Best known as a director and conductor of pops orchestras, Richard Hayman launched his career in 1938, at the age of 18, as a harmonica player. After touring the country with the Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals, he landed in Hollywood working as a composer and arranger on some of MGM’s best-loved musicals, including “Girl Crazy,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Thousands Cheer.”
For 20th Century Fox, Hayman did musical arrangements and appeared in “Coney Island” and “Sweet Rosie O’Grady.” While in Hollywood, he worked with many of the giants of movie music such as Alfred Newman, Victor Young and Max Steiner.
In the mid-1940s, a trip home to Boston took Hayman’s career path away from music for movies to the musical direction of the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra. Although he was no longer scoring films, Hayman kept his name front and center with music. In 1953 he recorded “Ruby,” his own arrangement of the theme song from the movie “Ruby Gentry.” The song’s lush orchestration hit a chord with listeners; it was No. 1 on pop charts all over the world.
Through the 1950s, Hayman continued to work as an arranger and conductor for artists recording on Mercury Records, a post he held until 1965. He also worked as the musical director and/or master of ceremonies for touring celebrities such as Bob Hope, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Red Skelton, Brenda Lee, Al Hirt, Johnny Carson and more.
Hayman also orchestrated music for TV series, specials and documentaries, most recently for an episode of Ken Burns’ PBS series on Mark Twain.
For more than 30 years, while Arthur Fiedler was its musical director, Hayman was the principal arranger for the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was principal pops conductor for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra between 1976 and 2001, and while there he was known for his sequined jackets, harmonica solos and goofy jokes.
Must recently, Hayman was the principal pops conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan and music director of the Space Coast Pops Orchestra in Cocoa, Fla.