So who was Meredith Willson and what did he do? Meredith Willson was a Mason City native who became a famous performer, composer, author, and radio personality. His most famous work is the movie “The Music Man”, starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.
Among his many other compositions are marches, symphonies, musicals and songs, including the “Iowa Fight Song” and “Mason City Go” (the Mason City High School fight song). He also wrote six books.
What else did he do? At the beginning of his career he played flute and piccolo in the John Phillip Sousa Band (about as high as you could go in the band world at that time) and in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (still a pretty good gig today).
He worked in radio for many years, as musical director for many shows, hosting his own show, producing shows, and providing character voices for Burns and Allen’s radio show. He composed scores for a number of movies, including many starring Charlie Chaplin.
Still not impressed? The song “Till There Was You” was recorded by the Beatles on one of their early albums. Meredith wrote the first rap song (“Rock Island” from “The Music Man”) and received a gold record, the first Grammy award ever given, and (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Freedom. All those awards are in the Museum at The Music Man Square.
The Gatehouse development project would provide consistent financial support and added recognition for The Music Man Square. The Square needs the benefits the Gatehouse project would provide to continue to preserve and showcase Meredith’s legacy.
Meredith Willson remained, throughout his life, a big fan of Mason City (a.k.a. River City), Iowa. Shouldn’t his hometown remain a big fan of Meredith?
Janice Rod, Mason City