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'MUSICIAN'S MUSICIAN' DIES PIANIST DICK RUSSOM KNEW 3,000 COMPOSITIONS BY HEART.

Byline: Holly Andres Staff Writer

WOODLAND HILLS - Pianist and composer Dick Russom was a ``musician's musician,'' who entertained the troops during World War II, performed at clubs around Southern California and gave private lessons to generations of students.

Russom died June 4 in Woodland Hills. He was 89.

``He was sensitive, caring and a true artist at the piano. Reviews said he played a nifty piano and that he was a 'musician's musician,''' said his younger son, John Russom.

``His music was thoughtful. He could blend standards into contemporary music. He loved classical music and jazz. He once estimated that he knew 3,000 compositions, from the 1940s to the 1980s, by heart.''

Russom entertained in nightclubs at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and Gatsby's in Brentwood. He commuted from his home in Woodland Hills to Manhattan Beach to perform at Pancho's for more than 20 years.

``He never missed a day of work as far as I can remember,'' John Russom said.

``I think his greatest legacy was his tolerance for everyone. He liked gardening. He was a pretty good carpenter. He played golf. He was not afraid to get his hands dirty.''

Russom's musical career included scoring and performing music for radio, television and films. He also gave private lessons, from beginning piano to advanced jazz.

``He was a wonderful teacher and father - just superlative in both areas,'' said his older son, Richard Russom, also a musician and composer. ``He started to teach me piano when I was 6. He was a great influence in my life and work.''

His wife, Mary Russom, recalled with pleasure her husband playing a mini-concert just for her after he came home from work.

``He knew my favorites. He would play those for a half-hour or so for me. He wrote his proposal to me. He called it 'Mary.' It was beautiful.''

Richard Duane Russom was born on Jan. 2, 1915, in Broken Bow, Neb. His father was a farmer and his mother was a concert violinist from New York who taught her son to play the piano when he was just 4.

Dick Russom had his own orchestra and was touring by the time he was 16. While in Michigan, he met his future wife, singer Mary Brodel, part of The Brodel Sisters vaudeville singing trio.

``I fell in love with him the first time I met him,'' said Mary Russom, who went on to make 14 films as a contract player with Universal Studios. ``We were 63 years married - May 19, 1941.''

During World War II, Russom was a navigator for the Air Transport Command. He entertained the troops, playing piano after the plane landed in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, Paris and Casablanca.

``I remember my dad telling me about navigating by sighting the stars from the 'bubble' in the plane during the war,'' said John Russom. ``He said while he was doing this, he heard this music - he called it angelic music - out over the ocean. He tried to compose it but he always regretted that he couldn't write it down.''

Russom is survived by his wife, Mary; sons, Richard and John; two granddaughters; three great-grandchildren; and a brother, Ray Russom.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday at St. Mel Catholic Church in Woodland Hills. Burial was at Assumption Cemetery in Simi Valley.

Funeral arrangements were handled by Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary.

Memorial donations may be sent to Girls and Boys Town, Attn. Father Val J. Peter, Boys Town Center, Boys Town, NE 68010.

Holly Andres, (818) 713-3708

holly.andres(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jun 13, 2004
Words:602
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