Born: March 7, 1923 | Died: September 20, 2007 Primary Instrument: Clarinet
Mahlon Clark clarinetist performed on the soundtracks of numerous Hollywood movies and recorded with artists as varied as Lawrence Welk and Madonna. Clark played the well-known clarinet solo of Henry Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk, featured on the soundtrack of the Oscar-nominated movie Hatari! (1962), starring John Wayne. The song was a hit for Henry Mancini's orchestra, which recorded the soundtrack. When Lawrence Welk later recorded it, he also used Clark. While a member of Welk's orchestra (1962-68), Clark married Kathy Lennon, one of the four singing Lennon Sisters on the Welk TV show.
Active studio musician whose credits include Madonna, Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
At Capitol Records, Clark developed a friendship with Nelson Riddle, arranger, composer and conductor for Frank Sinatra. Clark, who also played alto saxophone, performed on many Sinatra albums, including In the Wee Small Hours. The days with Capitol Records and Nelson Riddle were very special for Clark. Mahlon said Frank knew what he wanted. He always gave the band lots of credit, which is why the musicians loved working for him.
Born in Portsmouth, Va., Clark performed in vaudeville with his sister Jane when they were children. When he was 16, Clark landed a professional job as a big band musician with the Dean Hudson Band. That gig was followed by stints with the Will Bradley Band and the Ray McKinley Band.
Beginning in 1942, Clark served in the U.S. merchant marine. He married Imogene Lynn, a vocalist with Artie Shaw and the McKinley band. Stationed on Santa Catalina Island, Clark was assigned to the merchant marine band, which entertained troops on furlough.
After the war, Clark was a session musician with the permanent orchestra at Paramount Studios. At Paramount he performed on soundtracks for movies starring Elvis Presley King Creole, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and in films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Clark was an advocate for musicians in the mid-1950s, a time when many worried for their jobs and salaries at Hollywood studios. Musicians feared the studios would end the practice of hiring musicians to play live, opting instead to use prerecorded music.
During this debate, the leadership of the American Federation of Musicians was challenged by a newly created rival union, the Musicians Guild of America. Los Angeles Musicians Local 47 responded by purging members believed to be associated with the rival group, including Clark, who later served on the new guild's board.
From 1962 until 1968, Clark performed in Welk's orchestra, which appeared on his television show. After Clark's first marriage ended in 1966, Clark married Kathy Lennon of the Lennon Sisters, who appeared regularly on Welk's show.
Clark continued performing until the early 1990s, playing on the soundtracks for movies including Dick Tracy, and When Harry Met Sally. He also played on Linda Ronstadt recordings and Madonna's 1990 album I'm Breathless. He is also among the Hollywood studio musicians who managed to land choice parts on screen. The Rat Race is certainly the feast for anyone interested in really devouring Clark--he has an acting role in the film plus plays on the soundtrack.