One of our own commands the Olympics, still

Back in the Hometown


Perhaps the famous Olympics theme is still ringing in your ears as well after 17 days of games in Tokyo that wrapped up earlier this month.

So I just had to stop by the final, hometown-area resting place of the composer of that Olympics anthem and pay tribute.

After a legendary career as a musician, arranger, composer and orchestrator, Frenchman Leo Arnaud retired to the West Yadkin area, his wife’s home community, and lived some 10 years before passing in 1991 at the age of 86. His Olympics song, which first became famous on TV in 1964, is set to continue until at least 2032, under NBC’s current Olympics contract. Talk about longevity.

“When I am asked by one of our innocents to ghost-write some chase music for western posses or gangland car rides,” Hollywood music man Arnaud once famously wrote a friend, “the music has to be very fast, eh? This means bubbidy, bubbidy, bubbidy.”

And “bubbidy” is what he put into his Olympics anthem, “Bugler’s Dream,” as it is called, a heart-pounding, spirit-soaring score.

Shortly after his first wife died, Arnaud met a visiting North Carolinian, Faye Brooks, on a blind date arranged by a friend. The two married in 1977 and moved to the Tri-Counties some four years later.

“I had nothing in common with the whole place,” Hollywood, Arnaud once said as reported by biographer Michael Kolstad. “The people are just unbelievably good here” in the hometown area.

“I have lived all over the world,” Arnaud also said, “and there is no place that approaches this place.”

After coming to the U.S. in 1931, Arnaud joined Hollywood movie studio MGM. He played trombone in the classic film “Gone With the Wind” and worked in orchestration on “The Wizard of Oz.” He founded and conducted the Beverly Hills Orchestra before leaving for service in World War II. For decades he ran with the Hollywood crowd, with famous dancer Fred Astaire considered his closest movie friend.

The Oscar-nominated musician worked on more than 300 arrangements in Hollywood over 45 years, including that of the film “Dr. Zhivago,” and composed partial scores on more than 100 films.

After retirement, Arnaud continued to promote music in Winston-Salem. Four months after his death, a memorial concert in Elkin featured his music and served “as inspiration for young talent,” The Tribune said at the time.

Arnaud’s “legendary musical genius stirred the nations of the world over,” says his gravestone, “among these peaceful foothills.” The grave is at Asbury United Methodist Church in West Yadkin.

Knighted by Spain and Finland, “Sir Leo’s music remains a light unto the world until our Lord’s return at the sound of the trumpet,” adds the inscription on the six-foot, black-granite pillar erected by “Lady” Faye Brooks Arnaud.

Once asked “how do you keep the (musical) inspiration at such a high level?” Arnaud pointed upward and said, “The Lord,” according to the Kolstad biography.

So the next time you hear about the upcoming Olympics, and you hear Arnaud’s rousing anthem, remember that it came from one of our own.