Pete Rugolo, Arranger and Composer, Dies at 95

Worked with Stan Kenton and Miles Davis, wrote TV themes

Pete Rugolo, an arranger and composer best known for his work with Stan Kenton and Miles Davis, and for composing the theme for TV’s The Fugitive, has died. He was 95 and passed away in a nursing facility in Sherman Oaks, Calif., of age-related causes.

Born in Sicily as Pietro Rugolo, he settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he studied with avant-garde composer Darius Milhaud in Oakland. Rugolo came to prominence in the 1940s and served as Kenton’s arranger from 1945-49. He signed Miles Davis to Capitol Records and was credited as a co-producer of Davis’ landmark Birth of the Cool album. Rugolo also produced recordings at Capitol for Nat “King” Cole, Patti Page, June Christy, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme and others. After leaving Capitol, Rugolo worked with MGM and Mercury Records. He also recorded more than 30 albums under his own name.

In the ’60s, Rugolo wrote the theme not only for The Fugitive but for another period drama, Run For Your Life. He also wrote music for the comedies I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver and for such hit programs as Fantasy Island and The Thin Man. He also worked on music for film, including the popular ’60s comedy Where the Boys Are. Rugolo won three Emmy Awards and two Grammys. His music often reflected his jazz background.

According to an obituary in The Washington Post, critic Leonard Feather once called Rugolo “the most unfairly forgotten man of jazz.”

Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.