Meredith Willson

Meredith Willson
Ed Widdis / Associated Press

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Meredith Willson
Radio: North side of the 6400 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Composer | Musician | Playwright
Born May 18, 1902 in Mason City, IA
Died June 15, 1984 of heart failure in Santa Monica, CA

Meredith Willson was the composer of the Broadway smash "The Music Man," which set generations of toes tapping to "76 Trombones."

He was an accomplished flute and piccolo player even before graduating from Mason City High School in Iowa. He later studied at New York’s Damrosch Institute of Musical Arts and under the tutelage of Parisian flutist George Barrere. Willson performed as John Philip Sousa’s solo flutist and later played with the New York Philharmonic.

In 1929, his interests turned to composing and conducting and before long, he was named musical director of NBC’s western division. It took him from 1950 to 1957 -– years that encompassed 38 rewrites -– to complete the book, music and lyrics to "The Music Man."

However, the efforts eventually earned him a litany of awards, including the 1958 New York Critics’ award for best musical, coupled with a Grammy for best album.

Willson also wrote the music and lyrics for "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," which was made into an MGM film, and for "Here’s Love," another Broadway hit.

He was admitted to the hospital for an intestinal obstruction a week before his death, and died of apparent heart failure June 15, 1984.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1940 Best Original Score The Great Dictator Nomination
    1941 Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture The Little Foxes Nomination

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