Duane Tatro, Composer for ‘Dynasty,’ ‘Love Boat’ and Other TV Series, Dies at 93

Tatro was highly regarded for his 1956 album "Jazz for Moderns" as well as for subsequent decades of work scoring shows from "The Invaders" to "Barnaby Jones."

film tv jazz composer duane tatro
Courtesy of the Tatro Family

Duane L. Tatro, who composed for nearly two dozen TV series, including such long-running hits as “Dynasty,” “The Love Boat” and “Barnaby Jones,” died Sunday at his home in Bell Canyon, Calif. He was 93.

Tatro’s music accompanied the action on “The FBI,” “Mannix,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Cade’s County,” “Cannon,” “Most Wanted,” “Vega$” and “Matt Houston,” as well as the comedy of “M*A*S*H” and the romantic melodrama of “Glitter,” “The Colbys” and “Hotel.” His first series was the sci-fi thriller “The Invaders” in 1967, and he worked steadily in TV for the next two decades.

He got to compose the series theme for just one show: Quinn Martin’s period detective drama “The Manhunter,” which lasted a single season in 1974-75.

Tatro was born in Van Nuys on May 18, 1927. The son of an inventor, he played saxophone with Stan Kenton’s big band while he was just 16 years old. He served in the Navy near the end of World War II and, after his discharge in 1946, studied music at the University of Southern California.

He continued his musical studies in Paris with leading classical composers Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud. He also led jazz bands in Paris and elsewhere in Europe in the late 1940s. Back in the States in the 1950s and ’60s, he continued his studies at USC and with modernist composer George Tremblay.

Tatro’s 1956 album “Jazz for Moderns” — which featured such notable soloists as Lennie Niehaus on alto sax, Bill Holman on tenor and Shelly Manne on drums — was acclaimed as a breakthrough for applying a sophisticated compositional approach to big-band swing. He also contributed a piece, “Rubricity,” to Red Norvo’s 1957 album “Music to Listen to Red Norvo By,” and wrote “Sally IV” for Kenton’s Neophonic Orchestra in 1966.

Quinn Martin Productions music supervisor John Elizalde added Tatro to the roster of “Invaders” composers after a recommendation by the composer’s longtime friend and fellow composer Richard Markowitz (“The Wild Wild West”). An “Invaders” soundtrack album, including suites from all six of his scores, was released last year.

Tatro also scored a number of TV movies including “The House on Greenapple Road” (1970), “Paper Man” (1971), “The FBI Story: The FBI Versus Alvin Karpis, Public Enemy Number One” (1974), “Keefer” (1978) and “Deadly Deception” (1987). He also composed music for the National Geographic special “Australia: The Timeless Land” in 1969.

“All of the 20th century techniques of composition that I’ve been exposed to, I’ve been able to use in those shows,” Tatro said in a 1992 interview about his TV work. “Not every cue, but there were always two or three spots where you could give vent to your imagination. Sometimes they were very experimental, but those were the very things that brought you back to compose the next episode.”

Tatro also composed a number of concert works for orchestral wind ensemble and chamber groups, as well as electronic pieces, throughout the 1970s and ’80s. He lectured on 20th century music and composing for film at both San Diego State and New Mexico State Universities.

A respected member of the arranging community, he served for 19 years on the board of directors of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) beginning in 1998. He served as its vice president for 15 of those years.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Francoise, his sons Tim and Mitch, and his daughter Michelle, along with six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.