Mu­si­cian’s work in­cluded com­pos­ing, per­form­ing

EUEL BOX

The Dallas Morning News - - OBITUARIES - By JOE SIMNACHER Staff Writer jsim­nacher@dal­las­news.com Twit­ter: @JoeSim­nacher

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.

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