November 17, 1927: Composer and Performer Robert Drasnin Born in Charleston

Nov 17, 2017

Robert Drasnin performing at the 2009 West Virginia Music Hall of Fame ceremony
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Michael Keller

Composer and performer Robert Drasnin was born in Charleston on November 17, 1927. His parents were Eastern European immigrants who met while working at a munitions factory in Nitro, about 15 miles west of Charleston.

When Drasnin was 10, his family moved to California. In high school, he played sax and clarinet in an all-star band that provided music for Hoagy Carmichael’s NBC radio show. He also performed with big band leaders Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown. His 1959 solo release, Voodoo, remains a classic of the “exotica” genre.

After that album, Drasnin worked primarily as a studio musician and arranger. In the late 1960s, he wrote the scores for CBS Playhouse’s Death of a Salesman along with 26 made-for-television movies and two feature films: John Huston’s The Kremlin Letter and an early Jack Nicholson western, Ride in the Whirlwind. He eventually became musical director for CBS television, where he scored the shows Lost in Space, The Wild, Wild West, and Mission: Impossible.