Henry Mancini, who began his music career as flute player in the "Sons of Italy" band in West Aliquippa, was one the most successful and honored film composers of all time. He was nominated for 72 Grammys and won 20. The Academy Awards nominated him 18 times and awarded him four Oscars. He was nominated for two Emmy's and won a Golden Globe Award. Mancini won five Grammys and two Oscars for the score of Breakfast at Tiffany's, which includes the classic song "Moon River". He also wrote the classic songs "Peter Gunn", the "Pink Panther, "Dear Heart," "Days of Wine and Roses", "Charade," and the number one hit "Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet." He also wrote the music for the television shows Newhart, Remington Steele, the Thornbirds, Hotel, Mr. Lucky, and Peter Gunn. Mancini conducted over 600 symphony performances leading the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He also toured several times as the conductor for Johnny Mathis and with Andy Williams. Mancini released 38 albums on RCA and other labels in addition to 43 soundtrack releases. He was awarded 8 Gold Records and won numerous industry awards from Cashbox, Billboard, Playboy, and other publications. The United States Postal Service honored Mancini with a commemorative stamp in 2004.
Henry Mancini grew up in the mill town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His father began teaching him piccolo and flute at age eight. He started playing piano at 12. Henry and his steel worker father Quinto played flute together in the Aliquippa "Sons of Italy" band. He also played in various combos and groups at italian weddings and learned all the standards of the time. When the big bands hit the radio Mancini decided he wanted to become an arranger. Seeing his son's interest Quinto set up his son with arranging lessons from Max Adkins, the concert master of the Stanley Theater. Mancini in his autobiography credits Adkins as "the most important influence of my life". Adkins also influenced two other very successful Pittsburgh musicians Billy Strayhorn, and Joshua Feldman (aka Jerry Fielding). Adkins encouraged Henry to pursue his musical studies. After graduating from high school in 1942 Mancini attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Adkins introduced Mancini to Benny Goodman who encouraged Henry to move to New York. Henry followed Goodman's advice and moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music.
Mancini's studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the United States Army in 1943. As an infantryman he participated in the liberation of a German concentration camp. During the war Mancini transferred from infantry to the Army Band and worked with singer Tony Martin and others. In 1946 after the war Mancini became a pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller Orchestra which was led by Tex Beneke. He also continued his study of composition, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration studying with two acclaimed composers, Ernst Krenek and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Working with the Miller Band he met singer Ginny O'Connor and married her in 1947. The couple moved to Los Angeles and Henry became a free-lance arranger and musician. He worked on radio shows, played in studio sessions, and took on orchestration and conducting jobs.
After working on an Abbot and Costello movie, Mancini joined the Universal Pictures music department in 1952. He contributed music to over 100 movies during the next six years. While at Universal he worked on the scores for the Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller movies. He received his first Academy Award nomination for The Glenn Miller Story. Mancini became an independent composer/arranger in 1958. He scored the Peter Gunn TV show working with writer/producer Blake Edwards. The Peter Gunn theme reached #1 on Billboard's chart and stayed on the charts for the next two years. Mancini received an Emmy nomination for the theme and won two Grammys for the album. Edwards hired Mancini again to write the theme for his series, "Mr. Lucky." and Mancini won two more Grammys. RCA gave hi a record contract and he won another Grammy with his first record under his own name "Blues and the Beat". Over a 20 year period Mancini realased over 60 albums on RCA.
Continuing their relationship Mancini and Blake Edwards worked together on 30 films including Breakfast at Tiffany's, Days of Wine and Roses, Experiment in Terror, The Party,The Great Race, The Pink Panther series, and Victor/Victoria. Working with other directors he scored Charade, Arabesque, Two for the Road, Hatari, Wait Until Dark, The Glass Menagerie, Silver Streak, W,C. Fields and Me, The Molly Macguires,Sometimes a Great Notion, and more.