Milton Delugg

Music Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About
About this interview

In his nearly two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Milton Delugg (1918-2015) talks about his early professional jobs, before his service in World War II, including a job in the orchestra at Paramount. He describes the days of network radio and early television, where he worked with such personalities as Abe Burrows and Morey Amsterdam. He speaks about his role as conductor (and accordion player) on the variety series Broadway Open House, a precursor to The Tonight Show. He comments on his association with several shows from the 1950s and early 1960s, including The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show, as well as a string of game shows. Delugg then discusses his one-and-a-half-year stint as the orchestra leader of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, taking the reins in between Skitch Henderson and Doc Severinsen. For The Tonight Show, he talks about the rehearsal process and gives his impressions of host Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon. He then speaks in great detail about his long association with producer Chuck Barris and his participation on all of his most well-known series: The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The Gong Show, The $1.98 Beauty Show, and others. He goes into great detail about The Gong Show, in which he comments about the panelists who appeared and the unscripted nature of the show. Lastly, he talks about his many years with the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Throughout the interview, Delugg notes his many original compositions, including: "Orange-Colored Sky" (a hit for Nat King Cole) and "Roller Coaster" (for What's My Line?). B-roll consists of photos of Delugg with such notables as Frank Loesser, Jerry Lester, Dagmar, Bing Crosby, Morey Amsterdam, Al Jolson, Johnny Carson, Chuck Barris, and John Lennon. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on May 5, 2008 in Studio City, CA.

"I brought Dagmar on the show because Jerry Lester had picked her, and I said, 'What's she supposed to do?'  And he said, 'She's the girl singer with the band."  So I introduced her that night.  I said, 'Jerry, this is Dagmar.  She's the chick with the band.'  He said, 'How does she sound?' And I said, 'Who cares?" I guess it was my first laugh. After that, I had lines to do." 

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Milton Delugg on conducting the "Milton Delugg and the Band with a Thug" band on The Gong Show, and on the outrageous acts on the show
Milton Delugg on NBC exec Pat Weaver's idea to have morning, noon and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)
Milton Delugg on the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them
Milton Delugg on working on The Morey Amsterdam Show (NBC and ABC)
Milton Delugg on working on Treasure Hunt, and on the show's personnel making deals with potential contestants
Milton Delugg on working on the music for many Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcasts
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his early music career where he played "jazz" accordion
On his college education; on joining the Paramount staff orchestra; on working with Frank Loesser and Marty Melnick; on his World War II service where he worked on radio show
On working on the Broadway musical "Very Warm for May" composed by Jerome Kern with a libretto by Oscar Hammerstein; on working with Abe Burrows; on his friend Pat Weaver's idea to have a morning, afternoon and evening show on NBC's TV schedule; on wanting to be part of early television; on Broadway Open House
On working on The Morey Amsterdam Show
On the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them
On working with Herb Shriner on Two for the Money; on working on Abe Burrows' Almanac
On being conductor on Broadway Open House and working with host Jerry Lester and "girl singer" Dagmar; on the production aspects of the show; on working on Seven at Eleven; on the start of The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen
On working on Paul Winchell's television shows

Chapter 2

On Carol Burnett's role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show; on The Doodles Weaver Show; on Colgate Comedy Hour; on Dagmar's Canteen; on The Bill Cullen Show
On working with Fred Allen on Judge for Yourself; on working on Treasure Hunt (where the show's personnel made deals with potential contestants); on I've Got a Secret; on working on Beat the Clock and Dollar a Second
On composing the theme to What's My Line?; on working with Bill Todman and Mark Goodson; on recording television themes; on composing the theme ("Hooray for Santa Claus") for the film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians; on the advent of pre-recorded music; on directing the music for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
On being hired as conductor on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson; on working with the band; on working with musical guests; on being on-camera on the show
On working with producer Chuck Barris; on composing for The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game; on working on Chuck Barris' revivals of Treasure Hunt and Your Hit Parade; on being the bandleader for The Gong Show (and all of the antics that ensued)

Chapter 3

On The Gong Show, including how contestants were chosen, and on working with some of the celebrity judges
On working on various Chuck Barris productions; on various specials
On working on the music for many Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcasts
On his then-current projects; on his career favorites; on working with Chuck Barris; on his advice to aspiring musicians; on how he would like to be remembered
On photos illustrating some of his career highlights and people he worked with
Shows

Abe Burrows' Almanac

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Milton Delugg on working with Abe Burrows and others when he transitioned to television
Milton Delugg on working on Abe Burrows' Almanac

Beat the Clock

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Milton Delugg on working on Beat the Clock and Dollar a Second

Bill Cullen Show, The

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Milton Delugg on working on The Bill Cullen Show

Broadway Open House

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Milton Delugg on NBC exec Pat Weaver's idea to have morning, noon and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)
Milton Delugg on being conductor on Broadway Open House and working with host Jerry Lester and "girl singer" Dagmar, and on the production aspects of the show

