Meredith Willson

(1962). He wrote two other musical plays, including The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). Many of his songs are standards, including “You and I”, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”, “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”, “Seventy-six Trombones”, and “Till There Was You”, which was a surprising song choice for a hit record by The Beatles. Willson left Mason City, the setting for “The Music Man”, in 1919 to attend Damrosch Institute (now Juilliard) in New York. He played flute and piccolo in John Philip Sousa‘s band from 1921 to 1923 and then joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1924 to 1929. In 1930 he got a job in radio in California. Radio was his primary source of income over the following twenty-five years. He also composed several orchestral works during the ’30s and ’40s, including symphonies for The Great Dictator(1940) and The Little Foxes (1941). In 1951 the stage producers Martin and Feuer proposed that Willson write a musical comedy about his Iowa boyhood. With his common touch, they said, it was sure to be a hit. After seven years, he finally got what turned out to be his masterpiece onto the stage. “The Music Man”, which Willson said was “an Iowan’s attempt to pay tribute to his home state”, premiered on Broadway in 1957. Robert Preston recreated his most famous role and Willson’s most famous character, that of Professor Harold Hill, in the film production of The Music Man (1962).

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