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Musical maestro

DeCamp’s musical arrangements
can be heard around the world

Composer, arranger now lives
quiet life north of Madison

By Amy Casebier
Contributing Writer

(January 2008) – Carroll DeCamp’s mother was a clear soprano, but she was also “mom” to seven children. It might have been her frustration at not being able to pursue a career in music that made her influence her first born to get into it.
“My mother decided I’d be a musician,” said DeCamp. “It’s all I ever wanted to do.” He has been playing music for 80 years.

Carroll DeCamp

Photo by Amy Casebier

Carroll DeCamp has
played music with
many famous people
in his career.

DeCamp began teaching himself to arrange music as a teenager. He would ask musicians what key their instruments were in and work from there.
He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in music for composition from the Jordan College of Music in Indianapolis in 1951.
Afterward, DeCamp arranged for several musicians, such as jazz great Stan Kenton in the early 1970s for about year, and for Les Elgart of big band fame from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
Today, DeCamp still arranges music and has about 130 arrangements published for different musical groups. The groups range from big bands to jazz bands to full orchestras.
Included with a recent royalty check that he received from Broadcast Music Inc. was a report on in what countries around the world musicians were recording and performing his arrangements. The list was long and included Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Romania, the Netherlands and Portugal, among other countries.
Johnny Mandel is DeCamp’s favorite arranger, he said. Mandel composed the theme for the television program M.A.S.H. DeCamp decided that he wanted to get to know Mandel, so he called a friend of his to get Mandel’s address. DeCamp sent Mandel a tape with an arrangement he had done, called “Nature Boy,” and Mandel contacted him.
“He said ‘it’s some of the most amazing writing I’ve ever heard,’ ” DeCamp said. “It made me extremely happy. It made my day; made my year.”
Not long afterward, DeCamp’s house in North Vernon burned in 2004.
“There were copies of everything I’d written since I was a teenager in there,” he said.
He contacted Mandel again, this time to ask Mandel to make a copy of the tape for him, since he had lost everything.
Incidentally, “Nature Boy” is DeCamp’s favorite arrangement that he has done over the years “because it got Johnny Mandel’s attention,” he said.
After the fire in North Vernon, DeCamp moved to Madison. He lives with his good friend, Ziddy Matthews, whom he met while she was managing the former Madison Country Club when he played piano there.
DeCamp also plays the guitar. He traveled for 10 years playing for Henry Mancini’s orchestra, spending five years on the guitar and the other five on the piano from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
For a while, DeCamp worked in Indianapolis at nightclubs and had a television gig. He was part of a trio that appeared on Channel 13 around 1960. The program was called “By George” for George Willeford, the host. The trio played popular songs of the time and behind acts that traveled through Indianapolis.
“I got to meet a lot of name acts,” DeCamp said.
However, DeCamp’s talents are not limited to music. He also writes, paints watercolor and sketches.
Despite DeCamp’s talents in other areas, local musician Brook Reindollar first met DeCamp through music in 1987 after Reindollar graduated college and returned to Madison. The two played together.
“He’s very humble when it comes to his performances,” Reindollar said. “He’s a wonderful player, wonderful musician.”
When Reindollar’s father was still alive, the two would get together with DeCamp and Matthews “almost every Wednesday,” Reindollar said. “We got a private concert from Carroll.”
Reindollar introduced local musician Jimmy Davis to DeCamp. Davis studied guitar with DeCamp for more than a year.
“I think Carroll’s a genius,” Davis said. “He’s a valuable resource that most people in town don’t know about. His nephew is proof of that.”
DeCamp taught his nephew, Royce Campbell, about music during the two years Campbell lived with him. Now Campbell is a world-renowned jazz guitarist.

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