Walter Heebner, veteran record producer who worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Shirley Temple and the Count Basie Orchestra, died of cancer Feb. 10 in Burbank, Calif. He was 84.
Pennsylvania native played sax at age 9 and four years later was playing in a ballroom orchestra three nights a week. Temple U. grad was hired in 1940 by RCA Victor in New York and sent to Hollywood as the company’s A&R director. In 1950 he left it to produce “The Spade Cooley Show,” broadcast live from the Santa Monica Pier ballroom. After three years with the show, he returned to New York and moved to Capitol Records’ Custom Division, where he created a library that included an eight-hour repertoire of musical cues still in use today.
Heebner also wrote the words and music for 20 songs, including “Purple Islands” and “Eternally,” recorded in the 1950s.
One of his greatest achievements was transferring the master tapes of 500 vintage classical music piano rolls from the early 20th century to stereo analog. The recordings captured the original performances by Paderewski, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel and others.
He is survived by wife, Claire, four daughters and four grandchildren.