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Date Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 02:56:36pm
In reply to: Hot Butter 's message, "David Joseph Mullaney - Recorded the song Popcorn" on Tuesday, April 10, 02:45:24pm

CADILLAC — David Joseph Mullaney wasn't a fan of pop music — which he didn't consider to be music as much as noise — until he heard The Beatles.

The rest is history.

Mullaney, who was a prolific song and jingle writer in New York during the 1970s and 1980s, recently passed away in Cadillac.


Mullaney was born on October 10, 1931, in New York City. In the midst of the Great Depression, he was discovered in a basket on a church pew and lived for his first five years at the New York Foundling Home.

He was adopted at age 5 by Patrick and Catherine (née Ronayne) Mullaney and was raised in the borough of Staten Island.

He studied mechanical engineering at the Cooper Union in Manhattan but decided at a young age to follow his dream of becoming a musician.

A self-taught jazz accordion player, Mullaney began his career in music with strong opinions on what it meant to be a good, technical musician.

His son, Jan Fairchild, remembers that when his father heard The Beatles, his opinions softened a bit.

"There was a shift," Fairchild said. "I think he recognized the musicality of the group."

From there, Mullaney began his career writing, arranging and recording pop music for a variety of bands, companies and the U.S. government.

He was a vice president of Laurie Records, and was a successful musical arranger for Dion (“Abraham, Martin, and John"), the Royal Guardsmen (“Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron"), and Melanie (“Look What They’ve Done to My Song"), among others.

He also scored music for film, television and commercials, for which he won several Cleo awards.

Fairchild said his father became good friends with famed movie composer Ennio Morricone and helped write the score for the Clint Eastwood film, "Two Mules for Sister Sara."

Under the pseudonym Christopher Scott, he recorded an early electronic music album, “Switched-On Bacharach" in 1969. His band Hot Butter recorded "Popcorn" — a Top 10 hit in 1972.

In 2016, Rolling Stone magazine listed "Popcorn" among the 20 songs that defined the 1970s.

"The world's first primarily electronic pop hit — and kernel of a future fractal universe of synthetic sonic materials — was composed by Gershon Kingsley," wrote Rolling Stone contributors Keith Harris and Richard Gehr. "The German-American composer discovered the melody while noodling on a Bach improvisation and released it on 1969's "Music to Moog By" ... His percolating earworm didn't take off until Hot Butter, featuring First Moog Quartet member Stan Free, covered it in 1972. It took off in a Paris disco and went on to inspire renditions by Aphex Twin, Muse and Crazy Frog."


Growing up with his father as a music teacher "wasn't the easiest thing in the world," joked Jan, who also became a professional musician and producer, working with such notable acts as Gladys Knight, Mos Def and Justin Timberlake.

On one occasion, Jan recalls his father pushing him to perfect a part on a song they were recording together with leading session guitar player Vinnie Bell.

"Vinnie at one point said, 'Back off Dave, he's doing a good job,'" Jan laughed.

Jan said musicians widely respected and liked Mullaney, who became the station manager of radio station WKJF when he moved to Cadillac in 1988.

Upon retirement, he volunteered with Meals on Wheels and was proudly active in the Wexford County Democratic Party.

"My dad was pretty private about his life as a musician, and always referred to it as a past life," said daughter Megan Mullaney-Nowland. "But, he would share some stories of the people he had worked with, like Melanie. My Dad and I saw her perform at Blissfest years ago, and we got to visit with her after her set. It was neat for him to see people he's worked with years later."

Megan remembers her father always playing music in the house when she and her brothers were growing up.

"Music runs deep in our family, including my brothers knowing how to play several instruments, to myself being a radio DJ for many years," she said. "I've been learning more and more about my dad, even after his passing. It's neat that The Beatles played such a strong influence in his life, and 'All You Need is Love' was a big part of my wedding. I'm very thankful my dad was able to walk me down the aisle. Being the youngest and only girl, I'll always cherish all the memories we've made."

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FindRory BTuesday, April 10, 04:22:51pm
  • "Popcorn" -- Hot Butter, Tuesday, April 10, 04:41:20pm


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