Melcher: Manson’s No Singer
Friday, October 23rd, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 – Terry Melcher, movie producer son of actress Doris Day, testified in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial today that he “wasn’t impressed with the musical talent of hippie leader Charles Manson but was “very impressed with his obvious leadership.”
Stuttering noticeably, the bearded blond songwriter said he auditioned Manson at the Spahn Ranch on May 18, 1969, almost a year after he met the hippie leader at the home of “Beachboy” Dennis Wilson. Manson, Melcher said, was at the Tate murder home in the summer of 1968 when the songwriter was driven home by Wilson. Manson was strumming his guitar in the back seat of Wilson’s car, Melcher said.
Melcher testified he went to the Spahn Ranch at the insistence of his then talent scout Gregg Jakobson and was taken for a dune buggy ride by Manson. The witness said he saw several men trying to install a generator in a truck which they were going to use to transport dune buggies out of the city.
“Manson feared some civil insurrection and I don’t blame him,” Melcher said.
The audition, Melcher said, was held in back of the ranch in a stream bed with about 40 of Manson’s people — mostly girls — participating, Melcher continued:
“Charlie sat on a rock and sang about 15 songs; and the others were sitting around him. It lasted two to three hours but I wasn’t too impressed by the songs. I was more impressed by the whole scene.
“I was impressed by Charlie’s strength and the obvious leadership he had over these people. I was impressed how he could survive out there in the country. It was a totally different way of life.”
Melcher described Manson’s singing as average. “I wasn’t impressed enough on that level — as far as his musical talents — to want to pursue it and make a record,” he said.
As a guitarist Melcher commented, “Manson wasn’t as good as most people I’ve worked with.”
Melcher described a scene after the audition at the movie set location which he said frightened him.
“Randy Starr is a Hollywood stuntman and he had a six-gun strapped to his waist. I don’t know if it was loaded, but Randy was going to draw on somebody and Charlie intervened — I think he hit him in the stomach. I’m glad he did.”
Manson was not interested in going to Hollywood or joining a musical union or guild, Melcher testified. So a few days later Melcher brought up friend who had a recording trailer and Manson held a second audition. Melcher said he didn’t know the outcome of this second try.
Before leaving, Melcher said he gave Manson “everything I had-in my pockets, about $50.”
“Charlie didn’t ask for the money, I just put it in his hand because they seemed to need it I hope it wasn’t considered an advance to a recording contract,” he said.
Melcher said he never saw Manson again.
Manson sat in the courtroom listening intently to the witness and a few times attempted to speak to him. His three girl defendants — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — also sat transfixed listening to the testimony.
By MARY NEISWENDER