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Date Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 04:27:23pm
Hugo Mario Montenegro (September 2, 1925 – February 6, 1981) was an American orchestra leader and composer of film soundtracks. His best known work is derived from interpretations of the music from Spaghetti Westerns, especially his cover version of Ennio Morricone's main theme from the 1966 film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He composed the musical score for the 1969 Western Charro! which starred Elvis Presley.
Montenegro was born in New York City in 1925. He served in the U.S. Navy for two years, mostly as an arranger for the Newport Naval Base band in Newport, Rhode Island. After the war he attended Manhattan College while studying composition and leading his own band for school dances.
In the middle 1950s, he was directing, conducting, and arranging the orchestra for Eliot Glen and Irving Spice on their Dragon and Caprice labels. It was he who was directing the Glen-Spice Orchestra on Dion DiMucci's first release when Dion was backed by Dragon recording artists, the Timberlanes. Released on Mohawk #105 in 1957, the songs were "Out In Colorado" and "The Chosen Few", which were soon issued on the Jubilee label for better distribution.
He was later hired by Time Records as a musical director producing a series of albums for the label, and moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s where he began working for RCA Victor, producing a series of albums and soundtracks for motion pictures and television themes, such as two volumes of Music From The Man From U.N.C.L.E., an album of cover versions of spy music themes Come Spy With Me and an album of cover versions of Ennio Morricone's music for the Clint Eastwood The Man With No Name series of spaghetti Westerns that led to major chart hits.
Montenegro began scoring motion pictures with the instrumental music from Advance to the Rear in 1964. Following the success of his albums, he was contracted by Columbia Pictures where he scored such films as Hurry Sundown (1967), Lady in Cement (1968), The Undefeated (1969), Viva Max! (1969) and the Matt Helm films The Ambushers (1967) and The Wrecking Crew (1968). He composed the musical score and conducted the recording sessions for the 1969 Elvis Presley Western film Charro! (1969), and he provided some incidental music for the cult 1970 British film Toomorrow. His last film scores were for the exploitation film Too Hot to Handle and the cult action thrillerThe Farmer, in 1977.
The Cult action thriller "The Farmer" (1977) with Montenegro's chilling electronic music score earned an X rating until producer/director David Berlatsky had the review board review the film again without the music score and the rating was changed from X to R, which allowed Columbia pictures to distribute the film for 17 years. The music rights in order to release a DVD sale could not be obtained as the estate could not be found, the score is considered "lost".
Montenegro was also contracted to Columbia's television production company Screen Gems where he is most famous for his theme from the second season of the television series I Dream of Jeannie, his theme song "Seattle" and music from Here Come the Brides and The Outcasts. He also composed the music for the long running "The Partridge Family," (1970). During the mid‑60s he started producing some of the most renowned works from the space age pop era, featuring electronics and rock in albums such as Moog Power and Mammy Blue.
Montenegro's electronic works were decisive and influential for the future generations of electronic musicians, giving a retro/futuristic edge by the use of the Moog synthesizer, and helped to push its popularity. He will be also remembered by his versions of classics such as the main theme to Sergio Leone's film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, originally composed by Ennio Morricone. This was Montenegro's biggest pop hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, #3 in the Canadian RPM Magazine charts, and spending four weeks atop the UK Singles Chart in 1968. It sold over one and a quarter million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
His version of the main theme from Hang 'em High reached #59 in Canada. In 1968, his hit "Aces High" placed at #11 on the Billboard Year End Chart of the Top Hits of 1968.
In the late 1970s severe emphysema forced an end to his musical career, and he died of the disease in 1981. He is buried at Welwood Murray Cemetery in Palm Springs, California.
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