Musician’s work included composing, performing
When he graduated from college in the early 1950s, Euel Box was determined to make his living as a musician. And he did just that.
He played, wrote, arranged, conducted, sold and recorded music.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Dallas high society danced to the Euel Box Orchestra at galas, including the opening of NorthPark Center.
He and his wife, Betty Box, teamed to write the musical score for the 1974 movie Benji. One of their compositions for the film, “I Feel Love,” won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated in that category for an Oscar.
Box, 88, died Tuesday at his Dallas home of complications from heart disease and dementia.
No services are planned, but a memorial may be held in the future.
Throughout much of his life, Box worked a day job and performed several nights a week, said his son, Terry Box, The Dallas Morning News’ recently retired automobile writer.
“He was pretty much a lifelong musician,” he said. “That was his life.”
Box was born on New Year’s Eve 1928 in Georgetown. His family traversed Texas as his father moved from job to job. Box graduated from high school in Georgetown and attended Southwestern Univerhim, sity there on a football scholarship.
After a broken jaw ended his football scholarship, he joined the Marines to pay for college. He played trumpet for the Marine Corps Band.
After completing his military service, Box married Betty Ruth McCrary. The couple transferred to North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), where he received his bachelor’s degree in music in 1951. He later did graduate work in music composition there.
Box played trumpet for various bands before forming his own ensemble. As his band grew, he switched to the electric keyboard to facilitate his conducting.
“From the time I was aware of it until I left home for college, he always had two jobs, at least two jobs,” Terry Box said. “He worked 60-hour weeks for his entire adult life.”
In Dallas, Box’s group started playing neighborhood gatherings and high school events. It grew into an orchestra that performed at charity balls, debutante parties, country clubs and other special events.
In the 1950s, Box’s day job was at Cline Music Co., owned by orchestra leader Durwood Cline. In the early 1960s, he worked for PAMS Production Inc., which made radio jingles. He also worked on commercials and industrial films.
“That was a good time for because it gave him a pretty high profile in the business,” his son said. “He met a lot of high-level people.”
Among them was Joe Camp, who was creating the first Benji film. Camp selected Box and his wife to write the musical score in 1973.
Box wrote the music while his wife wrote the lyrics. The couple rode their bicycles from their Casa View home to the quiet of White Rock Lake, where they composed their award-winning song, “I Feel Love.”
The Boxes then spent months in Los Angeles, where Charlie Rich recorded the theme song and the soundtrack was produced.
Box also composed songs for commercials and other movies, including Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980) starring Chevy Chase. He worked with an array of noted artists, such as Stevie Wonder, Boz Scaggs, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Charlie Rich and Chet Atkins.
Box was a gregarious man who easily struck up friendships and was ahead of his time. He also was eccentric, his son said.
“He started growing a goatee in the early ’60s,” Terry Box said. “I promise you, I was the only one in Casa View area who had a father with a beard.”
In addition to his wife and son, Box is survived by another son, Alan Lee Box of Dallas; a daughter, Joni Kay Box of Dallas; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.