Composer, producer, musician
Like Elton John or Mick Jagger, Mike Post's music is a part of everyday culture, extremely well-known to most people in the United States and Europe. Few could fail to recognize the themes to The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, or the 1981 number-one hit "Believe It or Not" by Joey Scarbury, from Greatest American Hero. These are all Post compositions, as are the themes for television shows such as NYPD Blue, Silk Stalkings, Law and Order, LA. Law, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Hunter, and many more. In addition, Post as producer and musician has left his imprint on wellknown hits such as Mason Williams's "Classical Gas," Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe," and the 1967 hit "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" by the First Edition.
Yet Post, unlike highly visible artists such as Mick Jagger or Elton John, can go almost anywhere without being recognized. Many people recognize the music he composes but not the man behind the notes. This lack of visibility fuels many misconceptions about Post. Chief among these misconceptions is the idea that Mike Post is a jazz artist. Certainly his music does have an airy, jazz-like flavor, Post has admitted, but in fact he was never much influenced by jazz. On the contrary, he has confessed to having "a rock 'n' roll heart. I'd quit the business if I could be [Rolling Stones guitarist] Keith Richards."
Keith Richards he may not be, but Post has had a varied career, and in the process established himself as the most successful composer in television history. As evidence of his talent and his massive impact on popular culture, Post has received five Grammy awards, one Emmy, and a BMI Film & Television Richard Kirk Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Born in 1945, Mike Post grew up in the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles. His father, architect Sam Postil, encouraged in him an appreciation for discipline, a key to Post's early and continued success. Yet Post was far from a dedicated student, and he spent his days at Grant High School "playing" on a homemade paper keyboard, which he hid behind an open book while sitting at his desk. For good measure, he wore a pair of dark glasses.
Thus Post survived high school only by keeping close to his first and true love, which was music. From the beginning, he had varied tastes and influences, ranging from the composer Antonin Dvorak to American folk songwriter Stephen Foster to the blues andf courseock 'n' roll. Like his idol Ray Charles, Post's instrument was the piano, and by the age of f¡fteen, he was already playing at clubs. He only graduated from Grant High, his 1962 graduating class were the Monkees' Mickey Dolenz and actor Tom Selleck, whose Magnum, P.l. theme Post would later compose. But that lay far in the future, as did Post's induction to his high school's Hall of Fame, which would occur in 1987uite an achievement for a bad student.
Post hit the club circuit in L.A., playing with bands who had famous names without the originai members who had gained them that fame: Paul and Paulaost became the new "Paul"nd the Markettes. He played in the house band for a topless club in San Francisco, and then, in an irony that would surely have pleased his teachers back at Grant High, Post realized he wouldn't get anywhere without an education.
So he spent a year studying music, learning how to sight-read and write notation. He formed a folk group called the Wellingbrook Singers, and they toured the U.S. before disbanding. At that point, Post began working as a session musician for artists such as Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Dick and Dee Dee. He also spent a year playing backup for Sonny and Cher as a guitarist on songs that included their hit "I Got You Babe."
Post soon began to see a place for himself in the production booth. While working as a studio arranger for producer Jimmy Bowen, he helped form the group the First Edition. Later the group's bassist and vocalist, Kenny Rogers, would gain enormous fame, but Post assisted them in their start by producing their first hit in 1967, "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In.)"
After his work with First Edition, Post entered into another significant partnership, this time with the multitalented musician Mason Williams. Post acted as producer/arranger on The Mason Williams Phonograph Album (1968), which spawned the hugely successful hit, "Classical Gas." For his work with Williams, Post earned his first Grammy Awardt the age of 23. At 24, he became the youngest person in television history to become musical director for a major talk/variety program when he signed on with The Andy Williams Show in 1969.
Welcome to Television
The Andy Williams Show was Post's introduction to the world of television, where he would have his greatest successes in the next three decades. But before this could happen, the self-effacing Post, who had already proven his ability to work well in partnership with others, had to form yet another partnership. This one would become the most significant pairing of his lifether than his marriage to music editor Patty McGettigan, of coursend it would last for the next 19 years.
While playing in a golf tournament in 1968, Post met trombonist and arranger Pete Carpenter. The latter was much older than Post, and it was a time when the "generation gap" made the idea of a collaboration between the two seem like an oddity to everyone but Post and Carpenter. Post recalled in the BMI Music World website: "All of Pete's friendslder jazz guyshought, oh well, Pete's kind of carrying this kid. Mike's just a rocker. And all of my friends thought, 'poor Mike, he's just carrying this old guy, who really isn't too hip.' All that was baloney."
The two men collaborated on the music for TV producer Stephen J. Cannell's first series, Toma. It was a police drama program, and it established a pattern for Post, who would become identified with numerous cop shows in the years to come. Much greater success followed with Rockford Files, for which Post composed the distinctive music that earned him a top ten radio hit and another Grammy in 1975.
Over the course of the 1970s and early 1980s, Post composed the music for some feature films, ranging from 1972's Gidget to the 1984 Sylvester Stallone-Dolly Parton pairing, Rhinestone. He would also produce Parton's smash 1981 album 9 to 5 and Other Jobs, as well as the debut for singer Joey Scarbury. But it was as a composer of television themes that Post made his name. These included the music for Greatest American Hero, which in Scarbury's 1981 rendition became the only TV theme to ever reach number one on the Charts. Further top ten exposure followed with the music from Hill Street Blues, which featured Larry Carlton on guitar.
