Ferrante & Teicher - Biography
By J Poet
Ferrante & Teicher became legendary for their florid arrangements of movie music themes, but they actually started their career as serious avant-garde pianists and composers, influenced largely by John Cage. When they accidentally got a pop hit in 1959 with “The Theme from The Apartment” they changed their style and became genuine pop stars. They sold over 20 million albums in their 60s heyday, and retired to Florida in 1989. When the space age lounge music revival started in the 90s, they released Denizens of the Deep (2001 Varese Sarabande), which was actually their first recording from 1950, which went unreleased at the time due to its perceived lack of commercial potential. Louis Teicher passed on in 2008 at the age of 87.
Louis Teicher was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up in New York City. He was a keyboard prodigy and Graduated with an advanced degree from the Juilliard School of Music. At Juilliard he met Arthur Ferrante, another young prodigy. By 1943 they were teaching at Juilliard and they began performing as a classical duo in 1947. They played about 100 gigs a year, at their soon to be famous twin pianos, with a repertoire that included serious classical pieces and their own avant-garde compositions for “treated piano.” By jamming cardboard wedges and rubber stops under the strings, or laying sandpaper, brass pipes, glass and other objects on top of the strings of the piano, they produced a panoply of odd and interesting sounds. The treated piano works of John Cage influenced their early work, but they had their own unique sound. Their avant-garde hi-fi albums include Hi-Fireworks (1953 Columbia), Soundproof (1956 Westminster), Soundblast (1956 Westminster) and Blast Off (1959 ABC). They also made a series of straight classical records like Rachmaninoff Two-Piano Suites (1955 Westminster) and Ravel/Debussy (1955 Westminster). Their early concerts were in gymnasiums, museums, churches, and concert halls and most of what they made was eaten up by the cost of moving their two pianos in and out of the venues. They were barely getting by.
In 1959, their ABC producer, Don Costa, moved to United Artists and got Ferrante and Teicher signed by his new label. Costa was sent the scores from United Artists films and thought The Apartment theme would sound good played on twin pianos. The “Theme from The Apartment” single went to #10 on the charts and the album Theme from The Apartment (1960 United Artists) was a best seller. At their next gigs, they found people lined up around the block to hear them, but when they played their classical pieces the crowds got restless. They had to change gears and come up with a program of pop music, which they did. They started dressing alike, donning flashy tuxedos, horn rim glasses and wigs. They added dramatic flourishes to their performances, did comedy bits in between songs and billed themselves as The Grand Twins of the Twin Grands.
Their bookings increased and their salaries skyrocketed. Their United Artists contract called for at least three albums a year, but they often recorded more. They stayed with UA until 1979 and made a string of best selling albums featuring their twin pianos and lush orchestration including Latin Pianos (1960 United Artists), West Side Story (1961 United Artists) which included the #8 hit “Tonight”, Golden Themes From Motion Pictures (1962 United Artists), Pianos In Paradise (1962 United Artists), Love Themes From Cleopatra (1963 United Artists), Holiday For Pianos (1963 United Artists), Fifty Fabulous Favorites (1964 United Artists), which crammed 50 tunes into ten medleys, My Fair Lady (1964 United Artists), Springtime (1964 United Artists), By Popular Demand (1965 United Artists), For Lovers Of All Ages (1966 United Artists) You Asked For It! (1966 United Artists), We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1966 United Artists), A Man & A Woman (1967 United Artists), In the Heat Of The Night (1967 United Artists), The Painted Desert (1968 United Artists), Love In The Generation Gap (1968 United Artists), Listen To the Movies With Ferrante & Teicher (1969 United Artists) and Midnight Cowboy (1969 United Artists) which included a #10 pop hit of the “Midnight Cowboy Theme”.
In the 70s their recording pace continued, although they had fewer best sellers. They stayed with United Artists until 19789 and made Getting Together (1970), Love Is A Soft Touch (1970), The Music Lovers (1971) Fiddler On The Roof (1972), Ferrante & Teicher Play The Hit Themes (1972), Ferrante & Teicher Salute Nashville (1972), The Roaring Twenties (1973), Killing Me Softly (1974) Dial "M" For Music (1974), Greatest Love Themes of the 20th Century (1974), In A Soulful Mood (1975), The Carpenters Songbook (1976) Fill the World With Love (1976), Piano Portraits (1977), Rocky & Other Knockouts (1977), Star Wars (1978), Supermen (1979) and Classical Disco (1979), light classics like “Saber dance” and “The Wedding March” played over a throbbing disco beat.
In 1979 they started their own label, Avante Garde, distributed by Bainbridge Entertainment, the title perhaps an ironic nod at their early days as serious pianists. The recordings, most of them of live shows, include 30th Anniversary - On Stage (1984 Avant-Garde), A Few Of Our Favorites - On Stage (1985 Avant-Garde) American Fantasy - On Stage (1986 Avant-Garde) and Dos Amigos (1988 Avant-Garde). They stopped performing and retired in 1989, setting up homes near each other in Sarasota, Florida. When the space age lounge music revival started in the 90s, they released Denizens of the Deep (2001 Varese Sarabande), which was actually their first recording from 1950, which went unreleased at the time due to its perceived lack of commercial potential. Louis Teicher passed on in 2008 at the age of 87.