Muppets band leader Parnell dies

As music director for ATV conducted London Palladium shows

“The Muppets Show” band leader Jack Parnell died Aug. 8 in London of cancer. He was 87.

Parnell was never seen on “The Muppets.” Instead Jim Henson worked the puppet Nigel as the band leader.

Born John Russell Parnell in a showbiz family, Parnell made his pro debut at age 16 in Scarborough, U.K.

World War II interrupted his career, and he went into the Royal Air Force in 1940, playing with military bands for the next four years.

After the war, Parnell turned to conducting music, but with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll and the decline of big bands, he became musical director for Associated Television. During his 26 years with ATV, he conducted more than 2,500 shows, including its flagship “Sunday Night at the London Palladium.” He conducted many of the top singers of the period and won an Emmy in 1973 for a special with Barbra Streisand.

Parnell was also the music director for “The Benny Hill Show” and composed the theme songs for such Brit series as “Golden Shot,” “Family Fortunes” and “Love Story.”

Survivors include his wife, Veronica; three sons; and two daughters.

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