Composer Frank DeVol Dies Hollywood: Despite many Emmy and Oscar nominations,
he was best known for 'Brady
By ELAINE WOO, Times Staff Writer
Frank DeVol did not invent the microwave oven. He did not
climb the world's tallest mountain. Nor did he write a computer
program that people cannot live without. He did more.
DeVol wrote theme songs, winsome, bouncing, haunting ditties
for television and the movies that invaded Americans' psyches and
lodged there--like it or not--for years.
Here's the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls . . .
DeVol wrote the music for those lyrics that have burrowed into
pop culture history as the
theme song for "The Brady Bunch," the
kitschy 1970s sitcom enjoying perpetual life in rerun heaven.
One of Hollywood's most popular musical
arranger-composer-conductors, DeVol died Wednesday at age 88
in a nursing home in Lafayette, Calif.
His compositions include classic TV themes for "My Three
Sons" and "Family Affair," as well as songs for such movies as
"Pillow Talk," "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", "Hush, Hush,
Sweet Charlotte," "The Dirty Dozen" and "Guess Who's Coming to
He began to write music for TV and film after a successful
career in radio during the big band era, when he also arranged and
conducted recording sessions for such stars as Doris Day, Tony
Bennett, Jaye P. Morgan and Ella Fitzgerald.
During his seven-decade career, he received five Academy
Award and five Emmy nominations. The latter included a
nomination for the "Brady
Bunch" song, which never failed to elicit
the most rousing reaction whenever he mentioned or played his
"People gave him tremendous ovations when they found out
what he did," said Bob Weiss, DeVol's former publicist and
longtime family friend. "They'd say, 'Oh, you're 'The Brady Bunch,'
you're 'My Three Sons.' "
DeVol was born in Moundsville, W.Va., but was raised in
Canton, Ohio, where his father was bandleader for the local
vaudeville theater. DeVol joined the musicians union when he was
14 and played violin and piano for his father's band. Saving his
earnings from $35-a-week appearances at a Chinese restaurant in
Cleveland, he bought a saxophone next, learning to play it by
watching other musicians.
By the late 1930s, he was playing and arranging for the Horace
Heidt orchestra. When guitarist Alvino Rey left that band, DeVol
began to arrange for him.
By the early 1940s, DeVol was living in California and working
the graveyard shift for Lockheed when he received a phone call
from KHJ, then a Mutual Network radio station, inviting him to be
the bandleader for a musical program. Before long, he was musical
director for a host of radio personalities, including Ginny Simms,
Rudi Vallee, Jack Smith, Dinah Shore and Jack Carson. That led to
DeVol reading parts in comedies and becoming a radio personality
Decades later, he married another figure from the big band era,
vocalist Helen O'Connell. That marriage occurred in 1991, after the
death of DeVol's first wife, Grayce. O'Connell died in 1993.
DeVol's break into movies and television came in 1954, when a
friend got him a job on a low-budget Robert Aldrich film called
"World for Ransom." The entire music budget was only $3,500, but
DeVol took it because "I never turn anything down," he said. That
movie earned him his first Oscar nomination and established him as
a Hollywood composer. He wrote music for 16 Aldrich movies
alone, including the 1967 box office hit "The Dirty Dozen."
By the early 1960s, DeVol had movie composing down to a
science. "I make a chart," he told The Times in 1965. "If I'm scoring
a picture and I know I've got to write 85 minutes of music and I've
got 15 days to do it, that means I've got to produce five to six
minutes of music a day. This way I don't dawdle along."
All together, DeVol wrote music for 47 movies and seven
He also acted, making appearances on the Jack Benny television
show, the original "Parent Trap" movie and "Fernwood 2-Night,"
the 1977 sitcom about a talk show on which DeVol played a studio
orchestra leader who ran a dental office on the side.
Overshadowing all those accomplishments over a seven-decade
career, however, was that 21-line song about a "lovely lady" and "a
man named Brady" whose notes DeVol wrote in a day.
Although never a ratings hit, "The
Brady Bunch" has provided
much grist for analysis in the pop culture mill. Its depiction of a
family happily solving mundane disputes over who does the dishes
or gets to use the phone was so far removed from Vietnam era
woes that it generated a camp following.
Whenever DeVol, who was popular on the cruise circuit in his
later years, spoke of his work to audiences, he found it was always
Bunch" tune that stirred them most.
"When I mention 'Brady
Bunch,' " he said a few years ago,
"that's when the audience really applauds."
DeVol, a longtime resident of Toluca Lake before moving to
San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Hills, is survived by two
daughters, Linda Morehouse of Lafayette and Donna Copeland of
Denver, and two grandsons.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Forest
Lawn Memorial-Park in Hollywood Hills. Donations may be sent to
the Musicians Relief Fund, 817 N. Vine St., Hollywood CA