Q: Who was Leroy Shield?
A: He was the composer best-known for the background music heard
in Hal Roach Studio comedies -- most notably Laurel & Hardy and
the Little Rascals/Our Gang films. He was a "film composer" for
only a brief spell, however -- he spent most of his life as arranger-conductor
for radio orchestras.
Q: When did he live?
A: Leroy Shield was born in Waseca, Minnesota on October 2, 1893
and died at the age of 68 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January
Q: I'm confused. Was his name Le Roy, Leroy or Roy? Shield or
A: He was born as LeRoy Bernard Shields, with an s. As a composer
of film music for Roach, he dropped the "s"; by the time he was
musical director at NBC, he had also dropped the "Le". After 1942
he was known in the business as "Dr. Roy Shield".
Q: Why haven't I heard of him?
There was no on-screen composer credit for any of the Roach
When renewed interest in the Hal Roach comedies started to blossom
in the 1970s, Shield was no longer living.
Shield seems to have preferred to operate in anonymity, working
his magic behind the scenes.
Q: What are his best-known compositions?
A: On to the Show, The Moon and You, Good Old Days, You Are the One I Love, Beautiful Lady, Little Dancing Girl, Bells and Dash And Dot.
Q: Was Shield the composer of Laurel & Hardy's "Ku-Ku" theme song?
A: No -- that was Marvin Hatley. "Ku-Ku" arranged by Shield
Q: Why didn't Hal Roach list him in the film credits?
A: We don't know for sure. At the time, film music was in its infancy
and the idea of giving the composer screen credit simply may have
been overlooked. Or it may have been that the music was not seen
as significant to the film as we now know it is. Shield was credited
on-screen in "The Devil's Brother" (1933) and "Our Relations" (1936)
Q: Why can't I buy the original recordings of Shield's film background
A: The original recordings are presumed lost. To hear the original
music you have to listen to the films, despite film noise, dialogue
and other sounds.
Q: When did he compose music for Hal Roach?
A: Based on his copyright registrations: 13 pieces in 1930, 66 in
1931, 1 in 1932, 3 in 1934, 53 in 1937, and 2 in 1938.
Q: What other music did he compose?
A: Notre Dame Shift (1933/34), Farm and Home March (1941), Gloucester (1941), Prelude in D (1944), Your Caress (1944), Melody (1944),
Telegraphia (1944), Union Pacific Suite (1947), The Great Bell (1948), Washington Prelude (?)
Radio music, including signature tunes for: Breakfast Club (1942),
Musical Transitions for Radio (1946), theme music for Radio City Playhouse (1948), Catholic
Hour (1950), Inheritance (1954)
Q: How much music did he compose?
A: According to a 1939 NBC news release, he had "more than 600 compositions
to his credit".
Q: Where did Shield receive his musical education?
He attended the Columbia School of Music in Chicago (Miss Helen B. Lawrence, instructor) scholarship in piano, Columbia Conservatory, Chicago.
Further study, University of Chicago.
In 1942 the University of Chicago awarded him the honorary degree
of Doctor in Music "in recognition of his contribution in the
advancement of radio music".
Q: Beside composing for Hal Roach, what else did he do?
A: He started out as a touring concert pianist. From 1923 to 1931 he was conductor-arranger for the Victor Talking Machine Company
and manager at various times of RCA-Victor's foreign, domestic
and west coast departments. As director-producer-conductor-pianist
he oversaw Victor recordings in New York, Chicago, Camden, San
Francisco, Oakland, Mexico and other places. (From 1929 onwards,
some of these recordings took place in the Hal Roach Studios in
Culver City.) In 1931 he joined NBC, initially in San Francisco but later in Chicago.
He became a very important radio orchestra leader there. He was
the conductor of several open-air concerts held in Chicago's Grant
Park. He composed tone poems including Union Pacific Suite, Gloucester
and The Great Bell. In 1945 he moved to New York to continue his radio work as contractor
of NBC Orchestra section. He became Arturo Toscanini's assistant conductor, joining him on a tour to Atlanta and New Orleans in 1950. For years, both in Chicago and New York, radio variety shows
bore his name: Roy Shield's Revue, Roy Shields & Company, Roy Shield Presents. He composed, arranged and conducted many
"musical transitions" for radio drama series. He retired in 1955.