David Lucas (composer)

David Lucas
David Lucas, 1989
David Lucas, 1989
Background information
Birth name David Helfman
Born April 21, 1937 (1937-04-21) (age 74)
Buffalo, New York
Genres Rock and roll
Occupations Composer, singer, and producer
Years active 1941–present
Website davidlucasmusic.com

David Lucas (born David Helfman,[1] April 21, 1937) is an American rock and roll composer, singer, and music producer. He has written a number of well-known commercial jingles, such as AT&T's "Reach out and touch someone". In 1981, he received a Clio Award for composing the music to Pepsi's "Catch that Pepsi spirit". As a record producer, he worked with many new artists such as Blue Öyster Cult. On the 1976 Blue Öyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper", which he co-produced, he sang backup vocals and came up with the idea for using a cowbell, which became a catchphrase in 2000 when it was parodied by Christopher Walken in a "More cowbell" skit on Saturday Night Live. In June 2011, Lucas was inducted into Buffalo's Music Hall of Fame.



Early years (1930s–1960s)

Lucas was born David Helfman on April 21, 1937 in Buffalo, New York. By the age of four, he was singing with his parents in the Buffalo area, both at venues and on local radio.[2] He briefly attended Bennett High School in Buffalo, where he sang in the choir,[3] and then in 1951 transferred to Miami Beach Senior High School, graduating in 1955.[4]

At the age of nineteen, Lucas started promoting records, choosing artists such as the young Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Sam Cooke, and The Everly Brothers, and encouraging local DJs to play their music.[1] He continued with record promotion until he was drafted into the United States Army, after which he moved to Miami Beach, where he was a social director and performer at the Attache Hotel.[1] He made ends meet by selling vacuum cleaners during the day, and attending night school to learn about mutual funds.[1] While in Miami, he met jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich,[1][5] and joined him for a world tour, after which Lucas moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a songwriter and producer. In Las Vegas, he sang at the Sahara Hotel, where he was noticed by popular singer Doris Day, who was impressed, and signed Lucas to her record label, Arwin Records.[1] Lucas then recorded "So Until I See You", a song by composer Al Lerner which became the closing theme for Jack Paar's The Tonight Show.[1][6][7]

Lucas then moved to New York City where he took various odd jobs, including becoming a sound engineer for his cousin,[8] jazz musician and jingle-writer Don Elliott, working with artists such as Laura Nyro, Ravi Shankar (produced by Timothy Leary), Tim Rose, Cass Elliot, Jimmy Smith, Bill Evans, Mel Tormé, and Terry Gibbs. In 1964 he joined a quintet formed by Dave Lambert, "Lambert and Co." This quintet, though it never recorded any albums, was notable because it became the subject of a 15-minute documentary by D. A. Pennebaker (later famous for working with Bob Dylan), called Audition at RCA.[9] The scenes in the documentary were some of the last images recorded of Lambert, who, in 1966, was killed in an auto accident.[10]

Jingle writer (1960s–1970s)

In the late 1960s, Lucas began writing his own commercial jingle melodies, such as Macleans Toothpaste.[1] He eventually passed off his engineer job at his cousin's studio to Jay Messina, and opened his own company, David Lucas Associates, to write jingles fulltime. In 1969, Quincy Jones introduced Lucas to Cy Coleman, who signed him to Coleman's Notable Music Publishing Company.[1]

Along with writing jingles, Lucas continued with other projects as well. He was hired by Ahmet Ertegun as musical director for an early rock and roll musical, Tom Sanky's The Golden Screw, which played at the Provincetown Playhouse and won the 1967 Obie Award for Sankey's concept, writing, and performing.[11] Lucas also used an early Moog synthesizer to compose music for William Claxton's film Basic Black, a work that is credited as the first "fashion video" and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[12][13] He produced the first recordings of the blues band Raven, enabling them to secure a contract with Columbia Records.[14] He composed the songs "Tell Me a Story" and "Blood" for The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (the first movie by actor Don Johnson) and also composed the theme music for the 1970s children's series, Jabberwocky, a show which remained in syndication for decades.[1]

