Richard Hayman, acclaimed Pops arranger

Mr. Hayman conducted orchestras in Detroit, Hartford, Providence, and across North America.
Mr. Hayman conducted orchestras in Detroit, Hartford, Providence, and across North America.

Richard Hayman, a music arranger who helped define the sound and scope of the Boston Pops for about five decades, died Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 93.

Mr. Hayman, who was born in Cambridge and grew up in Arlington, also founded the St. Louis Pops in 1976, leading the group until it disbanded in 2002. He conducted orchestras in Detroit, Hartford, Providence, and across North America.

His role in Boston was considered indispensable to many associated with the Pops.

“Next to Arthur Fiedler, [Mr.] Hayman, through his arrangements, has made the largest single contribution to the success of the Pops,’’ former Pops conductor John Williams told The Boston Globe in 1988.


Current conductor Keith Lockhart said that, in all, Mr. Hayman had arranged more than 400 pieces of music for the Pops.

“No one who has ever written for the Pops understood better how to connect with the audience and imbue this evening with a sense of fun,’’ Lockhart said in a statement.

Mr. Hayman was born on March 27, 1920. His father, Fred, was a telephone lineman, his mother, Gladys, a telephone operator.

But for young Richard, the call of show business rang loudest.

Starting at the age of 6, he began a series of attempts to run away from home, first on roller skates and eventually, as a teen, in a car, he told the Globe in 1980.

“You see,” he said, “I always had this wanderlust in me. I wanted to go West, to California, to be a cowboy in the films. And always I kept on hearing all this music playing around in my head.’’

After high school, the largely self-taught piano and harmonica player joined the popular ensemble Borrah Minnevitch and His Harmonica Rascals.

He eventually did move to Hollywood and worked as an orchestrator for MGM on musicals, including “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Girl Crazy.’’ In the 1950s he was an executive at Mercury Records and made several instrumental records. His rendition of the song “Ruby,” with the harmonica as a lead instrument over an orchestra, became a hit in 1953.


Mr. Hayman, who later in his career became known for his flamboyant sequined outfits, also displayed a subversive streak on stage.

For example, as Red Skelton’s conductor, he would engage in a running series of pranks with the comedian. His replacing Skelton’s prop water with gin would lead to a water fight in the orchestra pit as the show went on.

“The audience was never aware of the pranks,” Mr. Hayman said.

He also conducted for the orchestras accompanying Bob Hope, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, and Barbra Streisand, among dozens of others. He arranged recordings for such stars as Patti Page and Vic Damone.

“He was a colorful guy, a fun personality,” Fred Bronstein, chief executive of the St. Louis Symphony, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “People came for the music, but they also came for Richard.’’

Mr. Hayman had little use for strict musical genres or hierarchies. “Music is music if it tells the right story,” he once told The New York Times. “It doesn’t matter if it is Bach or rock.”

Mr. Hayman leaves his wife of 53 years, Maryellen, of North Palm Beach, Fla.; and two daughters, Suzy Hayman DeYoung of Newtown, Conn., and Olivia Hayman-Kidney of West Palm Beach, Fla.


Material from The New York Times was used in this obituary.