Terry Melcher, a producer and songwriter who helped craft the sound of California surf, rock and folk music, died on Nov. 19 after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.
The son of actress/singer Doris Day and trombonist Al Jorden, Terry adopted the surname Melcher after his mother married her third husband, Martin Melcher. In his 20s, the New York native took on the stage name “Terry Day” and teamed up with future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston to form two bands: Bruce & Terry and The Rip Chords.
After performing on the seminal Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds,” Melcher decided to become a music producer. He joined Columbia Records in 1962 and made a name for himself by producing several hits for the Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn, Turn, Turn”). Melcher chose his next projects wisely, producing records with Paul Revere & the Raiders, Wayne Newton, Pat Boone, Glen Campbell and The Mamas & The Papas. Melcher also auditioned a young songwriter named Charles Manson, but decided against offering him a recording contract.
In 1969, Manson ordered some of his followers to break into the Los Angeles house actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski sublet from Melcher, and kill everyone inside. Susan Atkins, a member of the “Manson Family” who was convicted of murdering Tate and her four friends, later said she and her co-conspirators were sent to the house on 10050 Cielo Drive to “instill fear into Terry Melcher, because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them.” The police discounted this theory after learning that Manson knew Melcher no longer lived there.
From 1968 to 1972, Melcher served as the executive producer on his mother’s CBS series “The Doris Day Show.” He later recorded two unheralded solo albums (“Terry Melcher” and “Royal Flush”), co-produced the 1985 cable show “Doris Day’s Best Friends” and worked as the director and vice president of the Doris Day Animal Foundation. He and his mother also co-owned the Cypress Inn, a small hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., with Dennis LeVett.
In 1988, Melcher earned a Golden Globe nomination for co-writing the song “Kokomo” with the Beach Boys. The tune was featured in the Tom Cruise film “Cocktail” and rose to number one on the pop charts that year.