Born in Santa Monica, California, and surrounded by music in the family home, John Beal was no stranger to the entertainment industry. His fraternal grandfather Ralph R. Beal was one of the pioneers of the very first television broadcasts with a career ranging from leading the Stanford band to the recording of Arturo Toscanini’s famous RCA concerts, to helping design the multichannel sound for Fantasia, and John’s early years were spent in the booming San Fernando Valley, when cowboy westerns were being filmed from North Hollywood to Corriganville and from the Chatsworth’s rocky peak to Vasquez Rocks. He attended school with the children of numerous stars of the growing television phenomenon and even his cub scoutmaster was actor Duncan Renaldo (The Cisco Kid). Family friend western bad guy actor Harry Lauter was a frequent visitor and comic Lou Costello lived only a few blocks away. In what may have been a propelling influence, John was selected to be one of the child guests on the TV show, “Art Linkletter’s House Party.”
The family moved to La Canada so John’s father could be closer to his work at unmanned space exploration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he supervised design and construction of the first deep space simulator. Beal’s first instrument was piano at age 6. John admits, “My parents had given me a child’s drum set. The heads only lasted one day.” At age eight, John made his first professional dollar as a soloist in a classical boy’s choir. After trying the trombone (“My arm wasn’t long enough for last position”), John switched instruments to drums at age nine and his passion for performance was stirred by La Canada Junior High music teacher Lawrence B. Bellis. “Larry Bellis taught us not only how to play musically and passionately, but all the essentials of stagecraft and working with an audience. It was an awesome time for us all.” John was a pre-teenager when he made his first nation-wide television appearance as a musician with another future composer, Richard Bellis, in a Dixieland band on Dick Clark’s “Teen Scene USA” and “The Steve Allen Show.” John’s parents said he never stopped in his pursuit of excellence in music, either practicing his drums or composing on the piano for hours at a time.
Throughout school, John was consistently in regional honor bands and orchestras, including time as first chair percussionist in the MENC All Western States Honors Orchestra. He even played percussion in a professional accordion orchestra. He led his school’s pep band and wrote all the drum cadences for the swing-style marching band. Many are still being used to this day. In fact, UCLA incorporated some of his work into their drum line. John refined his skills continually, studying with big band drummer Irv Cottler (Frank Sinatra), studio percussionists Bernie Mattinson and Emil Richards, world-renowned percussionist and composer William Kraft, Harry Partch scholar Danlee Mitchell and ethnomusicologist Craig Woodson. At 15, John was teaching drums at a store in Pasadena alongside such A-list studio musicians as Jim Keltner and Gary Foster. John says, “I had to take a bus because I wasn’t old enough to drive, but was teaching grownups!” In his senior year of high school, John was featured as a drummer on a float in the Rose Parade and selected by competition to perform with the Hollywood Bowl All-Stars Jazz Band at the Hollywood Bowl. John graduated with honors from John Muir HS in Pasadena, California, and was recently named to the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
John attended San Diego State’s music program but soon left to get back into performance. “It simply wasn’t a good fit. It was a program focusing on grooming teachers and discouraging performers. My composition professor said he’d give me an A if I would teach him jazz drums. And when a professor called my parents and told them ‘Don’t let your son go into performance, it will ruin his life forever,’ I bailed.” At the height of the Vietnam war, John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and returned home from combat in Vietnam, decorated for heroism, bravery, valor and gallantry by the President of the United States, United States Marine Corps and the Republic of Vietnam. (See separate Military History page)
Continuously in demand, John worked primarily as a drummer in clubs on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip and on the road with singing stars such as Johnny Mathis, Leslie Uggams and Frankie Avalon, but soon was tapped as a music director for stage, television and recordings. Initially working with vocal groups such as The Establishment, The Doodletown Pipers, The King Cousins and The Kids Next Door, John soon found himself conducting and arranging for stars such as Olivia Newton-John, Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight, Raquel Welch, B.B. King, Linda Lewis, The Captain & Tennille, David Soul, Mitzi Gaynor, Phyllis Diller, Peggy Fleming, Jim Nabors, Teresa Graves, and Sally Struthers, and even helped create and produce Hollywood’s legendary transgender “Cycle Sluts” Revue at the famous Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip.
John regularly worked as guest conductor on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” Other credits include conducting a portion of the Emmy Award-winning special “Swing, Out Sweet Land!” starring John Wayne, “Ed Sullivan’s Armed Forces Tour” in Asia and the South Pacific, producing and conducting live and televised musical groups and consulting on music recording for more than twenty television specials or mini-series, including Richard Bellis’ Emmy Award-winning score for “Stephen King’s IT.” John has conducted orchestras throughout the U.S. and in the UK, Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines.
