Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SuperFriends theme, written by Hoyt S. Curtin and narrated by Ted Knight.

"In the Great Hall of the Justice League, there are assembled the world’s four greatest heroes -- created from the cosmic legends of the universe! Superman! Wonder Woman! Batman! Aquaman! And the three junior Super Friends, Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog! Their mission: To fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind!"

Hoyt Stoddard Curtin was the primary musical director for the Hanna-Barbera animation studio from its beginnings in 1957 until 1965, and again from 1972 until his retirement in 1986. During this time, he authored the immortal title music to The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, and The Jetsons. Curtin is considered one of the giants of cartoon music.

Curtin was born September 9, 1922, in Downey, California. As an infant, his family moved to San Bernardino, where his father owned a ranch before getting into the insurance business and later becoming deputy assessor for San Bernardino County.

He began studying piano at the age of five, and proved to be an extraordinarily talented singer composer. By the time he was in junior high, he was leading his own professional dance combo. In high school, he played in several professional local jazz bands. Curtin served on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific during World War II.

After the war, Curtin studied music at the University of Southern California, where he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees. He composed music for a six or seven "Mister Magoo" cartoons from 1950 to 1956 (including for the Oscar-winning When Magoo Flew), but was unable to win any work composing scores for feature films. So he turned to composing for television shows and writing advertising jingles.

Curtin was extraordianrily prolific as a jingle music writer. His work was catchy, although he never composed a truly memorable tune. In 1957, Willliam Hanna and Joseph Barbera contacted him to write music for a Schlitz beer commercial they were producing.

Two weeks later, they called Curtin and asked if he would be interested in composing music for a cartoon series they were creating for television. Curtin agreed to help. The men read a lyric to him over the phone, and asked him to call back when he had a song for it.

Curtin called them back in five minutes.He sang the song to them ... and there was dead silence. "Uh oh, I bombed out," Curtin thought. The first words out of Hanna and Barbera's mouths were to offer him a contract.

For the next decade, Hanna and Barbera would read some words or lyrics to Curtin over the phone, and he'd create music. In time, he'd be given rough footage so he could score his music more in time with the action or characters.

His first series was Ruff & Reddy. Over the next few years, Curtin wrote the theme songs for The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Audie Doggie and Daddy, Lippy the Lion, Wally Gator, Touche Turtle, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, Quickdraw McGraw, Secret Squirrel, Magilla Gorilla, Moby Dick and Mightor, Shazzan, Wacky Races, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, SuperFriends, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Inch High, Private Eye, Hong Kong Phooey, Devlin, The Great Grape Ape Show, Speed Buggy, Valley of the Dinosaurs, Clue Club, Captain Caveman, Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, Jabberjaw, Godzilla, Battle of the Planets, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Pound Puppies, Snorks, and The Smurfs. He also composed many of the stock tunes used as incidental music in the various series, and the jingle heard underneath Hanna-Barbera's closing logo.

In retirement, Curtin invented a successful brand of underground lawn sprinklers, built one of the first synthesizers, and established a correspondence course for budding musicians. ("Learn how to write songs the Hoyt Curtin way!")

When Rhino decied to release a 1995 retrospective album of his works, they literally had to peel the soundtracks off the original celluloid films to get masters of Curtin's themes and background music. No one had bothered to keep them after the shows were produced. (There is, as far as anyone knows, no existing master for his most famous piece, the Flintstones theme.)

He died in Los Angeles, California on December 3, 2000 at the age of 78. He left behind a son, Chris, and a wife, Elizabeth.

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