The Film Music Society FMS FEATURE ARTICLE...

May 9, 2003
"Gilligan" Composer Dead at 87
by Jon Burlingame

George Wyle, composer of the television-theme classic "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle" and the holiday standard "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," died of leukemia Friday, April 27, at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Tarzana, California. He was 87.

Wyle was a friend of producer Sherwood Schwartz, who had convinced CBS executives in 1963 that the backstory of seven stranded castaways could be told every week in a song over the opening credits. Schwartz had come up with the lyrics, but his proposed music had a calypso feel.

Wyle pointed out that the calypso was associated with the Caribbean but that the S.S. Minnow had gone down in the Pacific. He suggested a sea chantey instead, and Schwartz retooled the lyrics to fit Wyle's new – and now, internationally known – melody.

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was written while Wyle was musical director for Andy Williams' popular variety show, also in the mid-1960s.

Wyle was born in New York City and spent nearly all of his life in show business. In 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and served as musical director for Alan Young's radio show. He later conducted for performers including Howard Keel, Doris Day and Nanette Fabray and worked as a choral director on TV shows featuring Dinah Shore and Jerry Lewis.

Wyle received three Emmy nominations, for his choral direction on The Andy Williams Show (1966-67); and as musical director of two The Magic of David Copperfield specials (1980-81 and 1983-84). His career also included stints as musical director for variety shows featuring Flip Wilson and the Lennon Sisters, and for The People's Choice Awards.

© 2003 Jon Burlingame