Don Grady, One of TV's 'My Three Sons,' Dies at 68
Don Grady, a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club who played son Robbie Douglas on the ABC and CBS series My Three Sons, one of the longest-running family sitcoms in history, died Wednesday of cancer in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 68.
In 1960, three years after he was hired at age 13 as a Mouseketeer on the third season of ABC's Mickey Mouse Club, Grady began an 11-year run as Robbie on the sitcom My Three Sons, with Fred MacMurray starring as the widower dad, William Frawley (and later William Demarest) as the family housekeeper and Grady, Tim Considine (Mike), Stanley Livingston (Chip) and Barry Livingston (Ernie) as the sons. (Mike was written out at the start of the fifth season and Ernie was adopted, keeping the number of sons at three.)
My Three Sons, which debuted on ABC, moved to CBS in 1965 when ABC refused to finance the series' switch to color. With 12 seasons and 380 episodes produced, the Saturday night staple is second only to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (14 seasons) as TV's longest-running live-action family sitcom.
During the 1968-69 season, Grady's character and his wife Katie (Tina Cole) had triplets. He departed the series in 1971 at the end of the 11th season when Robbie, now a structural engineer, moved to Peru to work on a bridge construction.
A musical prodigy who had mastered several instruments including the clarinet and accordion by age 10, Grady appeared with his band The Greefs on My Three Sons and wrote two songs for the show. After the series ended, he and songwriter Gary Zekley formed the band Yellow Balloon, named for Zekley's 1967 sunshine pop hit; played with a folk-rock outfit called The Palace Guard; and toured with a group known as The Windupwatch Band, which included Daryl Dragon, later the male half of Captain & Tennille).
In 1973, Grady recorded an album of his own songs (under his real name, Don Agrati) titled Homegrown for Elektra. It featured one track using the Army Reserve Band, of which he was then a member. In 2008, he released Boomer, a collection of songs written for and about the baby boomer generation.
Grady served as the composer for the 1991 Blake Edwards comedy Switch, starring Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits; wrote the theme song for the syndicated Phil Donahue Show; and was the force behind a Las Vegas multimedia stage show at the MGM Grand called EFX, which at various times in the late '90s starred Michael Crawford, David Cassidy, Tommy Tune and Rick Springfield.
Grady also composed music for the live stunt shows at Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida (his score for The Wild, Wild, Wild West show ran for 14 years) and did the music for more than 30 Disney DVDs.
Grady also starred in a national tour of the musical Pippin and had roles in the stage productions of Godspell and Damn Yankees.
A native of San Diego who grew up in Lafayette, Calif., Grady appeared as a kid in several TV Westerns before My Three Sons, including Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Have Gun -- Will Travel, The Restless Gun and Zane Grey Theater.
Survivors include his wife Ginny, his children Joey and Tessa, his sister Marilou Reichel, her husband Meryl, their daughter Kelly and husband Mike Edwards and his mother Mary.
His sister, Lani O'Grady, who played oldest sister Mary on the 1977-81 ABC series Eight Is Enough, died in 2001 at age 46.