Luigi Creatore, Elvis Hitmaker, Dies at 93

Luigi Creatore, who with his cousin Hugo Peretti wrote and produced iconic hits for such stars as Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Perry Como, Sarah Vaughan, Della Reese, Jimmie Rodgers, Patti Page and many others, including the Tokens' "Lion Sleeps Tonight," Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "Wild in the Country," and Cook's "Another Saturday Night" and "Twistin' the Night Away," died of pneumonia at a Boca Raton hospice on Sunday, Dec. 13. He was 93.

The son of a renowned Italian immigrant bandleader from Naples, he began his career by writing advertising jingles and later books, plays and most notably, songs.

Creatore had a long professional relationship with his cousin, a former trumpet player named Hugo Peretti, who died in 1986. The two were at a family wedding in the 1940s, where Peretti's wife, singer June Winters, asked Luigi if he could help her with some children's stories that she wanted to record. She became known as the "Lady in Blue," the records became classics, and they launched the writing and producing partnership of "Hugo and Luigi," as they became known.

Based in the Brill Building, the center of New York's "Tin Pan Alley," they became A&R heads for Mercury records, where they produced "pop" hits for such jazz vocalists as Sarah Vaughan ("Whatever Lola Wants") and Georgia Gibbs ("Dance With Me Henry").

They became part owners of Roulette Records in 1957, producing and/or writing several million-selling hits for folk singer Jimmie Rodgers, among them "Honeycomb," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," "Uh-Oh, I'm Falling in Love Again" and "Secretly".

They moved to RCA Victor in 1959, and became instrumental in negotiating a producers royalty for themselves, which was a first for the industry. They initially teamed with Perry Como, for whom they created several easy-going novelty hits, but then also proved their skill with R&B, producing several hits for Sam Cooke including "Chain Gang," "Another Saturday Night," "Wonderful World," and "Twisting the Night Away". They produced "Shout" for the Isley Brothers, "I Will Follow Him" for Little Peggy March, and "Don't You Know" and "And Now" for Della Reese.

In 1961, they wrote "Wild in the Country" for the Elvis Presley film of that name and also "Can't Help Falling in Love" for the Presley film "Blue Hawaii," on which they were partnered with songwriter George David Weiss. That same year, they also collaborated with Weiss on a pop version of the Zulu song "Wimoweh," which they turned into "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for the Tokens. Three decades later, the song was featured in Disney's "The Lion King".

Creatore and Peretti also wrote the score for the Broadway musical "Maggie Flynn" starring Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, and won a Grammy for producing the original cast album of "Bubbling Brown Sugar" in 1977. They also launched the Avco Records label, scoring such 70's hits as Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and various songs for the Stylistics.

Luigi Federico Creatore was born in New York on Dec. 21, 1921, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. That experience was the basis of his novel "The World Is Mine," about a veteran with amnesia.

His first marriage ended in divorce and his second marriage, to one of the Chordettes, ended with her death. He later married Weiss' widow Claire, who survives him along with a son Victor from his first marriage.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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