In 1973, Lucas formed a new partnership with Tom McFaul, and they took an unusual step for jingle writers, founding their own studio.[15] Situated in an old spice warehouse, they called it the Warehouse Recording Studio, and it hosted such artists as Paul McCartney[5][16] and Charlie Brown.[17] They employed a dozen people,[3][18] and Lucas composed and produced hundreds of jingles[18] for many national brands,[19] and McFaul created the "Meow" theme for Meow Mix.[5] Notable jingles Lucas wrote included AT&T's "Reach Out and Touch Someone";[20][21] Pepsi's "Catch That Pepsi Spirit"[20][22] and "Pepsi's got your taste for life";[3] "You look like you just heard from Dean Witter";[18] "Kentucky Fried Chicken Does Chicken Right";[3] Coca Cola's "You Can't Beat The Feeling" (co-written with Jayne Critelli);[23] "Give Your Cold To Contac";[21] "Lipton puts Summer on Ice";[24] and a jingle for Mercury Cougar.[25][21][26] In 1979, New York Magazine referred to Lucas and McFaul as "Jingle Giants", two out of a handful of jingle writers, saying, "Two out of three major commercial jingles are written by the elite group."[5]

Blue Öyster Cult (1970s)

In 1971, Lucas produced a four-song demo for the band Stalk-Forrest Group, which led to them being signed by Columbia's Clive Davis as Blue Öyster Cult.[16][27] Lucas produced their first album at his Warehouse studio, and worked with them later as co-producer for their 1976 album Agents of Fortune, including the song, "Don't Fear the Reaper".[28] "Reaper" became a huge hit, and is listed at number 405 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 500 songs of all time.[29] In it, Lucas sang background vocals and came up with the idea for adding a cowbell to the mix.[30] This choice became legendary when it was parodied by Christopher Walken in a Saturday Night Live "More cowbell" comedy sketch on April 8, 2000.[31][30][32]

Current projects (1990s–present)

David Lucas, 2008

In 1998, Lucas sold the Warehouse and moved back to Miami where he built a studio and is continuing to write songs and jingles. In 2010, Lucas wrote the song "Inside my Heart", which was sung by actress Kyra Sedgwick for The Miracle Project of Hollywood to benefit autism.[33]

Also an avid sailor,[34] Lucas once owned a yacht built by David Macfarlane, the head of Alden Yachts, that was used in the company's advertisements.[35][36] In 1985, Lucas refined a recipe of his grandfather's and developed a brand of cocktail mix, "Bob's No Problem, Bloody Mary maker". The brand launched nationally in 2010.[37][38]

Lucas has four grown children. Lisa Lucas, a well-known and award-nominated child actress in the 1970s,[39] played "Addie Mills" in several CBS holiday specials,[40][41][42] and became a journalist as an adult.[1] Jason Lucas is a composer and producer in Nashville,[33][43] Cristopher Lucas is a composer and performer in Idaho, and David Lucas's youngest daughter, Lindsay Lucas, is a singer and performer in Boston, who as of 2011, is attending the Berklee College of Music.[44][45] According to his website, Lucas spends a great deal of time in Jamaica, sailing and working on environmental projects, such as trying to save Winnifred Beach. He is also working on a musical with co-writer Jayne Critelli, a staff writer/singer from Lucas/McFaul in the 1980s.[1][23]


