Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Paul Tanner, who played the...

...theremin on the 1966 Beach Boys hit "Good Vibrations," died at age 95.

A former trombonist for the Glenn Miller Ochestra, Tanner helped invent the unusual device. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

How Mr. Tanner ended up playing with the Beach Boys is uncertain, but one version of the story is that Brian Wilson, the group’s leader and chief songwriter, called ABC looking for a theremin player and was directed to Mr. Tanner. On “Good Vibrations,” the instrument created a delirious, rising-in-pitch backdrop to the song’s chorus. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Strange group to work with,” Mr. Tanner said in a 2001 interview. “The only one who seemed to have any idea of music at all was Brian Wilson.” 

“Nowadays they’re so intelligent and ask so many questions, you’re kept on your mettle,” Mr. Tanner said about his students in a 1976 interview with the jazz writer Leonard Feather. “The question I remember best was asked in class one day. One kid said, ‘Professor Tanner, did they have groupies in the swing era?’ I said, ‘Yes, your mama.’ ”

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