2004 – Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day who produced seminal records by The Byrds

2004 – Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day who produced seminal records by The Byrds, Ry Cooder, Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Beach Boys, dies after battling melanoma. He was 62. He also enjoyed chart success with the Rip Chords, whose “Hey, Little Cobra” was a 1964 hit.


Early life

Melcher was born Terry Jorden in New York City to trombonist Al Jorden and his wife, singer/actress Doris Day. Day was only 19 years old when she gave birth to Terry. Before Terry’s birth, Day was planning to leave the abusive and violent Al Jorden. Jorden was outraged when he found out about her pregnancy, and demanded Day get an abortion. Doris refused and in turn, Jorden physically abused Day throughout her entire pregnancy. Shortly after Terry’s birth, Day filed for divorce, left Terry with her mother in Ohio and went back to touring with big band leader Les Brown. After the divorce, Terry’s father failed to visit his son on a regular basis and had little presence in his life. Al Jorden would ultimately commit suicide years later.

Day’s career led her to Hollywood where she appeared on local radio shows. After marrying and divorcing her second husband, saxophonist George Weidler, Day met and married Martin Melcher. Martin Melcher would become Day’s manager and go on to produce many of her movies. Although Terry and Martin disliked each other intensely, Martin adopted Terry, giving the boy his surname.


In the early 1960s, Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston formed the vocal duet Bruce & Terry. The duo had hits like Custom Machine and Summer Means Fun. Melcher and Johnston also created another band together, The Rip Chords, that had a Top 10 hit Hey, Little Cobra. Later, Bruce Johnston would join The Beach Boys. By the mid-60s, Melcher had joined the staff of Columbia Records and went on to work with The Byrds. He produced their song, Turn, Turn, Turn, and helped them to produce their remake of Bob Dylan’s, Mr. Tambourine Man. Due to conflicts with the band, Melcher was replaced. He later worked with Paul Revere and the Raiders, Wayne Newton, Frankie Laine, Jimmy Boyd, Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Mark Lindsay and The Mamas & The Papas. Melcher was instrumental in signing another near-legendary L.A. band, the Rising Sons led by Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. He was also a board member of the Monterey Pop Foundation and a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

The Manson Family

In 1968, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson introduced Melcher to ex-con and aspiring musician Charles Manson. Manson and his “family” had been living in Wilson’s house after Dennis had picked up two girls from the “family” hitchhiking. Wilson expressed interest in Manson’s music and even recorded two of Manson’s songs with The Beach Boys. For a time, Melcher was interested in recording Manson’s music, as well as making a movie about the “family”. During that time, Manson met Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive, the home Melcher shared with his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, on different occasions. Manson eventually auditioned for Melcher, but Melcher declined to sign him. There was still talk of a documentary being made about Manson’s music, but Melcher abandoned the project after witnessing his subject becoming embroiled in a terrifying fight with a drunken stuntman at Spahn Ranch.

After severing ties with Manson, Melcher and Bergen moved out of the Cielo Drive home. The house was then leased to director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Manson continued to turn up at the house looking for Melcher. On at least one occasion, Manson was informed that Melcher had moved.On August 9, 1969, the house that was once occupied by Melcher was the site of the brutal murders of Sharon Tate (who was eight months pregnant at the time), coffee heiress Abigail Folger (known as Gibby to her friends), hairdresser Jay Sebring, writer Voytek Frykowski, and Steven Parent, by members of Manson’s “family”.

At that time Melcher was producing Jimmy Boyd for A&M Records. Herb Alpert had previously visited a recording studio where Melcher and Boyd were recording a session for Vee Jay Records. Vee Jay Records was the first record company to release The Beatles records in the USA, then lost a major law suit over the rights to the Beatles with Capitol Records and went bankrupt. The record never got released. Herb Alpert was impressed enough to invite Melcher to produce Boyd for A&M Records. After the initial tracks were recorded the Manson murders took place, Melcher went into seclusion and the session was never completed.

After Manson was arrested, it was widely reported that he had sent his followers to the house to kill Melcher. Manson “family” member Susan Atkins, who admitted her part in the murders, stated to police and before a Grand Jury that the house was chosen as the scene for the murders, “to instill fear into Terry Melcher because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them”.

Later years

In the 1970s, Melcher again became a producer for the Byrds, but the results were not well received; one critic referred to the album Byrdmaniax as “Melcher’s Folly”. During this time, he also dabbled in real estate and served as the executive producer on his mother’s CBS series, The Doris Day Show. He later recorded two solo albums titled, Terry Melcher and Royal Flush. In 1985, Terry co-produced the cable show, Doris Day’s Best Friends, and worked as the director and vice president of the Doris Day Animal Foundation. He and his mother, to whom he remained extremely close throughout his life, also co-owned the Cypress Inn, a small hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

In 1988, Melcher earned a Golden Globe nomination for co-writing the song Kokomo with The Beach Boys. The song was featured in the 1988 Tom Cruise film, Cocktail, and rose to number one on the pop charts that year. He also produced the band’s last studio record, Summer in Paradise, which was the first record produced digitally on Pro Tools.


On November 19, 2004, Terry Melcher died at his home after a long battle with melanoma. He was 62 years old.He was survived by his wife Terese, son Ryan Melcher and his mother Doris Day.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply