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home : features : features August 24, 2016

5/7/2013 10:55:00 AM
Composer Ted Nichols, known for his Scooby Doo and Flintstones scores, continues his varied musical career from his home in Williams
Ted Nichols plays a selection from a recent composition at his home in Williams, Ariz. Nichols will direct several Williams church choirs in a patriotic concert May 25 at the Babbitt Polson Warehouse Stage. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Ted Nichols plays a selection from a recent composition at his home in Williams, Ariz. Nichols will direct several Williams church choirs in a patriotic concert May 25 at the Babbitt Polson Warehouse Stage. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

Most people have heard Ted Nichols' music without realizing it. As the musical director for Hanna-Barbera, Nichols composed musical cues and arrangements for shows like Scooby Doo and the Flintstones.

After writing music for numerous television shows, movies and operas, Nichols has brought his musical expertise to Williams.

Nichols will direct several local church choirs in a free Memorial Day Weekend concert called "Celebrate America." The concert is from 3 to 4 p.m. May 25 at the Babbitt Polson Warehouse Stage near the Williams Visitors Center. Organizers encourage concert-goers to bring lawn chairs.

Nichols first got involved with music in the fifth grade when he started singing in the All City Boys Choir in Spokane, Wash. He started playing the violin at age 10.

While playing violin in high school, he worked his way up from the last chair in his orchestra class to student director of the orchestra and choir.

"Then it really started my career I think at that time," Nichols said. "But I always had a real urge to compose and write."

After graduating high school, Nichols joined the Navy and started a dance band while stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas.

After his time in the Navy, Nichols attended Baylor University. Nichols played violin, clarinet and saxophone, but since he did not play the piano, the school did not allow him to major in composition. He earned a music teaching degree instead.

When the Korean War started, Nichols joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. During this time, he founded the Air Force Bandsmen Training School.

After that, Nichols returned to Texas where he taught junior high and high school music and started the Corpus Christi Youth Symphony.

After earning a master's degree in composition from Texas Arts and Industries University, Nichols moved to California to pursue a career in composing.

In California, Nichols went from teaching high school to working as the band director of Santa Ana College to starting the marching band at California State University, Los Angeles.

During this time Nichols wrote music for his first film, "Tournament of Roses."

Nichols also spent time in the Dapper Dans quartet at Disneyland, where he met Walt Disney.

"The funny thing was, Uncle Walt as we called him, used to come there to Disneyland, and he'd sneak in and go over to the coffee place and sneak in the back," Nichols said. "I'd just go over, sit with him, and have coffee."

While working as the minister of music at Church of the Open Door, Nichols met an animator from Hanna-Barbera, who began singing in the choir.

"He liked what I did. And I kidded him one time, I said, 'well why don't you introduce me to your boss?' The next week, I get a call from Bill Hanna," Nichols said.

He began by writing musical cues and arrangements for the television show "Jonny Quest." Since members of the company liked his work, they asked him to write for a Flintstones Christmas show in the fall.

"I said, 'well twist my arm a little bit,'" he said.

By the spring, the company hired Nichols as its musical director. He worked in this position from 1963 to 1972.

"Man, oh man, I wrote like crazy," he said.

Writing musical cues was more complicated in those days, Nichols said.

"I used to take the score and sit down with my music editors and we'd count the frames and we'd say well here I got to hit Flintstone here or here he's climbing up this," he said.

Nichols would meet with the writers of the different shows before writing the music.

"I looked at a lot of drawings about Scooby Doo before I even wrote, because I try to get the feeling in my mind - hey this is the kind of style that you want to write for," he said.

In addition to his cartoon writing, Nichols has composed five operas.

Nichols resigned from Hanna-Barbera and began working as the international music director for Campus Crusade for Christ. He also started the master of church music program at the Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Ore.

In October, Nichols and his wife Catherine came to Williams "to establish a life of our own away from both of our kids."

Besides directing the Memorial Day weekend concert, these days Nichols is busy composing orchestral arrangements for a friend in Russia. He uses a piano and a computer program to write the music.

"I hear it in my mind first, and then I just check the piano to say 'is this the chords?'"

With a couple of projects in the works, Nichols' decades-long career isn't over just yet.

"I want to keep my skills going," he said.

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Composer Ted Nichols, known for his Scooby Doo and Flintstones scores, continues his varied musical career from his home in Williams

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, November 1, 2014
Article comment by: Martin Proctor

I was pleased to read the article about Ted Nichols. It is nice to know that he is still composing, and it is nice to see that he is getting some recognition for his stellar musical efforts for Hanna Barbera. Sadly, while the public may be familiar with the two men that the animation company is named for, and may be aware of a number of the voice artists, and occasionally some of the animators, the musicians often get overlooked. In recent years, Hoyt Curtin has received some recognition, but Ted Nichols still is not as well known, and at times his compositions have been credited to Hoyt Curtin. Hopefully some day someone will see fit to give each composer their proper credit. Their respective theme music and background scores for a plethora of cartoons in the sixties were a major part of the success of those cartoons. If you doubt that, try and imagine Jonny Quest, or Scooby Doo, or the Flintstones without their musical tracks. Each of these cartoons have been revivied in some fashion since the sixties, but it is the original scores from these cartoons that everyone remembers. As for Mr. Nichols later compositions, I've not heard any of them, but your article has piqued my interest in seeking some of them out.

Posted: Saturday, August 9, 2014
Article comment by: Frans Peters Peters

Dont forget the good Time here in the Netherlands with regards from Frans Peters (Frans Peters Studio's - Hilversum - Holland

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: Scott Alexander

I too have known Ted for several years and always enjoyed working with him. Glad to see you still composing Ted!

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2013
Article comment by: zach jansen

Ted Nichols is another living legend when it comes to being with hanna barbera studios in the hay day of their cartoons

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2013
Article comment by: Carol Gutshall

I enjoyed the information that Marissa compiled for the article written about Ted Nichols. We have a lot of interesting people in our "little" town and I for one am happy to be introduced to them through the News. Thank you Marissa, Williams News and welcome to Williams Ted and Cathy. See you at the "Celebrate America" concert honoring our veterans!

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013
Article comment by: Dr & Mrs Richard Martin

We first met Ted over 30 years ago when he was Minister of Music at our church in Phoenix, Bethany Bible Church and we had the joy of warbling in his choir. During that time we had the privilege of being a part of his opera "Esther, the Queen" as well as his doctoral project, setting Pilgrims Progress to music. He was and still is an incredible man as well as composer and arranger. His deep Christian beliefs shine out in all that he does. We are thrilled that he is close enough to visit with after all these years of being out of state.

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Maguire

Compliments to writer Marissa Freireich for introducing the folks of beautiful Williams to a beautiful man and skilled musician. I've known Ted for many years and a couple of years ago he scored my piano arrangements of my musical adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street that I wrote years back and produced on Cape Cod, MA. I am pleased that Ted is in Williams. Great little city, great human being...a very good match. My wife Helen and I will certainly not miss Memorial Day Weekend in Williams, the human-scale city.

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Article comment by: Manuel J.

Very enjoyable and interesting story!

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