Up until 1987, Post worked with Carpenter. Discussing this partnership with Julius Robinson of BMI Musicworld, Post recalled: "We never worried about who wrote what... We did our job. After 18 years, we never even had a handshake agreement or a contract; we just split it all 50/50. We never had an unkind word. Not one argument." When Carpenter was on his deathbed in 1987, he and Post calculated that they had together scored 1,800 hours of television "all done in the back of his house, eating tuna fish sandwiches." Along the way, "we made a big dent in the tradition of ghostinge always gave contributing writers credito we were able to help a lot of other guys start as composers." In 1989, Post and the BMI Foundation established a Pete Carpenter Memorial Fund to benefit young composers.
"I've had at least one show on the air every year since 1970," Post recalled in a 1994 interview on the occasion of receiving the BMI Film & Television Richard Kirk Award for Lifetime Achievement. But rather than sit back and merely rest on what he had established, though, he was already looking toward new challenges in an area that had so far eluded him: songs with lyrics. Referring to himself as "the worst lyricist," Post didn't plan to write the words himself, but to collaborate with someone such as his friend James Nederlander on compositions for Broadway.
It would be fitting if the future found Mike Post, the relatively anonymous composer of many enormously popular themes, in another collaboration. He continues to draw input from his wife Patty, who refers to him as "hobby-man" because of his many projects, and from children Aaron and Jennifer, who he credits for "keeping me on the cutting edge of new music." Post is as active physically as he is musically, having competed in over 20 marathons from Honolulu to New York City. He was once the third-ranking arm wrestler for his class in the United States, and he enjoys golfing with son Aaron, who is also embarking on a career in the music industry. Not surprisingly, the man whose name is virtually synonymous with TV cop shows regularly donates money to charities that benefit police officers and their families. Part of the profits from his album Inventions from the Blue Line go to the Law Enforcement Officers Educational Foundation, which provides college scholarships to children of police officers who perished while in the line of duty.
Rabbit Test, 1978.
Deep in the Heart, 1981.
Running Brave, 1983.
Hadley's Rebellion, 1984.
The River Rat, 1984.
The Andy Williams Show, 1969.
Needles and Pins, 1973.
The Rockford Files, 1974.
The Texas Wheelers, 1974.
The Mac Davis Show, 1974.
The Bob Crane Show, 1975.
Charlie Cobb: Nice Night for a Hanging, 1977.
Off the Wall, 1977.
The Black Sheep Squadron, 1977.
Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, 1978.
The White Shadow, 1978.
The 416th, 1979.
Operating Room, 1979.
Captain America, 1979.
Captain America II, 1979.
Big Shamus, Little Shamus, 1979.
The Duke, 1979.
The Night Rider, 1979.
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, 1980.
Magnum P.I., 1980.
(With Stephen Geyer) The Greatest American Hero, 1981.
Hill Street Blues, 1981.
Palms Precinct, 1982.
The Powers of Matthew Star, 1982.
The Quest, 1982.
Tales of the Gold Monkey, 1982.
The A-Team, 1983.
Bay City Blues, 1983.
Big John, 1983.
Hardcastle and McCormick, 1983.
The Rousters, 1983.
LA Law, 1986.
The Last Precinct, 1986.
J.J. Starbuck, 1987.
Quantum Leap, 1989.
The Hat Squad, 1992.
Silk Stalkings: Natural Selection, 1994.
NYPD Blue, 1993.
Murder One, 1996.
Brooklyn South, 1997.
(With Pete Carpenter) Two on a Bench, 1971.
(With Carpenter) Gidget Geis Married, 1972.
(With Carpenter) The Morning After, 1974.
The Invasion of Johnson County, 1976.
Scott Free, 1976.
Richie Brockelman: Missing 24 Hours, 1976.
Dr. Scorpion, 1978.
Coach of the Vear, 1980.
Scout's Honor, 1980.
Will: G. Gordon Liddy, 1982.
Sunset Limousine, 1983.
Hard Knox, 1984.
Heart of a Champion: The Ray Mancini Story, 1985.
Adam: His Song Continues, 1986.
Destination: America, 1987.
The Ryan White Story, 1989.
B.L. Stryker: The Dancer's Touch, 1989.
B.L. Stryker: Blind Chess, 1989.
Unspeakable Acts, 1990.
Without Her Consent, 1990.
The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, 1991.
The Great Pretender, 1991.
(With Velton Ray Bunch) Palace Guard, 1991.
The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A., 1994.
Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou, 1995.
Mac Davis Special, 1975.
Mac Davis Christmas Special, 1975.
Mac Davis Christmas Special... When I Grow Up, 1976.
Mac Davis Christmas Odyssey, Two Thousand and Ten, 1978.
(As the Mike Post Coalition) Fused, 1975.
Television Theme Songs, 1982.
Mike Post, 1984.
Music from L.A. Law & Otherwise:
Inventions from the Blue Line (includes the theme from NYPD Blue), American Gramophone, 1994.
Hubbard, Linda S. and Owen O'Donnell, eds., Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Voi. 6, Gale, 1989.
Billboard, May 7, 1994.
Billboard, May 28, 1994.
Additional information was provided by Mike Post Productions.
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