Inspired to seek a career in film music by famed silent film theatre organist Gaylord Carter, and encouraged by neighbor and family friend, Academy Award winning composer George Duning, who took John with him to scoring sessions, John’s other mentors include Academy-Award winning composer Dominic Frontiere, Emmy Award-winner Earle Hagen, Disney’s Buddy Baker, Fred Werner and music editor Ken Johnson. John also went through UCLA’s film scoring and music business programs. Because of his diverse musical background, John is fluent in the languages of jazz, classical, contemporary, electronic and world music.
While working in the record industry, ghost-writing and orchestrating for busy Hollywood composers, John was discovered by super-agents Al Bart and Stan Milander and signed by Gary LeMel (President, Worldwide Music for Warner Bros.), for his first theatrical film scoring assignment, the comedy Zero to Sixty produced by Kathie Browne and Darren McGavin, and featuring Joan Collins. At the same time, John embarked on a successful career in television, composing music for numerous hit shows including “Vega$” with Robert Urich, “Chicago Story” with Dennis Franz, “Eight is Enough” with Dick Van Patten, “The Goodtime Girls” with Annie Potts, “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” with Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams.
At the point, John scored 35 theatrical or television films and documentaries, 26 major network television series or specials, and was music director for over 20 major network specials.
At the suggestion of Gary LeMel, Beal was tapped by Hollywood’s marketing guru and “Godfather of Trailers,” Andrew J. Kuehn of Kaleidoscope Films (Jaws and other major hit films) to work with him in the film trailer industry. Kuehn and Beal collaborated on the very inception of today’s modern film trailer format and Beal has long been recognized as the man who gave contemporary trailers their musical voice. His creative teaming with Andrew Kuehn on trailers lasted more than two decades, and also included Kuehn’s feature documentary, Terror in the Aisles. John never fails to credit Andy Kuehn with his amazing career success. “Working with Andy Kuehn was a major change in focus for me, but opened up the tremendous opportunity and challenge of composing in completely different styles of music week after week,” says John.
John opened Reeltime Music Incorporated in 1984 and is recognized as Hollywood’s leading creator of original scores for theatrical and television marketing campaigns. He composed the music for over 2,000 theatrical marketing projects. John’s seemingly endless list of credits, including campaigns for such hit films as Aladdin, The Matrix, The Last Samurai, Star Wars, Titanic, Black Rain, Black Hawk Down, Forrest Gump, Ghost, Hamlet, J.F.K., The Hunt For Red October, In The Line Of Fire, The Mask, True Lies, We Were Soldiers, and Planet of the Apes, show his incredible versatility. Trusted by virtually every major director and studio to write original music to promote their films, Daily Variety box office results show the financial success of film campaigns to which he contributed original music is literally measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.
Also in 1984, John Beal created Opus Pocus Music to provide even greater service to his film, television, new media and marketing industry clientele through a library of his compositions.
Working with one of his mentors, Buddy Baker, and the Walt Disney Imagineering Team led by Marc Davis, John composed and arranged music for the Carousel of Progress, America Sings and Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. He was also the music director for live stage acts during the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida and the conductor for the park’s grand opening ceremony television presentation on NBC. Other projects include all the original music for Enchanted Village theme parks, Cineplex-Odeon theater logos, commercials for Apple, Sugar-Free Dr. Pepper, Disneyland, Royal Crown Cola, NASDAQ, Amgen, Intel, Microsoft, MCI, IHOP, Armour Star Bacon, Ben & Jerry’s, The Stratosphere Hotel, Fox Family, FX, NBC, FlexJet and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. His unique talents also contributed to the award-winning interactive game “Zork: Grand Inquisitor,” and themes for MSN Internet. In 1999, his music was selected for featured programming on Air Force One for President Bill Clinton.
As a recording artist, John is featured on Sonic Images, Silva Screen, Cinerama, edel America, Opus Pocus, Intrada Records, GNP/Crescendo and BSX Records labels.
In 2001, Reeltime Music was rebranded as Reeltime Creative and expanded its services to include consultation in all aspects of theatrical creative advertising, branding, graphics, trailers, web design and internet marketing.
At the same time, John served as Director of Planned Giving and Major Gifts, for Hathaway Children and Family Services, a $20 million agency, responsible for recruiting celebrities and corporations, Individual Gifts, Major Gifts, Planned Giving, Communication and Marketing.
ASCAP composer and publisher John Beal served as governor of the Composers & Lyricists Guild of America, two terms as a governor of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences with a term as alternate National Trustee, is a member of the NARAS Producers & Engineers Wing, a Platinum member of the Society of Composers & Lyricists, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in both Music and Commercial peer groups, American Society of Music Arrangers & Composers, Recording Musicians Association, Production Music Association and Professional Musicians as well as Veterans in Film & Television, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America. In addition to his regular career activities, John serves as Producer of the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra. John is married to Helene Nielsen Beal.