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Milton Delugg on working on The Colgate Comedy Hour

Dagmar's Canteen

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Milton Delugg on working on Dagmar's Canteen

Dating Game, The

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Milton Delugg on composing music for Chuck Barris' The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game

Dollar a Second

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Milton Delugg on working on Beat the Clock and Dollar a Second

Doodles Weaver Show, The

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Milton Delugg on working on The Doodles Weaver Show

Gong Show, The

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Milton Delugg on conducting the "Milton Delugg and the Band with a Thug" band on The Gong Show, and on the outrageous acts on the show
Milton Delugg on The Gong Show, including how contestants were chosen and on working with some of the celebrity judges

Judge For Yourself

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Milton Delugg on working with Fred Allen on Judge for Yourself

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Milton Delugg on working with pre-recorded music cues on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and other live events
Milton Delugg on working on the music for many Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcasts

Morey Amsterdam Show, The

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Milton Delugg on working on The Morey Amsterdam Show (NBC and ABC)

Newlywed Game, The

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Milton Delugg on composing music for Chuck Barris' The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game

Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show, The

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Milton Delugg on working on Paul Winchell's shows
Milton Delugg on Carol Burnett's role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show

Tonight

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Milton Delugg on the genesis of The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen, and on getting called to be the conductor on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Milton Delugg on the genesis of The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen, and on getting called to be the conductor on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Milton Delugg on being hired as conductor (replacing Skitch Henderson) on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, on working with the band, on working with musical guests, and on being on-camera on the show

Treasure Hunt

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Milton Delugg on playing accordion on Treasure Hunt
Milton Delugg on the 1974 revival of the game show Treasure Hunt

Two for the Money

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Milton Delugg on working with Herb Shriner on Two for the Money

What's My Line?

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Milton Delugg on composing the theme to What's My Line

Your Hit Parade

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Milton Delugg on the 1974 short-lived revival of Your Hit Parade
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Milton Delugg on the censorship issues on The Gong Show

Industry Crossroads

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Milton Delugg on working on Treasure Hunt, and on the show's personnel making deals with potential contestants

Pop Culture

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Milton Delugg on the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them
Milton Delugg on composing the theme to What's My Line

Quiz Show Scandals

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Milton Delugg on working on Treasure Hunt, and on the show's personnel making deals with potential contestants

TV Theme Songs

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Milton Delugg on composing the theme to What's My Line

Television Industry

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Milton Delugg on NBC exec Pat Weaver's idea to have morning, noon and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)
Milton Delugg on the censorship issues on The Gong Show
Milton Delugg on working on Treasure Hunt, and on the show's personnel making deals with potential contestants
Professions

Music Director

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Milton Delugg on the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them

Music Professionals

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Milton Delugg on the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them
Genres

Late Night

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Bandleader Milton Delugg on NBC exec Pat Weaver's idea to have morning, noon and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)
People

Fred Allen

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Milton Delugg on working with Fred Allen on Judge for Yourself

Steve Allen

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Milton Delugg on the genesis of The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen, and on getting called to be the conductor on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Morey Amsterdam

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Milton Delugg on working on The Morey Amsterdam Show (NBC and ABC)

Chuck Barris

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Milton Delugg on working with producer Chuck Barris; on composing for The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game, and on being the bandleader for The Gong Show (and all of the antics that ensued)
Milton Delugg on The Gong Show, including how contestants were chosen and on working with some of the celebrity judges

Carol Burnett

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Milton Delugg on Carol Burnett's role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show

Abe Burrows

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Milton Delugg on working with Abe Burrows and others when he transitioned to television
Milton Delugg on Abe Burrows Almanac
Milton Delugg on Abe Burrows' wit

Dick Clark

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Milton Delugg on the rules regarding live music on television and how Dick Clark eventually changed them

Bill Cullen

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Milton Delugg on working on The Bill Cullen Show

Dagmar

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Milton Delugg on being conductor on Broadway Open House and working with host Jerry Lester and "girl singer" Dagmar, and on the production aspects of the show
Bandleader Milton Delugg on working on Dagmar's Canteen

Jerry Lester

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Milton Delugg being conductor on Broadway Open House and working with host Jerry Lester and "girl singer" Dagmar, and on the production aspects of the show

Frank Loesser

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Milton Delugg on working with Frank Loesser 

Jan Murray

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Milton Delugg on working on Treasure Hunt, and on the show's personnel making deals with potential contestants

Herb Shriner

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Milton Delugg on working with Herb Shriner on Two for the Money

Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver

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Milton Delugg on NBC exec Pat Weaver's idea to have morning, noon and night shows on NBC, and on becoming bandleader on the night show Broadway Open House (precursor to The Tonight Show)

Henny Youngman

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Milton Delugg on working on The Morey Amsterdam Show (NBC and ABC)

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