George Cates

George Cates

American arranger, conductor, composer and producer
Country: USA

  1. Biography of George Cates
  2. Early Career
  3. Collaboration with Lawrence Welk
  4. Other Works

Biography of George Cates

George Cates, an American arranger, conductor, composer, and producer, is best known for his collaboration with Lawrence Welk and his orchestra. He was born on October 19, 1911, in New York City and grew up there. Cates' musical career began shortly after he graduated from New York University when he found work in the vaudeville troupe of John Sigvard 'Ole' Olsen and Harold Ogden 'Chic' Johnson in their legendary revue "Hellzapoppin'."

Early Career

During the early years of his career, Cates arranged and played the saxophone with musical ensembles such as Henry Busse, Dick Stabile, and Russ Morgan orchestras from 1945 to 1951. In the mid-1950s, Cates served as the director of one of the divisions of Coral Records, where he was responsible for artist and repertoire scouting. He also wrote songs for the label's stars, including the Andrews Sisters, Teresa Brewer, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye, and conducted during recordings. In 1956, Cates reached the 31st spot on the Top-40 chart with his release of a medley of "Moonglow" and "Theme from Picnic." Notably, the vocalist Norma Zimmer, who also worked on Lawrence Welk's show for 22 years, participated in the recording.

Collaboration with Lawrence Welk

Starting in 1951, Cates became Welk's musical director, taking charge of the orchestra during rehearsals and spending many years behind the scenes as an arranger. After leaving ABC television network in 1971, Welk sold his show to a local TV station and continued to appear on screens, using Cates' composition "Champagne Time" as the theme song. Cates was a prolific composer, and his songs frequently appeared on the episodes of the musical show "Musical Family." In 1973, Cates was offered the role of conducting the orchestra on camera, which he fulfilled until the show's closure in 1982. Interestingly, in addition to the light music performed by the orchestra, Cates insisted on including selected excerpts from classical music.

Other Works

In addition to his work with Lawrence Welk, George Cates composed and arranged several albums for other leading orchestras of the time. One of his albums, "Polynesian Percussion," showcases the excellent instrumental work of his son-in-law, guitarist Alvino Rey, and Buddy Cole, who played the "Novachord." George Cates passed away on May 12, 2002, at the age of 90, in his home in Santa Monica, California. In Missoula, Montana, there is a street named George Cates Blvd in his honor.