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Terry Melcher, 62; Songwriter, Singer Produced Hit Records

Times Staff Writer

Terry Melcher, surfin'-era singer, songwriter and recording executive who produced the Byrds’ No. 1 hits “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn” and co-wrote the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” has died. He was 62.

Melcher, who also worked on several projects with his mother, actress and singer Doris Day, died of cancer Friday night in his Beverly Hills home, publicist Linda Dozoretz said Saturday.

Helping to shape the California surf, rock and folk music scene in the 1960s, the multifaceted musician sang background, played piano, wrote lyrics, composed music and produced records and shows, including the Monterey Pop Festival.

During his famous mother’s filmmaking heyday, he often composed songs for her projects, including the title ballad “Move Over, Darling” for her 1963 movie with James Garner and Polly Bergen. He also was an executive producer of her CBS television series “The Doris Day Show” from 1968 to 1972 and engineered her return to television in the mid-1980s with the show “Doris Day’s Best Friends.”

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In the early 1960s, as a singer and recording artist, Melcher formed Bruce & Terry with Bruce Johnston, who later joined the Beach Boys, and had hits with “Custom Machine” and “Summer Means Fun.”

The duo also formed the Rip Chords and recorded the Top 10 song “Hey Little Cobra,” which they released on the album “Hey Little Cobra and Other Hot Rod Hits.” Subsequently, Melcher issued two less successful solo albums, “Terry Melcher” and “Royal Flush.” He also performed backup on Beach Boys albums, including their successful “Pet Sounds.”

In the mid-1960s, Melcher became a staff producer for Columbia Records and hit his stride when he was assigned to work with a new band called the Byrds. He helped craft their fusion of rock and folk into a new and immensely popular sound, and he produced their definitive versions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as well as later albums, including “Ballad of Easy Rider.”

The young producer went on to turn the rag-tag garage band Paul Revere and the Raiders into a mainstream pop group. He wrote such hits for them as “Him or Me (What’s It Gonna Be?)” and “The Great Airplane Strike.”

The song “Kokomo,” which Melcher wrote for the Beach Boys with Mike Love, Scott McKenzie and John Phillips, was used in the 1988 Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail” and earned a Golden Globe nomination for best original song.

Other well-known artists relying on the Melcher touch included the Mamas and the Papas, Bobby Darin and Glen Campbell.

Melcher gained an unwanted place in Hollywood history for refusing to help another well-known person, convicted murderer Charles Manson.

Melcher and his then-girlfriend, Candice Bergen, had once rented the secluded Benedict Canyon house where Sharon Tate and others were slain in 1969.

After Manson and his acolytes were arrested, there was a rumor that Manson had intended to kill Melcher for refusing to produce his songs. Investigators, after determining that Manson knew that Melcher had moved to Malibu, discounted the purported motivation.

Day’s only child, Melcher clearly benefited from the halo of her enormous success in forging his own career and initially even billed himself as Terry Day. He remained extremely close to Day throughout his life, seeing her through marital and financial strife and in recent years devoting himself to managing her projects.

He licensed and marketed her record, broadcast and video properties and helped operate her nonprofit organizations, the Doris Day Animal League and Doris Day Animal Foundation.

Born Feb. 8, 1942, in New York City to Day and her first husband, trombonist Al Jorden, Melcher was adopted 10 years later by her third husband, Martin Melcher, and took his surname.

He is survived by Day, of Carmel; his wife, Terese; and a son from a previous marriage, Ryan.

Services will be private. The family has asked that any memorial contributions be sent to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, 227 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Suite 100, Washington, DC 20002.


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