorded the albums ‘Music Out of the Moon’ (1947), ‘Ritual of the Savage’ (1951), ‘Caribbean Moonlight’ (1956), ‘Skins! Bongo Party with Les Baxter’ (1957), ‘Space Escapade’ (1958), ‘Les Baxter’s Jungle Jazz’ (1959), ‘The Primitive and the Passionate’ (1962), and ‘Moog Rock’ (1968)
    Recorded the singles ‘Because of You’ (1951), ‘Blue Tango’ (1952), ‘April in Portugal’ (1953), ‘The High and the Mighty’ (1954), ‘Unchained Melody’ (1955), ‘Wake the Town and Tell the People’ (1955), and ‘The Poor People of Paris’ (1956)
    Scored the movies ‘Voodoo Island’ (1957), ‘Untamed Youth’ (1957), ‘House of Usher’ (1960), ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ (1961), ‘Panic in Year Zero!’ (1962), ‘The Raven’ (1963), ‘X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes’ (1963), ‘Beach Party’ (1963), ‘Beach Party Bingo’ (1964), ‘How to Stuff a Wild Bikini’ (1965), ‘Dr. Goodfoot and the Bikini Machine’ (1965), ‘The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini’ (1966), ‘Wild in the Streets’ (1968), ‘The Mini-Skirt Mob’ (1968), ‘Frogs’ (1972), ‘Savage Sisters’ (1974), and ‘Switchblade Sisters’ (1975)
    He said about his first album, which featured a theremin, one cello, one French horn, a rhythm section, and a fifteen-voice choir, ‘No one had heard of a combination like that…. I didn’t know what I was doing.’
    His biggest single, ‘The Poor People of Paris,’ should have been called ‘The Ballad of Poor John,’ but when the title was sent from France, ‘Jean’ was miswritten as ‘Gens’ (‘people’).
    Most of his film scores were for ultra-low budget B and Z grade movies.
    Although the liner notes to his albums claimed he traveled around the world collecting unusual sounds, he admitted, ‘I don’t think I got any farther than Glendale.’
    His looks were described as ‘a cross between John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.
    He was one of the pioneers of the ‘exotica’ genre, along with Martin Denny (who got a hit single covering Baxter’s ‘Quiet Village’).
    According to producer Howard W. Koch, he composed, orchestrated, and recorded the score for the Western ‘The Yellow Tomahawk’ (1954) in a total of three hours.
    He had an unlikely fan in punk rocker Jello Biafra, who praised his recordings in the book ‘Incredibly Strange Music, Volume 2.’

Credit: C. Fishel


 
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