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Merv Griffin

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  • Born: San Mateo, CA
  • Died: Los Angeles, CA
  • Years Active: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Music might not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions talk show host and entrepreneurial powerhouse Merv Griffin, but he earns more in royalties from his television themes than most musicians do from their whole catalog. Born in San Mateo, CA, Griffin got his start writing songs, entering talent shows, singing on San Francisco's KFRC radio, and touring with Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. His first big hit with Martin was the novelty song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," which reached Number One on the charts in 1950 and sold over three million copies. "Music! Music! Music!" and "Never Been Kissed," were other big hits for Griffin and Martin, but after Doris Day saw their nightclub act, his interest turned to acting. Day helped Griffin get a screen test, and later a contract with the Warner Brothers film studio. While pursuing acting, Griffin appeared singing on variety shows from time to time and soon shifted to hosting. Filling in for Jack Parr on the Tonight Show in 1962 impressed NBC enough to develop the Merv Griffin Show, and Griffin himself started work on producing his own shows. He had his first huge hit with the premiere of Jeopardy! in 1964, and the Griffin-penned "thinking music" became one of the most recognized and most lucrative songs ever (all 14 seconds of it). In 1975, Griffin's second great production hit, Wheel of Fortune, premiered with the opening theme "Big Wheels," written by Alan Thicke. The Thicke theme was used until 1983 when Griffin's more popular "Changing Keys," replaced it. Another welcome contribution to the music world came in the '80s when Cal Ruddman of the record industry tip sheet Monday Morning Quarterback became a regular guest on Griffin's show. Ruddman brought along guests like Devo, A Flock of Seagulls, and the Fixx, artists that were too "edgy" at the time for most television shows. Griffin sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, in 1986 to Columbia Pictures Television for $250 million. At the time it was the largest acquisition of an entertainment company owned by a single individual, and Griffin pulled back from the public eye, focusing on developing and producing game shows and other television programming. He reappeared in 2001 with a new album, It's Like a Dream, on the Gold Label, and two years later Collectables compiled his early recordings for The Complete Columbia Recordings. On May 14th, 2003, he received BMI's President's Award in honor of his achievements in songwriting.