Alan Copeland, Vocalist With The Modernaires and ‘Your Hit Parade,’ Dies at 96

Alan Copeland, Vocalist With The Modernaires and ‘Your Hit Parade,’ Dies at 96 thumbnail

Alan Copeland, the songwriter, Grammy-winning arranger and ultra-smooth vocalist known for his many years with The Modernaires and performances on Your Hit Parade and The Red Skelton Hour, has died. He was 96.

Copeland died Dec. 28 in an assisted living facility in Sonora, California, his friend Bob Lehmann told The Hollywood Reporter.

As recently as this fall, Copeland was still singing and playing keyboards in a quartet called Now You Hazz Jazz. “It was his dream to play in a small group until the last curtain, that’s how he termed it,” said Lehmann, the drummer.

Copeland wrote or co-wrote songs including “Make Love to Me” — Jo Stafford’s version made it to No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1954 — “Too Young to Know,” “High Society,” “This Must Be the Place, “Darling, Darling, Darling” and “While the Vesper Bells Were Ringing.”

After taking arranging lessons from Henry Mancini, he arranged vocals for big bands and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Bing Crosby, Jim Nabors, Count Basie, Engelbert Humperdinck, Peter Marshall and Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme.

In 1968, Copeland won a Grammy for best contemporary pop performance by a chorus for pairing the theme from CBS’ Mission: Impossible with The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” (Listen to the medley here.)

Known for combining musicality with wit, as noted jazz critic Stanley Dance once put it, Copeland also spent several years in the 1960s on Skelton’s CBS variety show with The Modernaires, who would morph into The Skel-tones and The Alan Copeland Singers. 

YOUR HIT PARADE, from left: Alan Copeland, Virginia Gibson, Jill Corey, Tommy Leonetti

From left: Alan Copeland, Virginia Gibson, Jill Corey and Tommy Leonetti on ‘Your Hit Parade’

TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection

Copeland, who went by the nickname Weaver, was born in Los Angeles on Oct. 6, 1926. As a member of the Robert Mitchell Boy Choir, he sang in such fabled films as Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Meet John Doe (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Going My Way (1944).

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After serving with the U.S. Navy, Copeland started his own vocal group, The Twin Tones, a featured attraction with Jan Garber’s orchestra.

He joined The Modernaires for the first time in 1948, and soon, the group was performing alongside The Andrews Sisters and Dick Haymes on a five-nights-a-week radio variety program hosted by singer/bandleader Bob Crosby (Bing’s brother). The show then segued to television.

Copeland appeared with the group in The Glenn Miller Story (1954), starring Jimmy Stewart, then left to perform solo on the popular NBC/CBS program Your Hit Parade from 1957 until it left the air in 1959.

He rejoined The Modernaires and did arrangements and added lyrics to such classics as “In the Mood” and “Tuxedo Junction” for the 1960 album The Modernaires Sing the Great Glenn Miller Instrumentals. They found further success four years later with New Top Hits in the Glenn Miller Style, an album that featured singer Tex Beneke.

Copeland arranged and conducted for Nabors’ 1966 hit “Cuando Calienta El Sol” and sang on Universal Pictures’ Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), starring Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing. And he served as choral supervisor on Blake Edwards’ Darling Lili (1970), starring Julie Andrews and Rock Hudson, and on Bing Crosby-hosted Christmas specials for two decades.

Copeland appeared as a member of the band put together by Tony Randall’s Felix Unger on two 1974 episodes of ABC’s The Odd Couple and was back, yet again, with The Modernaires in the 1990s.

He also collaborated with his late wife, Joyce, a vocalist also known as Mahmu Pearl, on several albums.

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His memoir, Jukebox Saturday Nights, was published in 2007.

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