Gaylord Carter

Gaylord Carter

gaylordcarterGaylord Beach Carter was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, the son of Charles Davis Carter (1857–1940) & Olive Athena Beach(1873–1964)-both musicians themselves. His father was a church organist and taught music, while his mother taught voice. His family soon emigrated to the United States, settling in Wichita, Kansas, where his father opened a conservatory of music and also served as a church organist.

Young Gaylord displayed the family talent for music and became a soloist in a church choir. He also played the organ in another church from the age of ten. As the “Jazz Age” evolved, Gaylord found himself drawn to the new musical. By the time he was fourteen he was playing at a local movie theater, accompanying the silent films at children’s matinees.

The family remained in Wichita until 1922 and then made the long to Los Angeles, California, where 16-year-old Gaylord found employment at a local theater accompanying movies.GAYLOR

Carter was playing accompaniment to a Harold Lloyd movie at the Seville Theater in suburban Inglewood when he was spotted by an agent of the Harold Lloyd Company, who had dropped in to see how the movie was doing at the box office. Gaylord would later tell audiences that the agent was there to “see that Lloyd got his proper cut from the box office”. Impressed by the description of Carter’s playing, Lloyd recommended him to Sid Grauman, who offered the 21-year-old $110 a week to be the full-time organist at his downtown Los Angeles movie palace, the Million Dollar Theatre. Carter accepted the offer.

1lloydCarter was playing accompaniment to a Harold Lloyd movie at the Seville Theater in suburban Inglewood when he was spotted by an agent of the Harold Lloyd Company, who had dropped in to see how the movie was doing at the box office. Gaylord would later tell audiences that the agent was there to “see that Lloyd got his proper cut from the box office”. Impressed by the description of Carter’s playing, Lloyd recommended him to Sid Grauman, who offered the 21-year-old $110 a week to be the full-time organist at his downtown Los Angeles movie palace, the Million Dollar Theatre. Carterlloyd-safety-last-broadway-3-31 accepted the offer.

In the 1960s and beyond, Carter helped fuel a revived public interest in silent movies with his production company Flicker Fingers Productions.  In the 1970s, Carter was hired to provide recorded scores for theatrical re-releases of several Mary Pickford movies. With the arrival of home video players, recorded versions of classic silent movies became available and Carter recorded scores, many of his own composition, for a variety of these films. Among them were many movies made by his early benefactor and old friend Harold Lloyd. Carter often told the story of scoring a Harold Lloyd picture with Lloyd present during the recording session; during the sequence from Safety Last! in which Lloyd is scaling the side of a building, he loses his grip. As Lloyd catches hold of the hands of an enormous clock, Carter at the organ swings into the song “Time on My Hands” – which prompted Harold Lloyd to give Carter a mock stern glance and declare, “Gaylord, I’LL do the jokes.”

Gaylord Carter remained active into the 1990s. He made tours of North America, Europe, and Australia, performing on many of the world’s surviving theater organs. In 1975 and 1994, he was inducted into the hall of fame of the American Theatre Organ Society. In 1987, he was the first organist to perform for the “Last Remaining Seats” program, which had been launched by the preservation organization, the Los Angeles Conservancy, playing the organ at the Orpheum Theatre in that city’s Broadway Historic Theatre District, a few blocks from the Million Dollar Theatre which had been the scene of his first great success. In his last years he also performed occasionally at the Warner Grand Theatre, which was fairly near his home in San Pedro, California.

It was in the 1960s I met Gaylord Carter for the first time.  He was in the audience at one of my theatre pipe organ concerts in Hollywood, California that was sponsored by The American Theatre Organ Society.  Back then it was call the American Theatre Organ Enthusiasts.  He was very gracious in his comments and invited me to be a special surprise guest at his concert.  He as great, and everyone seemed to enjoy my small part.  Gaylord had so many appearance to make accompanying the silents that he asked if I would like to so some.  I had on 6 hour lesson from Gaylord and the following day he introduced me to Harold Lloyd,and that night I played on his theatre organ, in his home, for a huge party.  It was a wow for me.

Home_of_Mary_Pickford_2_Beverly_Hills_CAThen Gaylord arranged for me to play at Pickford, home of Mary Pickford, mary_pickford02then at Joe Karns home, the original Mr. Wilson of the Dennis The Menace television series.  Days later, I was Buddy Cole’s guest on his giant theatre organ he called his  Wurly Morton; Part Wurlitzer, part Robert Morton.

Gaylord and I remained friends till his passing on November 20,2000.  Later he was my special surprise guest in several different concerts.  Knowing Gaylord was a blessing…