Mort Lindsey, Emmy-Winning Musical Director, Dies at 89
Mort Lindsey, an Emmy winner who was musical director for Judy Garland’s legendary Carnegie Hall performance in 1961 and led The Merv Griffin Show’s band for 25 years, died May 4 at his home in Malibu. He was 89.
His son Steve said Lindsey had been in declining health and had recently broken his hip in a fall.
Born on March 21, 1923, in Newark, N.J., Lindsey earned a doctorate in music education from Columbia University. Also a composer and arranger, he was best known as the man who directed the orchestra behind Garland on April 23, 1961, when she recorded the classic double album Live at Carnegie Hall.
Garland performed such classics as “Stormy Weather,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” and her signature “Over the Rainbow” during the show.
The critically lauded disc spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, won four Grammys including album of the year and stayed on the chart for nearly two years. The Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry in 2003.
Lindsey paired with Garland often during the early ’60s, including on CBS’ The Judy Garland Show, the film musical I Could Go on Singing and the animated movie Gay Purr-ee. He also worked on Liza With a Z, the 1972 concert film for TV by Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli.
Lindsey composed music for such films as 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), starring Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette, and The Best Man (1964), starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.
During his quarter-century run on Merv Griffin from 1962-86, he earned consecutive Emmy noms for outstanding achievement in music direction of a variety, musical or dramatic program. He won the Emmy for outstanding individual achievement in music for his work on Barbra Streisand’s 1968 concert documentary A Happening in Central Park. The album recorded during that performance, which drew an audience of more than 130,000, reached the Top 30 and went gold.
In addition to his son Steve, survivors including his wife, Judy; sons David and Trevor; and daughters Bonney, Deborah and Judy. A private service will be held at 11 a.m. May 9 at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, Calif.