Milton Delugg, Accordionist, Composer and ‘Tonight Show’ Bandleader, Dies at 96

Milton DeLugg (December 2, 1918 – April 6, 2015) was an American musician, composer and arranger. Delugg accompanied Al Jolson, worked with the game show producer Chuck Barris and was a longtime musical director for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A talented accordionist, he appeared in short Soundies musicals and occasional movies (like 1949's Jolson Sings Again). He quickly became a successful arranger and composer and worked as band leader at Slapsy Maxie's Wilshire location in Hollywood. His clients ranged from the American Junior Miss Pageant to Jackie Wilson, and he was a musician on such radio programs as The Abe Burrows Show. One of his best-known tunes is an arrangement of the song "The Happy Wanderer", and his brassy polka "Hoop Dee Doo" became a game show staple. He is also the composer of "Hooray for Santy Claus", the catchy theme song for the low-budget motion picture Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
He also composed "Roller Coaster" - recorded by Henri Rene Orchestra on RCA Victor. It was used as the closing theme for the popular Goodson-Todman panel show What's My Line? from the early 1950s until its cancellation in 1967. In 1950 and 1951, Delugg was musical director, bandleader, and accordionist on Broadway Open House an NBC late-night television program which has been considered a forerunner to The Tonight Show. He often played a song he co-wrote, titled, "Orange Colored Sky", which was best remembered as a hit for Nat King Cole. In 1950, Delugg was also orchestra conductor for the short-lived Abe Burrows' Almanac. In 1953, he played accordion, leading the Milton Delugg Trio on the short-lived The Bill Cullen Show. Four years later, in 1957, Delugg joined the cast of the Winchell and Mahoney Show. In 1958, Milton Delugg produced Buddy Holly's single, "Rave On!". For decades, Delugg has been associated with NBC as a musical director. In 1966, he was briefly musical director of The Tonight Show Band during the tenure of Johnny Carson.

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 VIDEO: Broadway Open House 1951 feat. The Mellowlarks singing Yesterday... Before David Letterman and Jay Leno there was Johnny Carson and Jack Paar. Before them there was Broadway Open house with Jerry Lester. It was network television's first late night comedy, variety series. Clip includes a catchy Blatz Beer jingle. Also the shows vocal group, the Mello Larks, sing Yesterday (not the Paul McCartney song). The accordion player who puffs on a big cigar, Milton DeLugg, is still in the music business! He's musical director of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Made with public domain material from archive.org