Bozo the Clown creator, Beatles signer, dies at 91
Los Angeles Daily News
Saturday, March 14, 2009http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_11913743?source=rss
BEVERLY HILLS - Alan W. Livingston, who created Bozo the Clown as part of Capitol Records read-along series for children and later signed the Beatles to the label when he became its president, died Friday at his Beverly Hills home. He was 91.
Livingston died of age-related causes, his step-daughter, Jennifer Lerner, told the Los Angeles Times. His funeral will be private.
Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, worked under Livingston when both were at 20th Century Fox in the late 1970s.
"Alan had a great passion and love of music, and he was a great friend to the artist community," Portnow told the newspaper. "He had great taste and judgment, as far as musical talent, and as an executive, he was always very mentoring, very supportive."
During Capitol Records' heyday, he signed the Beach Boys, Steve Miller, The Band and the ultimate group -- the Beatles.
Capitol, then part owned by EMI, which released the Fab Four's albums in the U.K., had rejected the Beatles' early hit singles as unsuitable for the American market. At a meeting with Capitol's producers, Livingston asked Dave Dexter, who screened all of the English records, what he thought of the Beatles.
"He said, `Alan, forget it,' " Livingston recalled in a 2004 Billboard interview. " `They're a bunch of long-haired kids. They're nothing.' I said, `OK,' and I had no reason to be concerned, because nothing from England was selling here."
Livingston finally received a call from the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, from London wanting to know why there was no interest in the group. When Livingston said he hadn't even heard the Beatles sing, Epstein told him to listen to one of their records and call him back.
Livingston did and, in 1963, the Beatles signed with Capitol, which agreed on a $40,000 budget to promote their first single. By the next year, Beatlemania was in full swing across the United States.
The youngest of three children, Livingston was born in McDonald, Pa., on Oct. 15, 1917.
While growing up, he took saxophone and clarinet lessons, and his brother, Jay, studied piano.
Jay later teamed with fellow songwriter Ray Evans, and they shared Oscars for writing "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Que Sera, Sera." Jay Livingston died in 2001, The Times reported.
While at the University of Pennsylvania, Livingston and his brother paid expenses by forming an orchestra that played at fraternity dances and school events.
Alan Livingston graduated from the university's Wharton School of Finance and Commerce with a bachelor's degree in economics. He then moved to New York and worked in advertising for three years.
After serving in the Army as a second lieutenant during World War II, Livingston was hired by Capitol Records in Hollywood in 1946 as a writer and producer of storytelling record albums with illustrated read-along books for children.
He called the new concept a "record-reader." After writing "Bozo at the Circus," Livingston worked with an artist to create the clown narrator -- a composite design of Livingston's based on various clown pictures -- and he hired former clown and cartoon voice-over artist Pinto Colvig to supply Bozo's voice, The Times reported.
In the early `50s, after becoming vice president in charge of creative operations at Capitol Records, Livingston signed Frank Sinatra, then at a low point in his career, and teamed him up with arranger Nelson Riddle -- a pairing that launched Sinatra's comeback on the charts.
Livingston, who was married for several years to actress Betty Hutton, left Capitol in the late `50s. He became vice president of NBC network television programming, during which he supervised the pilot for the western series "Bonanza."
Livingston returned to Capitol Records as president in the early `60s and became chairman of the board before leaving again in 1968. He later formed his own company, Mediarts, which was involved in movies, records and music publishing.
From 1976 to 1980, he was group president for 20th Century Fox Film Corp.'s television production, records, music and film processing operations. He then became president of Atalanta Investment Co., a position he resigned in 1987. He also wrote a novel, "Ronnie Finkelhoff, Superstar."
In addition to his step-daughter Jennifer Lerner, Livingston is survived by his wife, Nancy; his son, Christopher Livingston; his daughter, Laura Gibson; his stepdaughter Liza Lerner; his sister, Vera Drazen; five grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.