Gene Merlino

Gene Merlino is a retired singer and musician, best known for providing the singing voice of Lancelot in the musical movie Camelot, and for being part of the Grammy Award winning quartet, The Anita Kerr Singers.

Gene Merlino
Publicity photo for KCBS Radio, 1952
Born
Mario Gino Merlino

(1928-04-05) April 5, 1928
San Francisco, California, U.S.
ResidenceCamarillo, California
OccupationSinger, Musician (Saxophone, Clarinet)
Years active1950–2005
Spouse(s)
  • Lois Draper (m. 19532009)
Children2

Early Life

Gene Merlino was born Mario Gino Merlino on April 5, 1928, in San Francisco, California, to Cesare and Teresa (née Incaviglia) Merlino. His first exposure to music came from his two older brothers; John was an accomplished accordionist, and Victor took up the clarinet but did not stick with it for long. Gene originally wanted to play trumpet, as he admired Harry James, but instead picked up the available clarinet in his early teens. A few years later he had learned the saxophone well enough to start playing for dances and weddings near his Potrero Hill neighborhood.[1]

After graduating from Mission High School he enrolled in San Francisco State as a Music major, playing clarinet and achieving first chair concertmaster in the college's symphonic band by his sophomore year. He also spent one semester at Eastman School of Music.[1]

Career

Radio

In 1950, Merlino left college before graduating when he got his first steady musical job with the Bill Weaver show on KCBS radio, which at that time broadcast out of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.[2][3] Although he initially only played saxophone, he soon became the regular male vocalist, performing five nights a week. At this time he "realized that singing was going to be [his] main career in music".[4] He stayed with KCBS for three years before moving to Los Angeles, California.

Jazz Bands

After arriving in Los Angeles, Merlino joined the jazz bands of Frankie Carle, then Ray Anthony. Anthony then started his short-lived television variety show, The Ray Anthony Show, in 1956, allowing Merlino to be seen by a nationwide audience.[4] When the Anthony show was canceled in May 1957 after only one season, Merlino joined the Freddy Martin band, who played regularly at the famous Cocoanut Grove club in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.[4] Merlino remained with this band until 1963.

Television

Beginning in 1963 and continuing through 1979, Merlino was a regular performer for many television variety shows, starting with The Red Skelton Show. He would eventually become a regular for The Pearl Bailey Show, The Judy Garland Show, the Carol Burnett Show, The Julie Andrews Hour, the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Donny & Marie, and the Ken Berry Wow Show.[1][5]

In later years, his vocals could be heard on The Simpsons. He performed the song "Born Free" on the episode "Whacking Day", "South of the Border" on "Kamp Krusty", and "Jellyfish" in "A Star Is Born Again".

Studio Recordings and Film

In 1965 he was part of the four-man singing group that recorded the theme song for Gilligan's Island.[6] In 1966, Merlino was asked to join the male singing quartet, The Mellomen, with Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Lee and Bill Cole, when Max Smith retired. Thanks to this, Merlino began to get regular work in the various recording studios in Hollywood and Los Angeles, eventually singing for thousands of movies, television programs, radio and television commercials, audio recordings, and song poems, during a career that lasted more than 50 years.[7]

His most famous recordings were as part of the Anita Kerr Singers, who won a 1966 Grammy Award (Best Performance by a Vocal Group) for their performance of "A Man and a Woman" (along with a 1969 Edison Award), and for providing the singing voice for the character of Lancelot, played by Franco Nero, in the 1967 movie Camelot.[7] In 1973 he was part of the chorus who went on a worldwide tour with Burt Bacharach to promote the movie Lost Horizon, for which Bacharach wrote the music.[8]

Additionally, Merlino was part of the "L.A. Voices", who were nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Jazz Vocal Performance - Duo or Group) in 1983 for the Supersax album "Supersax & L.A. Voices".[7][9] He also claims to have recorded more than 10,000 song poems, primarily under the pseudonyms Gene Marshall or John Muir, and was featured in the 2003 PBS documentary "Off the Charts".[10][11]

Personal Life

Merlino married Lois Elizabeth Draper on November 18, 1953. Merlino met Draper in the symphonic band at San Francisco State, where she played flute.[4] Almost immediately after marrying they moved to the North Hollywood region of Los Angeles, so Gene could foster his singing career, as there was much more studio recording work available in Hollywood and Los Angeles than in San Francisco. They had two children, Monica (b. 1954)[4] and John (b. 1963)[4]. They lived in various parts of Los Angeles until 1995, when they moved to Camarillo, California. Their marriage lasted for 55 years until Lois died on April 3, 2009, at the age of 78.

References

  1. "Biography". Gene Merlino a Life in Music.
  2. Bethard, Jack. "Radio Orchestras of San Francisco" (PDF). Paramount Theatre Music Library. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. "Gene Merlino discography". RateYourMusic. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. "Biography". Gene Merlino a Life in Music.
  5. Sullivan, Kate (6 February 2003). "Vinyl Fetish". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  6. ""Who played that theme?" #87 - "Gilligan's Island" (Season 2 Intro, 1965)". Youtube. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  7. "Biography". Gene Merlino a Life in Music.
  8. "Biography". Gene Merlino a Life in Music.
  9. "Supersax & L.A. Voices* - The Song Is You". Discogs. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  10. Pareles, Jon (9 February 2003). "MUSIC; Just Plain Folks Write Songs, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. "Songs from the Common Man". NPR.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.


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