Lucas has won Clio awards for his composing music for commercials for AT&T (1980, Best Television/Cinema), Pepsi Cola's "Catch that Pepsi Spirit" (1981, U.S. Radio, Clio Winner), and Coca-Cola's "Masquerade on Skis" (Television/Cinema, Special Citation, 1969).[22] In 2010, Lucas was recognized at the 35th annual Friends of Old Time Radio Convention, with an award for his contributions to the Golden Age of Radio.[46] In June 2011, Lucas was inducted into the Buffalo, New York Music Hall of Fame.[32][47][48]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "David Lucas - Biography". David Lucas Music. http://davidlucasmusic.com/bio.html. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ "David Lucas celebrated for contributions to musical contribution and production". Cambridge Who's Who. March 8, 2010. http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/david-lucas-celebrated-for-contributions-to-musical-composition-and-production-140331.php. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Songs That Sell" (video). PM Magazine. c. 1985. 
  4. ^ Leibowitz, Debra K. (July 4, 2010). "Miami Beach High Class of 1955 gets together". Miami Herald. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gorfain, Louis (April 23, 1979). "Jingle Giants". New York Magazine. http://books.google.com/books?id=IeECAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=%22david+lucas%22+buddy+rich%22&source=bl&ots=jJQuCLEEKH&sig=YG1woV3uv8vnxY0zorBCuWNwOXo&hl=en&ei=J5vtTcrfAeHe0QGpyZiPCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBA. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  6. ^ "45 Discography for Arwin Records". Global Dog Productions. 2005. http://www.globaldogproductions.info/a/arwin.html. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Al Lerner profile". songsforfilmandtv.com. http://www.songsforfilmandtv.com/profile/allerner. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Don Elliott, Biography". Vietnam Jazz. http://www.vietnamjazz.com/index.php?do=/public/music/musician/id_189/. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  9. ^ Pennebaker, D.A. (1964). "The Audition" (video). Pennebaker Hegedus Films. http://www.phfilms.com/index.php/phf/film/lambert_co/. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  10. ^ Myers, Marc (May 31, 2011). "Dave Lambert: Audition at RCA". JazzWax. http://www.jazzwax.com/2011/05/dave-lambert.html. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ "David Lucas". The Lortel Archives - The Internet Off-Broadway Database. http://www.lortel.org/lla_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=David&middle=&last=Lucas. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  12. ^ Holley, Joe (October 15, 2008). "William J. Claxton, 80, - Made 'Jazz for the Eyes'". Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Apodaca, Rose (March 18, 2009). "A R.I.P. Roaring Tribute to William Claxton". http://www.roseapodaca.com/2009/03/a-rip-roaring-tribute-to-william-claxton.html. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ Angelo, Marty. "Raven". http://www.martyangelo.com/raven1.htm. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  15. ^ Carlton, William. "Jingles, a gold rush". Buffalo Evening News. 
  16. ^ a b Glassenberg, Bob (January 15, 1972). "Studio Track". Billboard. http://books.google.com/books?id=uigEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA8&dq=billboard+%22david+lucas+warehouse%22&hl=en&ei=goJGTpHwHPOBsgKA5ISSCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=billboard%20%22david%20lucas%20warehouse%22&f=false. 
  17. ^ Glassenberg, Bob (November 27, 1971). "Studio Track". Billboard. http://books.google.com/books?id=QA8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA10&dq=%22studio+track%22+%22david+lucas%22#v=onepage&q=%22studio%20track%22%20%22david%20lucas%22&f=false. Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b c Shea, Veronica (November 20, 1980). (pdf)The Circle (Marist College) 25 (9): p. 1. 
  19. ^ "Biography of Thomas G. McFaul". tommcfaul.com. May 11, 2011. http://www.tommcfaul.com/bio/. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ a b Henry, William A. III; Martinez, Demetria (August 17, 1981). "Show Business: Mirror, Mirror, on the Tube". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,949354,00.html. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b c Stereo Review (Ziff-Davis) 43: p. 60. 1979. 
  22. ^ a b "Clio Archive". http://www.clioawards.com/archive/results.cfm. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "Jayne Critelli: Jingles and Songs". Jayne Critelli. 2009. http://www.jaynecritelli.com/music/jingles.html. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  24. ^ Kenzik, Debbie (July 18, 1970). "Selling Sounds". Billboard. 
