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Ronald Erle GrainerBorn: Friday 11th August 1922
Died: Saturday 21st February 1981 (age: 58)
Ron Grainer was one of the mos prolific composers of music for British television. He composed the Doctor Who Theme music used on every episode of the series.
Grainer was born in Atherton, Queensland, Australia, where his father owned the local milk bar. His mother played piano and Ron was on the keyboard from the age of two and considered a child genius, playing concerts for the local community by the age of six.
He studied music under Sir Eugene Goosens at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, but this was interrupted by World War II. He returned to Sydney Conservatorium when the war ended but he gave up the violin to concentrate on composition.
In 1952, he moved to England, initially finding work as a pianist in light entertainment, touring as part of a musical act - The Alien Brothers & June - with other acts such as Billy Daniels, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Al Martino and Billy Eckstine. He was rewarded with no less than three appearances at the London Palladium.
He began to act regularly as musical adviser to many gala programmes produced by Associated Rediffusion TV, including those featuring Tito Gobbi and Maria Callas. He was asked to write music for a number of television plays, including The Birthday Party, and also accepted the job as musical adviser to a Julie Andrews series. He was commissioned to write both the theme and incidental music for a new detective series - "Maigret" (1960) - based on the books written by Georges Simenon. This proved to be a major landmark in Grainer's own career. His work on Maigret, which began in 1960 with Rupert Davies in the title role, was directly responsible for him securing his first recording deal with Warner Bros., who issued both a single and e.p. featuring musical extracts from the BBC series. Bandleader Joe Loss also recorded the theme and perhaps surprisingly it was his single which reached number 20 in the charts.
Over the next few years, a succession of TV themes and scores followed, many for the BBC. The first of these was Happy Joe in 1962, the theme to "Comedy Playhouse" One of the first Comedy Playhouse pilots to get its own series was "Steptoe and Son" (1962), which starred Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett as the feuding father and son rag and bone men. Grainer was invited to compose the theme, which he named Old Ned - a reference to the horse which in the opening sequence was shown pulling the cart along.
One of BBC's very first cooking programmes, Fanny Craddock, transmitted in 1963, also benefited from a Grainer theme, as did Giants Of Steam, "The Flying Swan" (1965) & "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1962). In 1963, Grainer was asked to provide a theme for a new children's BBC's science fiction series entitled "Doctor Who" (1963). Despite some changes in the arrangement, this theme is still being used today.
Producer Ned Sherrin was impressed with Grainer's ability to create themes for such a wide variety of programmes and in the same year commissioned him to compose the theme for the ground-breaking satirical BBC TV show, "That Was the Week That Was" (1962) and its successor, "Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life" (1964). Lyricist Caryl Brahms provided the words sung by Millicent Martin.
After concentrating for a few years on films and theatre work, 1967 saw him back on the small screen. "Man in a Suitcase" (1967), an ITC series starring Richard Bradford as McGill - "The Prisoner (1967). and "Paul Temple" (1969), created by thriller-writer Francis Durbridge for a series of novels in the 1930s.
In the early seventies, Grainer achieved further success as a writer of television themes with three commissions for London Weekend Television: Man In The News, "Trouble with Lilian, The" (1971) and "The Train Now Standing (1972), as well as one for Thames - "For the Love of Ada" (1970).
He was commissioned by Anglia Television to write the theme for a new mystery series entitled "Tales of the Unexpected" (1979). Thames Television provided Grainer with two further commissions in that same year. "Born and Bred" (1978) and "Edward & Mrs. Simpson" (1980).
Ron Grainer continued writing music for television and films right up to his death in 1981, including two comedies for Independent Television: "Shelley" (1979) and "It Takes a Worried Man" (1981) His score for The Business Of Murder, an episode of LWT's Saturday Night Thriller series, was his very last and was transmitted posthumously in 1982.
He died on 21st February, 1981, suffering from cancer of the spine.