Tony Mottola

Composer / Musician


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Tony Mottola (1918-2004) talks about his roots as a member of The George Hall Orchestra. He describes his beginnings at CBS radio, which led to his Tony Mottola Trio (Mottola on guitar, Bill Clifton on piano, and Sid Weiss on bass) appearing on the very first "live" musical television show on CBS— Face the Music, later titled Make Mine Music (1948-49). He details his long association with The Perry Como Show (1950-63), originally The Chesterfield Supper Clu b (1948-50). He describes his groundbreaking work on the "live" anthology series Danger (1950-55) for which he composed and played electric guitar. The opening chord for the series would become known as the "Danger chord" or the "Tony Mottola chord." Mottola talks of the record album that was released in 1951 with selections of his work from Danger, which is believed to be the first television soundtrack album. He speaks about other series he composed for, including Crime Photographer (1951-52) and The Kraft Television Theater. Finally, Mottola discusses his work as a member of the staff orchestra on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (from 1962-72) and talks of his last professional credit as composer, the feature film Running on Empty (1988), directed by former Danger director Sidney Lumet. Michael Rosen conducted the interview on October 24, 2000 in Denville, NJ. 

"I was born and raised in the tradition, I think, of the greatest era of popular music."

Highlights
Tony Mottola on writing the theme to Danger
00:50
Tony Mottola on why he likes a Gibson guitar
01:36
Tony Mottola on becoming a staff musician at CBS and working with Frank Sinatra and Perry Como
04:00
Tony Mottola on working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  and teaching Carson to play the guitar
02:53
Tony Mottola on touring with Frank Sinatra in the 1980s
03:40
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his love of guitar and how his family was affected by the Great Depression
On winning amateur competitions and appearing on a children's show at WAAT; on meeting a young Frank Sinatra; on getting his own radio show on WAAT
On becoming a member of The George Hall Orchestra and touring the South; on moving to New York
On becoming a staff musician at CBS and working with Frank Sinatra and Perry Como; on New York in the 1940s

Chapter 2

On getting married; on Swing Alley; on working with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and their differences in style
On playing electric guitar; on his role in CBS experimental television's Face the Music  aka Make Mine Music
On meeting (then-television director) Yul Brynner and writing the theme to Danger; on playing live music on television 
On working with Yul Brynner; on composing the music for Danger  

Chapter 3

On playing electric guitar on Danger; on why he likes a Gibson guitar; on composing for Danger and "The Danger chord"  
On "The Killer Scarf" production of Danger; on adapting the music for live productions; on appearing on screen and working with actors
On working with director Sidney Lumet on Danger; on keeping the music on Danger  fresh
On other CBS shows on which he worked and how he balanced his workload; on his work accompanying Perry Como

Chapter 4

On working with Perry Como on The Kraft Music Hall; on composing and playing music for Crime Photographer and other DuMont productions
On working with musician Enoch Light; on albums he's recorded
On working on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  and teaching Johnny Carson to play guitat
On touring with Frank Sinatra in the 1980s; on the last time he played guitar - 1986 for a tribute album to Frank Sinatra
On advice to an aspiring musician; on playing with vocalists and playing music on Caesar's Hour

Chapter 5

B-roll of photos and items from his career - worksheets and folios from Danger, photos with Johnny Carson, Skitch Henderson, and Frank Sinatra 
Shows

Caesar's Hour

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Tony Mottola on playing music on Caesar's Hour
01:36

Crime Photographer

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Tony Mottola on composing and playing music for Crime Photographer
01:09

