Robert Drasnin

Listen to “Voodoo”

Robert Drasnin

1927-2015, Charleston, Kanawha County

Few musicians had the opportunity and skill to cover as much ground as Robert Drasnin. His credits included stints in classic combos and big bands like Red Norvo, Skinny Ennis, Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown, and his 1959 release “Voodoo” remains a classic of the “exotica” genre and was re-released to critical acclaim in 1996. Drasnin also arranged Martin Denny’s Latin Village LP.

Born in Charleston, Drasnin was raised in Los Angeles. Starting out an alto sax player, he later switched to flute. After the early 1950s, he worked primarily as a studio musician and arranger. He earned a Master’s in composition at UCLA and became an associate conductor of the UCLA Symphony. In 1966, he scored CBS Playhouse’s Death of a Salesman which was produced by David Suskind. During that period he also scored 26 made-for-TV movies, 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 shows including Lost in Space, The Wild, Wild West and Mission: Impossible. He and Gerald Fried handled most of the scoring work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. after Lalo Schifrin left.

In the mid-’90s, he began touring with guitarist/archivist/arranger Skip Heller and, along with Heller and ex-X drummer D.J. Bonebrake, recorded an album of standards in a film noir style under the title of The Blue Dahlias in 1997. He issued Voodoo II in 2007 and supported the release with select live shows around the country. Drasnin continued to teach film and music composition at UCLA.