Nathan Scott dies at 94; film and TV composer, arranger and conductor

Nathan Scott, a film and television composer, arranger and conductor whose credits include composing music for the TV classics “Dragnet” and “Lassie,” has died. He was 94.

Scott, the father of jazz saxophonist and composer-arranger Tom Scott, died Saturday of age-related causes at his home in Sherman Oaks, said his daughter, Linda Colley.

In a four-decade career that began on radio in the early 1940s, Scott launched a six-year post-World War II stint at Republic Pictures as a composer, arranger and conductor on films starring actors such as Gene Autry, Rocky Lane, Roy Rogers and Bob Steele. That included composing the music for the John Wayne sea picture “Wake of the Red Witch.”

In 1952, Scott left Republic and began working on TV’s “Dragnet” as the arranger for composer Walter Schumann, who wrote the famous dum-de-dum-dum theme for the popular Jack Webb police show.

Scott did the arrangements for all of the “Dragnet” episodes until the end of its run in 1959 and composed the scores for about half of the episodes.

As a freelance composer, he worked on series such as “Have Gun-Will Travel,” “My Three Sons,” “Rawhide,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Untouchables” and “Wagon Train.”

Scott also wrote the theme music for Richard Crenna’s 1964-65 dramatic TV series “Slattery’s People.” And from 1963 through 1972, he composed the music for all but four episodes of “Lassie.”

“He was a craftsman of the highest order,” said Jon Burlingame, who interviewed Scott for his 1996 book “TV’s Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From ‘Dragnet’ to ‘Friends.’ ”

Scott also was a big influence on his two-time Grammy Award-winning son.

“There was always a room in our house where these dramatic piano chords were being played as my father was busy composing music,” Tom Scott said of his childhood years.

“He was so great with melody and harmony in particular,” he said. “I can still hear them in my head, and some of those things I’ve incorporated into my music.”

Born in Salinas, Calif., on May 11, 1915, Scott majored in music at UC Berkeley.

After graduating in 1939, he headed to Hollywood, where he was hired by NBC initially as a parking lot attendant.

In 1942, he became the West Coast music director of the new Blue Network (the predecessor of ABC) but was inducted into the Army later that year.

During the war, he played trombone and wrote music for the Air Transport Command Band in Long Beach and later worked with the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Scott’s wife Margery died in 1995.

In addition to his two children, he is survived by his second wife, Frances; and two grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is pending.