Melbourne TV WEEK May 7, 1966
Page 4 no byline

U.N.C.L.E.'s David McCallum has become a recording star - but not as a singer.

David, a former oboist with a good grasp of musical theory, has introduced a new pop sound by combining big beat music with a classical-sounding orchestration.

It is in this role as an arranger and director that David is making records - with very successful results.

His first record album, Music A Part Of Me, sold out its first edition of 100,000 in a few days.

New pressings of the album brought total sales to more than 300,000.

David, who plays Russian-born secret agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. now is mobbed by teenagers because of his recording hit.

David's idea was to give the top 40 beat a new, slightly classical sounds, with the help of an English horn, an oboe, a tambourine and two guitars, on top of three saxophones, piano, bass and drums.

He picked 10 tunes and arranged them and wrote two of his own, Insomnia and The Far Side of the Moon.

He conducted the orchestra when the album was made in the Capitol Tower, Hollywood.

Describing why he gave up the oboe 18 years ago, David told me: "I was doing all right. I was vain and my oboe was attracting attention.

"But by the time I was 13 I decided this was not enough. I wanted to show off a little more - so I gave up my oboe to become an actor."

David's return to the music field sprang from his success in U.N.C.L.E. It is the usual thing when a show becomes a fad for record company officials to find out if they can use any of their performers.

Several months ago David received his first approach - an offer to become an oboist again for $US 100,000 a year. Fair-haired Scot David said: "Thank you for the kind offer. But I am through with the oboe. The one I had I should to an uncle for #[sorry, that's meant to be a pound sign, but my keyboard doesn't have one] stg.85. I have no intention of buying myself a new one."

As the record companies persisted, he made a counter-proposal.

"I cannot sing and I will not sing," he said. "And I won't take up my oboe again."

"But I will arrange and I will compose and I will conduct. I have ideas of my own about the big beat. Think it over."

Because David works for Metro - Goldwyn - Mayer Studios, which has a record subsidiary, M-G-M Records, he gave M-G-M first choice. The company made the terrible mistake of turning him down.

"We wanted him to sing. Nothing else. We just couldn't see him directing. We thought we would be cheating," a company executive lamented.

Capitol records accepted David's counter-proposal with a philosophical, "Okay, we'll take a chance on that. What can we lose?"

The company delegated its top arranger, Negro-musician H.B. Barnum, to help David. Barnum soon found out he was dealing with an instinctive musician of great perception.

"Small wonder this, " Barnum said, "after all, David comes from a very musical family.

"His grandfather was an organist and his mother was a professional cellist who actually met her future husband in the orchestra pit. David McCallum sr. is a brilliant violinist who became concertmaster of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Music is in David's blood."

One of David's first jobs as a musician for teenage audiences resulted in a near-riot at New York's Macy's department store.

"I'll never forget it as long as I live," David said.

The second McCallum album will be called A Little Bit More and is exactly what the title implies. There are twelve new compositions, presented in the McCallum sound, and two are original compositions by David.

Somehow, David ha managed to squeeze this work into his busy The Man From U.N.C.L.E. schedule.

If these days you hear a piano playing on an empty M-G-M sound stage, rest assured it's H. B. Barnum, with David at his side. No piano on the gigantic movie lot is safe from this pair.

The rest of the time they work in David's dressing-room. There are sheets of music all over the place. And if you don't know how to get to the place just strain your ear, and you'll hear a man hum, very beautifully. That's David all right.