Saturday, October 13, 2007

another Mahlon Clark obituary

Here's a sweet obit, from a hometown angle, on the late Mahlon Clark. Good to know he had Southern roots, even though Virginia is up "nawth" to this Louisiana girl.

Post Script: Even among the stars, Virginia put a twinkle in his eye

By JIM WASHINGTON, The Virginian-Pilot
© October 2, 2007


You've heard Mahlon Clark's work, even if you don't know his name.

Think of the toodling clarinet in Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk."

If you ever watched an Elvis Presley or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie, or enjoyed the Frank Sinatra albums "In the Wee Small Hours" and "Songs for Swingin' Lovers," you know what he can do.

That's not to mention his performances with Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Lawrence Welk, Dolly Parton and Madonna, and his work on movies and TV shows like "Dragnet," "Adam-12," "Dick Tracy," "Rear Window" and "When Harry Met Sally."

Clark died Sept. 20 in Van Nuys, Calif. He was 84.

A Portsmouth native, Clark launched his music career after graduating from Wilson High School in 1939, eventually rising to the top of the jazz world in Hollywood.

"My dad knew he was different growing up," said Julie Clark De Blasio, one of Clark's daughters. "Music was his passion. That was his true calling. There was no other choice."

As a teen, Clark spent more than a year touring the country with several big bands. On the road, he met a big-band singer named Imogene Lynn. They got married and moved to California when Clark enlisted in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

After the war, Clark signed a contract with Paramount Studios, where he played music for dozens of movies and television shows. He did numerous studio recordings with Dean Martin, Fitzgerald, Sinatra and Elvis.

The latter two giants didn't interact much with musicians, he told his daughter later, but he did get the occasional wink or thumbs up from The King after a session.

Later, Clark joined the Lawrence Welk orchestra. He and Lynn had divorced by then, and he met and married Kathy Lennon. She was one of the four Lennon Sisters, the family group that performed on the Welk show.

Clark continued working into the '80s, collaborating with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Madonna.

"He didn't really know who they were," his daughter said.

Clark returned occasionally to Portsmouth to perform. According to his daughter, he remembered Virginia fondly in the waning weeks of his life.

"He really liked going back there," she said. "He loved the Atlantic seaboard, the slower pace of life and the Southern hospitality. That was his home."

Jim Washington, (757) 446-2536,



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Anonymous said...

I had great respect for Mahlon Clark, but there is a lot of misinformation on his marriage to Kathy Lennon. She herself refrained from writing about the marriage, referring to Mahlon as "one of the musicians in the Lawrence Welk band" and saying "I have respected his request by not mentioning his name...." (Same Song Separate Voices, 1st ed.) Kathy stated she fell in love in 1966, and magazines at the time reported Mahlon did not receive his final divorce decree until January 3, 1967. In their autobiography, they wrote of their break with Mr. Welk, saying, "After much discussion, we chose not to relate certain matters. Several are personal, and revealing them would only serve to reopen wounds better left healed...." I have always wondered if Kathy's romance and marriage to Mahlon was one of those things left unsaid.

Anonymous said...

They left alot out about Janet and her second marriage. They were married a couple of months after her divorce was finalized.