He was the creator of Bozo the Clown and also the man who brought The Beatles to America. He died over the weekend (March 13, 2009) at the age of 91 at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
Alan Wendell Livingston was born in McDonald, Pennsylvania on October 15, 1917. He was the youngest of three children, whose mother encouraged reading books and playing musical instruments. He began his career in the entertainment business leading his own college orchestra as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce with a B.S. in Economics, he moved to New York where he worked in advertising for three years. At the start of World War II, he enlisted in the army as a private and served as a second lieutenant in the infantry. After his discharge, he borrowed some money, hitched a ride on an army plane and headed for Los Angeles, California where he obtained his first position with Capitol Records, Inc. in Hollywood as a writer/producer.
His initial assignment was to create a children's record library for the four-year old company, for which he created the legendary "Bozo the Clown" character. He wrote and produced a popular series of storytelling record-album and illustrative read-along book sets beginning with the September 1946 release of "Bozo at the Circus." His record-reader concept, which enabled children to read and follow a story in pictures while listening to it, was the first of its kind. The Bozo image was a composite design of Livingston's, derived from a variety of clown pictures and given to an artist to turn into comic-book-like illustrations. Livingston then hired Pinto Colvig to portray Bozo on the recordings. Colvig, a former circus clown, was also the original voice of Walt Disney's Pluto, Goofy, Grumpy, Sleepy and many other characters. Billy May produced the music. The series turned out to be a smash hit for Capitol, selling over eight million albums in the late 1940s and early '50s. Successful record sales led to a variety of Bozo-related merchandise and the first television series, "Bozo's Circus", starring Pinto Colvig on KTTV-Channel 11 (CBS) in Los Angeles in 1949. The character also became a mascot for the record company and was later nicknamed "Bozo the Capitol Clown."
Livingston wrote and produced many other children's recordings including product for Walt Disney; Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker; Bugs Bunny and all of the Warner Bros. characters. In the case of the latter, he wrote the 1951 pop hit "I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat" for Mel Blanc's Tweety Pie.
Within a few years, Livingston moved on to the adult music arena and became Vice President in charge of all creative operations of the company. He signed Frank Sinatra when Sinatra was at a low point in his career. Livingston wanted Sinatra to work with arranger Nelson Riddle, however Sinatra was reluctant to do so out of his loyalty to Axel Stordahl with whom he had worked for most of his career. The first Sinatra/Stordahl recordings for Capitol failed to produce the magic Livingston and producer Voyle Gilmore were looking for, and Sinatra agreed to try a session with Riddle on April 30, 1953. The impact was immediate, producing the classic "I've Got the World on a String." However, it was "Young-at-Heart" that became the defining moment in Sinatra's comeback, peaking at #2 during its 22-week run on the charts in the spring of 1954.
Livingston has been credited as the creative force responsible for Capitol Records' growth from net sales of $6 million per year to sales in excess of $100 million per year.
After 10 years with Capitol, Livingston and the company sold the "Bozo the Clown" licensing rights to Larry Harmon as Livingston left the company to accept a position as President of California National Productions, Inc., the wholly owned film production subsidiary of the National Broadcasting Company. Shortly thereafter, Livingston was also named Vice President of NBC, in charge of Television Network Programming, dealing principally with all films made for the network. In this capacity, he hired David Dortort to write and produce the pilot for the series "Bonanza", for which Livingston's older brother, songwriter Jay Livingston, wrote the memorable theme. During this time, Alan also served on the Boards of Bob Hope Enterprises, Inc. and Joseph Mankiewicz's motion picture production company, Figaro, Inc.
Five years later, Capitol Records induced him to return as President and, eventually, Chairman of the Board. He was also named to the Board of Electric and Musical Industries (EMI), a British corporation that was the largest stockholder in Capitol. Subsequently, he merged Capitol Records into Audio Devices, Inc., a magnetic tape manufacturer listed on the American Stock Exchange, and changed the name of the surviving company to Capitol Industries, Inc., of which Livingston was named President. It was during this period that he turned Capitol Records into a more rock-oriented company with such artists as The Beach Boys, Steve Miller, The Band, and others. His most noteworthy accomplishment at that time was signing The Beatles for Capitol in 1963 and bringing them to the United States in 1964.
Livingston later sold out his stock in Capitol Industries to form his own company, Mediarts, Inc., for the production of motion pictures, records and music publishing. He eventually sold his interest in that company to United Artists as a result, particularly, of its success in the record business including Don McLean, who reached the #1 position in the country with his "American Pie" single and album in 1972. Two feature motion pictures were completed during the company's operation: "Downhill Racer" (1969) starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman, and "Unman, Wittering & Zigo" (1971) starring David Hemmings; both released by Paramount Pictures.
In August 1976, Livingston joined Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation as Senior Vice President and President, Entertainment Group. He left in 1980 to accept the presidency of Atalanta Investment Company, Inc., and resigned in 1987 to produce a one-hour film for television and to form Pacific Rim Productions, Inc.
Livingston also wrote a novel titled "Ronnie Finkelhof, Superstar" about a shy Harvard pre-law student who becomes an overnight success as a rock musician. It was published by Ballantine Books in the spring of 1988.
On August 1, 1998, Livingston received his first honor for his creation of "Bozo the Clown" as the International Clown Hall of Fame in Wisconsin presented him their Lifetime of Laughter Achievement Award.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun