Composer, George Greeley dies at 89
June 1, 2007

By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- George Greeley, a pianist, conductor, composer, and arranger who wrote the theme music for television's "My Favorite Martian," has died. He was 89.

Mr. Greeley, who had emphysema, died Saturday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, said Teri York, Mr. Greeley's longtime companion.

As staff pianist at Columbia Pictures in the 1950s, Mr. Greeley performed on hundreds of motion pictures. He also worked as a composer and orchestrator.

"He was an extraordinary pianist," said Jon Burlingame, who teaches a class on the history of film scoring at the University of Southern California. While at Columbia, Burlingame said, Mr. Greeley played the piano for the Leonard Bernstein score for the classic 1954 drama "On the Waterfront."

"He also was very proud of his work on 'The Eddy Duchin Story' because he coached Tyrone Power on the proper way to play the piano," Burlingame said.

As a recording artist for Warner Bros. Records, Mr. Greeley produced and performed on 15 albums.

Moving into television in the 1960s, Mr. Greeley wrote the musical themes and underscores for "My Favorite Martian," starring Ray Walston and Bill Bixby, and "My Living Doll," starring Robert Cummings and Julie Newmar. He also wrote background music for "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and "Nanny and the Professor."

For "My Favorite Martian," the 1963-66 sitcom in which Bixby's newspaper reporter character befriends the stranded Martian played by Walston, Mr. Greeley used an instrument called an electro- theremin to make the weird sound every time the Martian's antennae went up or he used his powers of levitation.

"It was one of the first times electronic music was used on television," said Burlingame, who interviewed Mr. Greeley for his 1996 book "TV's Biggest Hits," a history of television scoring.

Born in Westerly, R.I., Mr. Greeley was taught by his musician-father to read music at an early age and was playing piano at 5. He studied piano and music composition on a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York, where he graduated in 1939.

He arranged music for several popular bands, including the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

At Capitol Records, he was a music director and arranger for Gordon MacRae, Jane Powell, and Jane Froman, among others.

He performed as a piano soloist and guest conductor in Australia, Canada, Korea, and Brazil. He also performed with the Boston Pops, the Atlanta Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony.