Meredith Willson Biography (1902-1984)

Born May 18, 1902, in Mason City, IA; died June 15, 1984, in Santa Monica, CA; son of John David and Rosalie (Reiniger) Willson; married Elizabeth Wilson,August 29, 1920 (divorced, March 5, 1948); married Ralina "Rina" Zarova, March 13, 1948 (died, December 6, 1966); married Rosemary Sullivan (died, February 14, 1968). Career: Musician, conductor, composer, and writer. Played piccolo and flute with John Philip Sousa's band, 1921-23; New York Philharmonic Orchestra, New York City, musician, 1924-29; Seattle Symphony Orchestra,Seattle, WA, conductor, 1929; American Broadcasting System in the North West, musical director, 1929-30; National Broadcasting Company, San Francisco, CA, musical director of Western Division, 1932; KFRC, San Francisco, CA, concert director. Also toured the United States as a conductor. Military service: U.S. Army, head of Music Division of Armed Forces Radio Service, 1942;became major. Awards, Honors: Academy Award nomination, best originalscore, 1940, for The Great Dictator; Academy Award nomination, best scoring of a dramatic picture, 1941, for The Little Foxes; Antoinette Perry Awards, best musical, best author of a musical (with Franklin Lacey), andbest composer and lyricist, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, best new musical, and Grammy Award, composer of best original cast album for Broadway ortelevision, all 1958, for The Music Man; Grammy Award nomination, composer of best original cast album for Broadway or television, 1960, for The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Academy Award nomination, best picture, 1962, for The Music Man; Grammy Award nomination, composer of best original cast album for Broadway or television, 1963, for Here's Love; posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1987; Meredith Willson Residence Hall at theJuilliard School named in his honor.

Musician, conductor, composer, writer
Birth Details
May 18, 1902
Mason City, Iowa, United States
Death Details
June 15, 1984
Santa Monica, California, United States

Famous Works

  • Television Appearances
  • Series
  • The Meredith Willson Show, NBC, 1949
  • Radio Work
  • Series
  • Musical director, Maxwell House Coffee Time, NBC, 1937
  • Radio Appearances
  • Series
  • Cohost of The Big Show; appeared in the series Ford Showroom and Music Room.
  • Screenplays
  • (With Franklin Lacey) The Music Man, Warner Bros., 1962
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1964
  • Composer for Films
  • Undersea Kingdom, Republic, 1936
  • The Great Dictator, United Artists, 1940
  • The Little Foxes, RKO, 1941
  • The Music Man, Warner Bros., 1962
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1964
  • Song, "Till There Was You," I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Universal, 1978
  • Song, "Wells Fargo Wagon," Romy and Michele's High School Reunion,Buena Vista, 1997
  • Stage Plays
  • Playwright, composer, and lyricist, The Music Man, Majestic Theatre, New York City, 1957-60
  • Composer and lyricist, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Winter Garden Theatre, New York City, 1960-61
  • Major Tours
  • Playwright, composer, and lyricist, Here's Love (based on Miracle on 34th Street), California cities, 1964
  • Composer for Television
  • Specials
  • Song, "Till There Was You," A Grand Night: The Performing Arts SalutePublic Television, PBS, 1988
  • Orchestral Compositions
  • Parade Fantastique, 1924
  • Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, 1936
  • Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, 1940
  • The Missions of California, 1940
  • The Jervis Bay, 1943
  • Radio Suite, 1946
  • Symphonic Variations on American Themes, 1948
  • Prelude to America, 1961
  • Memoirs
  • And There I Stood with My Piccolo, Doubleday (New York City), 1948
  • Eggs I Have Laid, Holt (New York City), 1955
  • But He Doesn't Know the Territory, Putnam (New York City), 1959
  • Nonfiction
  • What Every Musician Should Know (booklet), Robbins, 1938
  • Novels
  • Who Did What to Fedalia?, Doubleday, 1952
  • The Music Man (based on the play of the same name), Pyramid, 1962

Further Reference

Obituaries and Other Sources

    • New York Times, February 1984, p. 24.*

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