Composer Herman Stein died on March 15th in Los Angeles, at the age of 91. Best known for the music he composed as a member of the Universal Studios music department in the 1950s – including working on the scores of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space, and The Incredible Shrinking Man – Stein was a prolific composer in virtually all genres.
He was a jazz composer and arranger in the 1940s before going to work for Universal, working with jazz musician Billy Eckstine. In the 1960s, he worked on television, scoring episodes of and Lost In Space.
Born in Philadelphia in 1915, Herman Stein was a self-taught child prodigy musician who began playing the piano at age 3 and gave his first recital at age 6. He performed professionally in bars and restaurants as a teenager, and during the 1930s and 1940s he became a noted arranger for jazz orchestras and radio programs in New York. In 1948 he moved to Los Angeles, where he studied formally with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, joining the music staff at Universal Pictures in 1951, where he remained until 1958. His music, usually without specific credit (most of the Universal B-movies having been scored by a team of composers including Stein, Hans Salter, Henry Mancini, and others, supervised by Music Director Joseph Gershenson, who usually got the on-screen credit), graced more than 200 movies of all kinds, from Westerns like Destry, The Duel At Silver Creek, The Far Country, and Joe Dakota, comedies like Has Anybody Seen My Gal and several Abbott & Costello and Francis the Talking Mule films, crime dramas like Girls in the Night and The Glass Web – but it’s the monster movie music that has endured, especially his 3-note blaring ostinato composed for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Much of it is available on CD from Monstrous Movie Music (www.mmmrecordings.com)
Following the end of the studio system and the demise of the Universal music department, Stein and many of his fellow staffers found work in television, scoring episodes of Wagon Train, Daniel Boone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost In Space. He also composed the score for Roger Corman's groundbreaking 1961 civil rights drama, The Intruder. Stein retired from composing at the end of the 1960s.