It is probably true to say that composer Ron Grainer was one of the most underrated composers of film and TV music of all time, his output was great and always in my very humble opinion excellent.
Grainer was born in Queensland Australian August 11th 1922. He inherited his musical interests from his Mother who played piano and the young Ron Grainer soon became addicted to the instrument himself beginning to play at the age of 2 years. He was hailed as a musical genius and soon began to perform at concerts and recitals locally in his home town of Atherton from the age of 6 years. Grainer also showed interest in the violin from the age of just 4, and would practise constantly. By the time that Grainer had reached his teens he had become well versed in piano and also violin during his childhood his parents and teachers would not let him partake in any sports or games because they feared that he would injure his hands or fingers, thus possibly putting an end to his career as a musician, consequently he was at times a lonely child, he concentrated on his music and also would immerse himself in academic pastimes and lessons and excelled in maths.
He began to study at the Sydney Coservatourium of Music under the watchful gaze and guidance of Sir Eugene Goosens, but these studies were soon to be brought to an abrupt end with the outbreak of WWll, Grainer was conscripted into the Australian army and served fighting against the Japanese, it was during the war that he was seriously injured and received a crush injury to his leg, he did not loose the leg but it resulted in painful surgery and also years of further treatment. After the war ended Grainer returned to the Sydney conservatorium and continued to study, but he decided to concentrate upon composition rather than carry on with his violin and piano studies. After completing his studies and also meeting his first wife Margot he relocated to England in 1952, at first Grainer found work as a pianist and toured the country as part of THE ALIEN BROTHERS AND JUNE, where he came into contact with various other performers and artists, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine and Al Martino to name but a few and soon made a name for himself as a pianist. It was during this time that Grainer began to make his first recordings, at first this was as an accompanist working with various vocalists. He started to become interested in unusual or vintage musical instruments and after a while started to write music especially for them, and wrote a jazz ballet score which included the Ondes Martinot.
Soon Grainer started to become a regular musical director for the independent television channel in the U.K and also become a much in demand pianist working for the BBC. In 1960, Grainer composed the now well known theme for MAIGRET, which starred Rupert Davies and for this employed a line up of unusual instrumentation, that included harpsichord and banjo. The theme that Grainer penned for the series was a chart hit when recorded by Joe Loss and his orchestra. After the success of Maigret, Grainer began to compose theme s for television on a regular basis, COMEDY PLAYHOUSE, STEPTOE ANDSON the latter’s OLD NED theme garnering the composer an Ivor Novello award in 1961. Film score commissions soon followed Grainer working on various productions during the early part of the 1960,s, which included, LIVE NOW PAY LATER, THE MOUSE ON THE MOON and A KIND OF LOVING.
In 1963 Grainer received a commission to compose the theme for a “children’s” science fiction series entitled DR. WHO, this again was a huge success for the composer and the basic theme is still being utilised by the series today and is probably one of the most familiar and popular themes from TV ever written.
The rest as they say is history, Grainer becoming a busy but still in many views an underrated composer and musician. He divorced his first wife Margot in the early 1960,s and moved with his new partner to the Algarve because of his failing eyesight, later he moved to Albufeira and started an organic farm. But he still continued to write music and work on various projects among these was the musical ON THE LEVEL, and later in 1967 he returned to TV with his infectious theme for MAN IN A SUITCASE and also in the same year penned the unforgettable theme for THE PRISONER and worked on the score for TO SIR WITH LOVE. 1968 was also a fruitful year for Grainer with him working on ONLY WHEN I LARF,THE ASSASINATION BUREAU and the film version of LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS, which was based on the original stage show that contained music and lyrics by Laurie Johnson and Lionel Bart with Grainer providing the score. Grainers musical talent was undeniable and he continued to work steadily through the 1970,s providing the soundtracks to numerous films and also composing haunting themes for TV as well as working on theatre productions and BBC adaptations of books and plays.
In 1971 he scored the Charlton Heston sci movie THE OMEGA MAN, which also brought much acclaim from critics, peers and fans alike. He passed away on February 21st 1981, in Cuckfield Hospital Sussex England he was 58 years of age.