Mort Lindsey

Mort Lindsey, (born Morton Lippman; March 21, 1923, Newark, New Jersey – May 4, 2012, Malibu, California), was an orchestrator, composer, pianist, conductor and musical director for Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Pat Boone, Jack Narz, and Merv Griffin.[1]

Early life

He attended Newark Arts High School.[2] He served stateside as a lieutenant in the Army Air Forces during World War II, and received a bachelor's degree from Columbia College and a master's from Columbia University in the 1940s. He later returned to Columbia University, earning a doctoral degree in music education in 1974.


In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Lindsey was part of a trio called the Playboys with jazz guitarist Johnny Smith and organist Arlo Hults at NBC.[3]

In 1956 he is credited with composing the song Rock 'N' Roll Polka as recorded by John Serry Sr. (See Squeeze Play (album)).

Lindsey was the musical director and conductor for Judy Garland's 1961 tour, including her concert on April 23, 1961, at Carnegie Hall.

Lindsey was also a composer of motion picture scores including Gay Purr-ee (1962), 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), I Could Go On Singing (1963), Stolen Hours (1963), The Best Man (1964), Real Life (1979) and Cats Don't Dance (1997) for which he composed the song "Tell Me Lies".

Lindsey served as musical director and bandleader of The Merv Griffin Show from 1962 to 1986 and composed the show's theme.[4] In addition, he and Griffin composed the song "Changing Keys", which served as the theme to Griffin's game show Wheel of Fortune in several versions from 1983 until 2000.

In 1969, Lindsey won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music as musical director for Barbra Streisand: A Happening in Central Park a concert attended by 135,000 people that aired as a music special on CBS in 1968.

In 1944, Lindsey married Betty Szold. They later divorced. In 1954, he married singer Judy Johnson,[5] who went by the stage name Betty Bonney while touring with the Les Brown Orchestra. Their daughter Bonney was named for her alias. Mort had three sons, David Lippman and Steve Lindsey and another son Trevor; and three daughters, Deborah Morris and Judy Grant and Bonney Dunn.


  1. ^ "BBC News - Composer Mort Lindsey dies at the age of 89". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
  2. ^ A Brief History Archived 2009-05-09 at the Wayback Machine, Newark Arts High School. Accessed August 10, 2008.
  3. ^ Flanagan, Lin (2015). Moonlight in Vermont: The Official Biography of Johnny Smith. Anaheim Hills: Centerstream. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-57424-322-2.
  4. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (May 9, 2012). "Mort Lindsey, Musical Director, Dies at 89" – via NYTimes.com.
  5. ^ "Mort Lindsey dies at 89; Judy Garland's musical director". Los Angeles Times. May 10, 2012.

External links

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