Willson, Meredith

Willson, Meredith

(1902–84) composer, lyricist; born in Mason City, Iowa. He studied in New York City for a career in serious music and after touring with the John Philip Sousa band (1921–23), he became the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra (1924–29). In the 1930s and 1940s he was music director of several radio programs including The George Burnsand Gracie Allen Show. He also composed film scores (including Chaplin's The Great Dictator, 1940) and both words and music for popular songs; his biggest hit would be "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" (1950). Even this was eclipsed by the success of his musical, The Music Man (1957), for which he wrote the book as well as lyrics and music. His other successful musical was The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960), for which he wrote lyrics and music. He also composed some concert music.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.