  25. ^ Television Editorial Corp. (1976). Television/radio age. 24. p. 47. 
  26. ^ "Radio-TV programming". Billboard: p. 33. June 27, 1970. "WOR air personality Jack O'Brian keyed in on the music world in a recent show. Visiting the New York station for the program were some leading music men. From left: O'Brian, songwriter Jerry Ragavoy, record producer David Lucas, music supervisor Gary Sherman" 
  27. ^ "Signings". Billboard. December 4, 1971. "Blue Oyster Cult to Columbia. David Lucas co-produced with Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman at the Warehouse Recording Studio, N.Y."" 
  28. ^ "Blue Oyster Cult bios". Blue Oyster Cult. http://www.blueoystercult.com/Studio/SWbios.html#Lucas. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  29. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: #405, Blue Oyster Cult, 'Don't Fear the Reaper'". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407/blue-oeyster-cult-dont-fear-the-reaper-19691231. Retrieved May 30, 2011. 
  30. ^ a b "He Really Did Want That Cowbell". Just my Show: Retro Pop Culture Podcast. July 15, 2011. http://justmyshow.com/he-really-did-want-that-cowbell. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  31. ^ "David Lucas Music – Biography". davidlucasmusic.com. http://davidlucasmusic.com/bio.html. Retrieved May 29, 2011. "Lucas sings the background vocals and is the one who played the now famous cowbell" 
  32. ^ a b George, Eli (June 30, 2011). "Blue Oyster Cult cowbell ringer honored". WIVB-TV. http://www.wivb.com/dpp/entertainment/music/Blue-Oyster-Cult-cowbell-ringer-honored. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  33. ^ a b "Kyra Sedgwick sings for the Miracle Project". April 2010. http://www.monstanash.com/Site/Home.html. Retrieved June 4, 2011. "Kyra Sedgwick, award-winning actress from TV’s “The Closer” and wife of Kevin Bacon, sings on a Jason Lucas production for The Miracle Project of Hollywood to benefit Autism. It’s a masterpiece song, co-written by David Lucas (Jason’s Father) and Diane Sillan and arranged by the renowned Doug Katsaros." 
  34. ^ Burns, Valerie; Sillan, Diane. "On Blackbeard's Trail". Cruising Yachtsman. http://www.cepheidvariable.com/etc/blackbeard/press.html. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  35. ^ Aehl, John (August 23, 1992). "It's not a typical family outing < Kays spend spare time on the seas". Wisconsin State Journal. 
  36. ^ Tillotson-Pearson, Inc. (September 1982). "Alden 44". Yachting: p. inside cover. 
  37. ^ "Bob's No Problem Bloody Mary Maker Brand ID". Behance. http://www.behance.net/gallery/Bobs-No-Problem-Bloody-Mary-Maker-Brand-ID-Site/1163423. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Bob's No Problem: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". Bobsnoproblem.com. https://bobsnoproblem.com/?page_id=38. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  39. ^ "Films on Vietnam pace awards". The Day. December 18, 1978. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KOwgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=G3IFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1243,4216390&dq=lisa-lucas+unmarried-woman+best-picture&hl=en. 
  40. ^ "Girl's desire for tree tugs at heart strings". Herald-Journal. December 22, 1999. 
  41. ^ Bianco, Robert (December 1, 2008). "Lords a-leaping! A top 10 for the holidays". USA Today. 
  42. ^ Arnold, Gary (April 5, 1978). "After Love Loses Its Bloom". Washington Post. 
  43. ^ "Jason Lucas's page". Nashville Music Pros. http://www.nashvillemusicpros.com/profile/JasonLucas. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Lindsay Lucas". ReverbNation.com. http://www.reverbnation.com/lindsaylucas. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  45. ^ "News". David Lucas Music. 2011. http://davidlucasmusic.com/news.html. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  46. ^ "David Lucas receives Friends of Old Time Radio award". Radio. November 11, 2010. http://radiomagonline.com/currents/people/david-lucas-friends-old-time-radio-award-1111/. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  47. ^ "Buffalo Music Hall of Fame News". Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. http://www.buffalomusic.org/news.html. Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  48. ^ "Buffalo Music Hall of Fame's Class of 2011". YNN. July 27, 2011. 

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