(CRRK note: If you are not familiar with record producer Terry Melcher, this is …
Written by megarock on February 8, 2018
(CRRK note: If you are not familiar with record producer Terry Melcher, this is a really interesting story…)
If Terry Melcher was still with us, he would have turned 76 years old today.
(from wikipedia, edited)
Terry was a musician and record producer who was instrumental in shaping the 1960s ‘California Sound’ and folk rock movements, particularly during the nascent counterculture era. Melcher is also known for his involvement with cult leader Charles Manson, being one of the targets of the Manson Family during the late 1960s.
Melcher was the only child of actress/singer Doris Day; his father was Day’s first husband Al Jorden, and was adopted by her third husband Martin Melcher. Most of his early recordings were with the vocal surf acts the Rip Chords and Bruce & Terry. Melcher’s best known contributions were producing The Byrds’ first two albums “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, as well as most of the hit recordings of Paul Revere & the Raiders. In the 1960s, Melcher was acquainted with the Beach Boys, helping connect Brian Wilson to Smile lyricist Van Dyke Parks. Melcher later produced several singles for the Beach Boys in the 1980s and the 1990s, including “Kokomo”, which topped U.S. record charts.
In the early 1960s, Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston formed the vocal duet Bruce & Terry. The duo had hits like “Custom Machine” and “Summer Means Fun”. Melcher and Johnston also created another group, The Rip Chords, which had a Top 10 hit with “Hey Little Cobra”. Later, Johnston would join the Beach Boys. By the mid-1960s, Melcher had joined the staff of Columbia Records and went on to work with the Byrds. He produced their hit cover versions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, as well as their respective albums. Due to conflicts with the band and their manager, Melcher was replaced as producer by Allen Stanton and then Gary Usher, although he would later work with the Byrds again on their “Ballad of Easy Rider”, “(Untitled)”, and “Byrdmaniax” albums. Melcher also worked with Paul Revere & the Raiders, Wayne Newton, Frankie Laine, Jimmy Boyd, Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Mark Lindsay and the Mamas & the Papas. He was instrumental in signing another Los Angeles band, the Rising Sons, led by Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. Melcher also performed on the Beach Boys’ platinum album Pet Sounds as a background vocalist. Melcher was also a board member of the Monterey Pop Foundation and a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
In 1968, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson introduced Melcher to ex-con and aspiring musician Charles Manson. Manson and his “family” had been living in Wilson’s house at 14400 Sunset Boulevard after Wilson had picked up hitchhiking Manson family members Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey. Wilson expressed interest in Manson’s music and also recorded two of Manson’s songs with the Beach Boys.
For a time, Melcher was interested in recording Manson’s music, as well as making a film about the family and their hippie commune existence. Manson met Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive, the home Melcher shared with his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen, and with musician Mark Lindsay.
Manson eventually auditioned for Melcher, but Melcher declined to sign him. There was still talk of a documentary being made about Manson’s music, but Melcher abandoned the project after witnessing his subject become embroiled in a fight with a drunken stuntman at Spahn Ranch. Both Wilson and Melcher severed their ties with Manson, a move that angered Manson. Not long after that, Melcher and Bergen moved out of the Cielo Drive home. The house’s owner, Rudi Altobelli, then leased it to film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Manson was reported to have visited the house on more than one occasion asking for Melcher, but was told that Melcher had moved.
On August 9, 1969, the house was the site of the murders of Tate (who was eight months pregnant at the time), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, hairdresser Jay Sebring, writer Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent by members of Manson’s “family”. Some authors and law enforcement personnel have theorized that the Cielo Drive house was targeted by Manson as revenge for Melcher’s rejection and that Manson was unaware that he and Bergen had moved out. However, family member Charles “Tex” Watson stated that Manson and company did, in fact, know that Melcher was no longer living there, and Terry’s former roommate, Mark Lindsay, stated: “Everybody speculated that Manson sent his minions up there to get rid of Terry because he was angry about not getting a record deal. But Terry and I talked about it later and Terry said Manson knew (Melcher had moved) because Manson or someone from his organization left a note on Terry’s porch in Malibu.”
At that time, Melcher was producing singer Jimmy Boyd’s music for A&M Records. After initial tracks were recorded, the Manson murders took place, prompting Melcher to go into seclusion, and the session was never completed. When Manson was arrested, it was widely reported that he had sent his followers to the house to kill Melcher and Bergen. Manson family member Susan Atkins, who admitted her part in the murders, stated to police and before a grand jury that the house was chosen as the scene for the murders “to instill fear into Terry Melcher because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them”. In this aim, the Manson Family was successful. Melcher took to employing a bodyguard and told Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi that his fear was so great, he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment. Melcher was the most frightened of the witnesses at the trial, even though Bugliosi assured him that “Manson knew you were no longer living (on Cielo Drive)”.
On November 19, 2004, Terry Melcher died at his home of melanoma, after a long illness. He was 62 years old.
(the picture is of Terry, seated in front, in the studio with The Byrds)