October 15, 1999 – Terry Gilkyson died from complications of an aneurysm

OCTOBER 15, 1999 -Singer/songwriter/composer/lyricist/guitarist TERRY GILKYSON (b. July 17, 1916 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania as Hamilton Henry Gilkyson) died from complications of an aneurysm in Austin, Texas at age 83 while visiting family. His interment was at Morris Cemetery in his hometown of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.Gilkyson was a folk artist, best known for the 1957 hit “Marianne.” He graduated from St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island in 1935.

Like many families in the 1920s and ’30s, music was a primary source of entertainment for the Gilkysons. While this influenced the young Terry to study music at the University of Pennsylvania, the formality of class work bored him and he dropped out after two years. He moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1937, working on a friend’s ranch, learning to play guitar, and writing folk songs. He joined the Army during WWII, serving briefly in the cavalry before joining the Army Air Corps where he remained until he was discharged in 1945.

He returned to Pennsylvania where he took over his father’s insurance business, but the dream of being a musician pulled him away from small-town life.In 1947, he married Jane Gilkyson and moved to California to pursue a career as a folk singer. In 1948 he received his first professional job in music, operating a radio program called “The Solitary Singer” for the Armed Forces. During this time, and throughout his career as a singer, Gilkyson avoided controversial political and social subjects out of fear of being blacklisted during the “Red Scare.” He wrote and recorded “The Cry of the Wild Goose” in 1949, a song that became a #1 hit for Frankie Laine in 1950 as well as the 1953 hit song “Tell Me a Story” recorded by Jimmy Boyd and Laine.

Laine and Gilkyson had a good thing going for a while, Terry composed “The Girl in the Wood” (with Neal Stuart) as well as Frankie’s hit duets with Jo Stafford (“Gambella The Gamblin’ Lady)” in ’51) and “annoying” youngster Jimmy Boyd (“Tell Me a Story” in ’53) in addition to Guy Mitchell’s 1951 historical ditty “Christopher Columbus.”He also recorded two songs, “On Top of Old Smoky” (as featured vocalist on the #1 hit recording), and “Across the Wide Missouri,” with the Weavers, and three albums (“Folksongs,” “Terry Gilkyson” and “Golden Minutes of Folk Music” for Decca. He also received acting roles in a number of movies, including “Star in the Dust” (1956) and “Slaughter Trail” (1951) that, in the manner of “High Noon,” had ballads throughout the film relating to the plot.In 1953, Gilkyson met Rich Dehr and Frank Miller, a duo who called themselves the Easy Riders, and the three decided to join forces. They wrote “Memories Are Made of This,” a song that became a #1 hit for Dean Martin (backed by the Easy Riders), and recorded “Marianne and Other Songs You’ll Like” for Columbia in 1957. The group had a major hit with “Marianne” both written and performed by the trio. The record sold in excess of one million copies, earning a gold disc. An adaptation of “Memories Are Made of This” became an anthem for refugees from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

October 15, 1999 - Terry Gilkyson  died from complications of an aneurysm

The group followed with “Tina,” a fisherman’s love song without the Caribbean accents, credited to The Easy Riders; for the next few years the group alternated billing, sometimes using Gilkyson’s name in front, other times not. The record made a brief showing in May before their signature hit had ended its considerable run. “Strollin’ Blues,” a country blues shuffler on the flip side of “Tina,” featured a lead vocal by Roberta Lee, a former big band singer Terry knew from his time with Decca (she had one small 1951 hit to her credit, a pop version of Pee Wee King’s “Slow Poke”).

Gilkyson and the Easy Riders’ ability to avert controversy served them well into the mid-’50s, a period when few folk musicians made names for themselves. The Weavers had nearly been put out-of-business by the McCarthy hearings, and the Kingston Trio would not appear on the scene with “Tom Dooley” until the summer of 1958. Gilkyson and other members of the Easy Riders wrote and/or performed a number of other influential songs that would leave an important legacy to folk music’s pre-revival period: “Everybody Loves Saturday Night,” “South Coast,” “Greenfields,” “Sweet Sugar Cane,” “Love is a Golden Ring,” “Young in Love,” “The Girl in the Wood,” “Leina,” and “Remember the Alamo” as well as a song titled “Tell the Captain” which is better known as “Sloop John B.” Meanwhile, Gilkyson wrote and recorded material that became standard folk repertoire for musicians like Burl Ives, Harry Belafonte, and the New Christy Minstrels.

There were no other hit records at Columbia, but the trio’s songwriting skills remained strong. They supplied the theme for the 1958 documentary film Windjammer, a widescreen presentation touted as the first to use “Cinemiracle” (established as competition for Cinerama, it was also the last to use the similar process).After forming a second version of the Easy Riders and writing “Greenfields,” a smash hit for the Brothers Four, Gilkyson began working for the Disney studios in the early ’60s, writing music both for movies and the television series “The Wonderful World of Disney” especially “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.” He wrote songs for “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960), “Savage Sam” (1963), and “The Jungle Book” (1967), and received a 1968 Oscar nomination for “The Bare Necessities.” He also wrote theme music for many Disney productions including “The Aristocats” and “Thomasina.”

When Disney attempted to put him on salary in the early ’70s, he feared that he would lose the rights to his songs and decided to retire.Gilkyson’s three children also work in the music business. Tony has played in a number of bands, including the punk rock group X, while Eliza is an accomplished singer/songwriter. Nancy served for 20 years as a Vice President at Warner Brothers Records.











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