Tony D'Amato

Mantovani's record producer
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The Independent Online

Anthony D'Amato, record producer: born New York 21 January 1931; married 1958 Gabrielle Hirsch (five daughters); died Coram, New York 7 July 2006.

Tony D'Amato was a leading record producer in the 1960s and 1970s with Decca Records, at that time one of the giants of the British record industry. Brought over from America to launch the company's Phase 4 label, he was responsible for numerous best-selling albums, many of them by light orchestral luminaries such as Frank Chacksfield, Stanley Black, Maurice Larcange and Ronnie Aldrich and bandleaders of the stature of Ted Heath and Edmundo Ros. From 1964 he became even better known as Mantovani's record producer until Mantovani retired in 1975.

Born in 1931 in New York to Italian immigrant parents, D'Amato attended the Juilliard Conservatory of Music for two years before being drafted into the US Marine Corps. Bright and ambitious, he graduated from New York University cum laude with a degree in music and won a scholarship to Brandeis University.

D'Amato composed an opera, Moby Dick, before his career took a completely different direction when, in autumn 1958, he was recruited by London Records, the American arm of British Decca. Under Marty Wargo, London Records' leading manager, he learnt the specifics of the record industry from the ground up to executive level, researching and drafting album-sleeve notes, composing advertising pieces, photographing album covers and giving sales talks to American distributors. He later gave nationwide stereo demonstrations to laud the company's accomplishments in sound, embodied by its tongue-twisting logo "ffss - full frequency stereophonic sound".

In autumn 1961 he was despatched to Britain to create a more dynamic approach for Decca's leading popular album artists, which was subsequently dubbed ping-pong stereo. Even though it was a quality product, D'Amato was regarded at first with much suspicion at Decca - he was seen as a pushy American interloper - but when he became Mantovani's producer he helped sell the company's records in large numbers and was well respected for those achievements. Much of his bond with Mantovani came from their shared Italian origins.

At Decca, D'Amato also worked closely with the sound engineer Arthur Lilley and the arrangers Roland Shaw and John Keating and had many successes in the popular music field, among them an outstanding Kismet album in 1964 recorded with Mantovani and a host of singing stars. He also made a number of classical recordings with Decca's leading artists including Leopold Stokowski.

After leaving the record industry in 1978 D'Amato worked in Winnipeg, then moved to Coram, Long Island, where he became closely involved with the touring Mantovani Orchestra after Mantovani's death in 1980. D'Amato retained his enthusiasm for music in semi-retirement and was a major contributor to the biography Mantovani: a lifetime in music (2005) published for the centenary of Mantovani's birth.

He would poke fun at himself, saying that he had two main moods at Decca, a tranquil one around Mantovani and a confrontational one at Decca House. This led the bandleader Edmundo Ros to describe this latter mood as being that of a "china closet bull". D'Amato once laughingly described himself as a "raging prima donna" at Decca, but in truth he was perceptive and intelligent, and undoubtedly over-qualified for the job he did there.

In observing that he was often described as Mantovani's modest, self- effacing producer, he preferred to be seen as someone who could recognise when not to interfere with an artist who knew what he wanted and where he was going. In his opinion there were very few such artists - only Mantovani, Keating, Stokowski and Paco Peña in his long career.

Colin MacKenzie

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