Doris Day – My Heart – Terry Melcher cover

Doris Day – My Heart – Terry Melcher

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There was only ever one man in her life that Doris Day could really trust. Sadly, Doris’s only child, Terry, also broke her heart when he died from cancer at the age of 62 on November 19, 2004. Doris was so young when she had Terry at just 18 that she would often say they were more like siblings than mother and son.





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Doris Day – My Heart – Terry Melcher

There was only ever one man in her life that Doris Day could really trust.

Sadly, Doris’s only child, Terry, also broke her heart when he died from cancer at the age of 62 on November 19, 2004. Doris was so young when she had Terry at just 18 that she would often say they were more like siblings than mother and son.

Later in life, he was her protector and father figure. The one thing Doris never really was to her son was a mother.

Doris Day

Doris Day

Public Domain

It was only really from Alma, his grandmother, that Terry had known true motherly love. Doris was always too young, too busy or too dominated by her husbands to give her adoring son the kind of attention he sorely craved.

He grew up to find success in the music business and a level of notoriety through his connection to killer Charles Manson and his murderous ‘family.’

But friends said Terry never quite overcame the loneliness of an only child who grew up in the exhausting isolation of a Hollywood upbringing.

He was born on February 8 1942 soon after his teenage mother’s ill-fated first marriage to trombonist Al Jorden.

Considering Jorden’s determined efforts to try and persuade Doris to have an abortion, it was hardly surprising Terry saw little of his father or his paternal grandparents growing up.

Doris often talked about how much she really wanted to be a traditional mom tending her baby and her yard behind a white picket fence, but the domestic realities of motherhood never really held her interest for long.

As a teenage single mom Doris had little choice but to go back to work after splitting from Jorden and she took Terry to live with Alma in Cincinnati, Ohio while she went back on tour with her old buddies in the Les Brown Band.

Photo of producer Terry Melcher (left) in the recording studio with the Byrds Gene Clark (center) and David Crosby (right) listening to a take, 1965. Given the date of the photo, they were probably working on the Turn, Turn, Turn album when the photo was taken.

It was a rare time of security for the sensitive boy that was uprooted when his mother married George Weidler and moved with him to Los Angeles to live in a run-down trailer park.

When that marriage collapsed as well, both Doris and Terry thought they found the answer to all their prayers in her new agent Marty Melcher. Terry was so enamored by Melcher he made it clear at first that he favored him over his mother and lobbied enthusiastically for them to make it official and get hitched.

Alma approved and the eight-year-old Terry looked like he was going to get the kind of perfect family he saw in his mother’s films after all.

“Marty used to come to dinner and one night I noticed that after we were seated at the table, “ Doris said later.

“Terry moved his place mat and chair so close to Marty’s that the poor man could hardly bend his arm. I asked Terry what he was doing that for and he said, ‘I like him,’ Maybe that was when I first knew I liked him more than just as a good manager.”

“I wasn’t even a mother until Marty. My mother was the mother to Terry and me,” Doris added.

But the domestic bliss lasted about five minutes. Once Melcher got what he wanted – Doris as his wife and money making machine – he had little need for Terry.

He adopted the boy and gave him his name, but more out of his need to control everything and everybody around him than out of love.

Friends told how he would bully Terry and ridicule his surfer boy looks. In a misguided attempt to toughen up his stepson he took him out of the Christian Science school where he was happy and sent him to a military academy. Terry also disclosed later that he was beaten as a child by Melcher. It says something about Doris as a mom that she stood by and let all this happen. Terry said later that his childhood was like “growing up in a Beverly Hills ghetto.”

In the early 60s, Terry met up with Bruce Johnson, who would later become a member of the Beach Boys.

The duo had a couple of hits as ‘Bruce & Terry’ and he also recorded solo as Terry Day.

But he quickly decided he was happier behind the scenes and eschewing college in 1962, he became the youngest staff producer at Columbia Records at the age of 22.

The next year he wrote ‘Move Over Darling’, which was a hit for his mom and title song for the film remake of My Favorite Wife, in which Doris starred with James Garner.

He soon became best known for his work with The Byrds whose jingle-jangle fusion of rock, folk and country he helped craft into a chart-topping sound, with hits like covers of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tamborine Man’ and Pete Seger’s ‘Turn, Turn, Turn.’

It was during this time he re-ignited his romance with sweetheart Candice Bergen, then Hollywood’s biggest rising starlet and a top model. The couple had first dated when Terry was 21 and Candice was just 15.

“I was about 24 and making around $250,000 a year and I was living with a beautiful young movie star, Candy Bergen, and we had a nice, big beautiful house with a houseman in a coat, a couple of fancy cars, a pool, two or three acres,” Terry recalled of the mock chateau he owned at 10050 Cielo Drive in 1967.

Doris was thrilled for him, but when he asked Melcher, the agent snarled, “It makes me sick – a snotty kid to fall into something like this.”

It was in 1968 when Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys introduced Terry to Manson, who was angling for a recording contract.

Terry decided against recording with the eccentric musician after hearing a few of his half-formed songs even though Wilson was enthusiastic.

The three men talked about making a documentary but both Terry ands the Beach Boy cut off contact after witnessing Manson in a terrifying fight with a drunken stuntman in a ranch where he lived with his followers.

A short while later, Terry sublet 10050 Cielo Drive to movie director Roman Polanski and his pregnant girlfriend Sharon Tate.

The following year, while Polanski was abroad filming, Manson called at the house asking for Terry, but was told he had moved.

On August 9, 1969, members of the Manson Family, high on LSD, broke into the house and murdered eight months pregnant Tate and four of her friends, scrawling “Pigs” in blood on the wall.

Susan Atkins, one of the killers, later claimed, "Charlie picked that house to instill fear into Terry Melcher, because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them.”

After Manson was arrested, Terry got a bodyguard and he told prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi he was so shaken by the episode he’d been undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Following Marty Melcher’s 1968 death, Terry was forced to fight for more than a decade to help his mother win back some of the millions his stepfather had siphoned off in bogus business deals and offshore bank accounts.

Although Terry remained in the music business through the 80s, co-writing the Beach Boys hit ‘Kokomo’ in 1988, he battled alcoholism and two unhappy marriages.

He had a son, Ryan, with second wife, Jacqueline Carlin, in May 1983 but grew increasingly isolated and reclusive, putting on weight and drinking to excess.

Doris Day at 90

Doris Day at 90

His death from melanoma in 2004 came as a terrible blow to Doris.

Through all his struggles, he had always been there for his mother, tending to her needs and ever mindful of her insecurities.

He licensed and marketed her record, broadcast and video properties and helped operate her nonprofit organizations, the Doris Day Animal League and Doris Day Animal Foundation.

His mother was inconsolable and didn’t attend the private funeral or memorial service.

In 2011, Doris released her first album of new material in 17 years. ‘My Heart’ was dedicated to Terry and included nine new songs penned by her son.

“I miss my Terry every day,” she told her friend Paul McCartney in an interview following the album’s release.

“But I keep him here and I’m so happy that he’s singing on the album. I used to love to hear him sing and he should have done more things. I get mail from his friends all the time saying he had so much talent and he was always laid back. He didn’t push himself. He was such a good guy and I loved him dearly.”