Danger

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Tony Mottola on meeting Yul Brynner, writing the theme to Danger, and playing music on the show
11:30
Tony Mottola on composing the music for Danger  and his other duties at CBS
01:34
Tony Mottola on playing electric guitar on Danger  
03:41
Tony Mottola on composing for Danger  
03:47
Tony Mottola on composing for specific productions of Danger and writing themes and variations for the program
04:08
Tony Mottola on actors and actresses with whom he worked while composing for Danger and adapting live music on the spot
01:39
Tony Mottola on appearing on screen on Danger  
00:48
Tony Mottola on working with director Sidney Lumet on Danger and on films
05:51
Tony Mottola on keeping the music on Danger fresh
00:55
Tony Mottola on one of his worksheets from Danger
03:13
Tony Mottola on the cover of a folio to Danger
00:41
Tony Mottola on a photo with Yul Brynner from Danger
00:45
Tony Mottola on a photo with Sidney Lumet from Danger
00:26

Face the Music aka Make Mine Music

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Tony Mottola on his role in CBS experimental television (Face the Music  aka Make Mine Music)
04:57
Tony Mottola on rehearsals and production on Face the Music  aka Make Mine Music
01:23
Tony Mottola on photos from Face the Music
00:46
Tony Mottola on a photo of his on-screen performance on Face the Music
01:17

Kraft Music Hall, The

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Tony Mottola on a photo of a rehearsal for The Kraft Music Hall
00:36

Perry Como Show, The

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Tony Mottola on his workload on The Perry Como Show and accompanying Perry Como
01:51

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Tony Mottola on becoming a guitarist for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  
02:49
Tony Mottola on working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  and teaching Carson to play the guitar
05:21
Tony Mottola on a photo with Skitch Henderson and Johnny Carson on the set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:45
Topics

Advice

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Tony Mottola on advice to an aspiring musician
01:12

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Tony Mottola on his musical influences
00:33

Hollywood Blacklist

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Tony Mottola on not being affected by the Hollywood Blacklist
02:04

Industry Crossroads

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Tony Mottola on not being affected by the Hollywood Blacklist
02:04

Pop Culture

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Tony Mottola on writing the theme to Danger
00:50

TV Theme Songs

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Tony Mottola on writing the theme to Danger
00:50

Television Industry

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Tony Mottola on advice to an aspiring musician
01:12
Professions

Music Professionals

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Tony Mottola on advice to an aspiring musician
01:12
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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Tony Mottola on meeting Yul Brynner, writing the theme to Danger  and playing music on the show
06:17
Tony Mottola on playing live music on the early classic anthology series
03:28
Tony Mottola on composing for Danger  
23:51

Late Night

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Tony Mottola on becoming a guitarist for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  
08:10
People

Yul Brynner

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Tony Mottola on meeting (then-television director) Yul Brynner and working on Danger
03:07
Tony Mottola on Yul Brynner as a director on Danger
01:45
Tony Mottola on a photo with Yul Brynner from Danger
00:45

Johnny Carson

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Tony Mottola on working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  and teaching Carson to play the guitar
02:53
Tony Mottola on a photo with Skitch Henderson and Johnny Carson on the set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:45

Perry Como

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Tony Mottola on performing with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra
03:54
Tony Mottola on his workload on The Perry Como Show and accompanying Perry Como
01:51
Tony Mottola on working with Perry Como on The Kraft Music Hall
03:15
Tony Mottola on a photo at the Reagan White House with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra
01:09

Skitch Henderson

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Tony Mottola on a photo with Skitch Henderson and Johnny Carson on the set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:45

Sidney Lumet

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Tony Mottola on Sidney Lumet as a director on Danger
Tony Mottola on working with director Sidney Lumet on Danger  and on films
05:51
Tony Mottola on a photo with Sidney Lumet from Danger
00:26

Ronald Reagan

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Tony Mottola on a photo at the Reagan White House with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra
01:09

Frank Sinatra

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Tony Mottola on meeting Frank Sinatra on WAAT radio
01:36
Tony Mottola on performing with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra
03:41
Tony Mottola on touring with Frank Sinatra in the 1980s
03:40
Tony Mottola on a photo with Frank Sinatra
00:21
Tony Mottola on a photo at the Reagan White House with Perry Como and Frank Sinatra
01:09
Tony Mottola on a photo of a Frank Sinatra recording
00:47

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