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Airwolf Interview with GENE L. GILLETTE, Music Editor
By Mark J. Cairns

Gene L. Gillette was the Music Editor on Airwolf and I was lucky enough to get the last interview with him before his untimely death on 23 January 2014 at the age of 82, just before the eventual release of the 'Airwolf Extended Themes' 2CD soundtrack. In failing health he was able to answer some questions on his work on the TV series.

Having worked in the movie business for over 30 years, Gene Gillette was nominated (along with his colleagues in the Sound dept) three times for a joint Primetime Emmy award for Airwolf, of which he won in 1984. He was nominated for an Oscar on One From The Heart, a movie directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola in 1983. Gene was also interested in writing and published short stories, articles and essays in various publications, including a satire in "Bachelor" magazine, plus sociological SF work in the Cimarron Review for Oklahoma State University Press, and a humourous column in the Springfield News. He was also writing a novel (unfinished) in the 2 years prior to his death.

He had an interest in radio and wrote a 6-part radio drama for the Financial Planning Association, plus had a regular radio spot on 'Food For Lane County'.

Gene L. Gillette
Gene L. Gillette - Music Editor, Airwolf

Born: 4 March, 1931

Died: 23 January, 2014

Age: 82

Music Editor on 51 of 55 episodes of Airwolf

Q1: Were you there from the start from the Airwolf PILOT episode?

Yes, I was there from the 2-hour Airwolf 'Pilot' (but missed the first 3 or so in Season 1 to Arnold Schwarzwald and Jerry Cohen) right through to most of the Season 3 (excluding Severance Pay which was edited by Dennis Ricotta); so I think I only missed 4 episodes in the end. Don Bellisario probably knew me from his time on Glen Larson's 'Quincy M.E.' of which I did all 121 episodes of that show up to 1983 (a lot of the Airwolf production crew worked on that show too over its run).

I hadn't worked with Mr. Levay before the show however I did work with him later, on both 'Otherworld' and Timebomb). He was somewhat difficult to work with on Airwolf, but to be fair to him, he passionately believed in his music and he and I were coming from different places in our careers and I always respected his decisions in the end. The end result speaks for itself.

I did know Udi from an earlier date. I don't remember the show we were working on now, but I do remember recording in a small studio down on Ventura Boulevard in L.A.. I liked Udi a lot in fact, I knew Udi when he first started in Hollywood.

Q2: Tell me about any music sessions you remember from the show?

At Universal. there was a theater (used by different music and audio departments) that was used by Music Editors to do what was called 'spotting'. That was where the show's Producer and Composer that week (mainly Sylvester Levay or Udi Harpaz, or sometimes the other weekly blow-ins if they were busy on other projects) decided where Music was to go in each episode. At that time, only one Music Editor worked on / edited all the shows).

For some reason on one Airwolf episode (maybe more) I had to 'run the board' of the recording booth for the session (there was a machine that started and stopped the film that was played back for the composer and musicians during the scoring session). I had learned the hard way that it was wise to take my cassette recorder into all sessions with me as a back-up.

On this one session we were all in the theater waiting for the Producer to arrive; the minute he walked in the room he said to me, "Gene, don't stop the machine."

This was rather uncommon and lead to some complicated moments for every one. So I simply recorded everything as one take and then had to go back to my cutting room, replay the cassette and do a breakdown for Mr Levay. A lot of extra work and time for all.

Q3: Have you memories of cutting different Closing Titles' music every week?

One of the unique things about the show from a Music Editor's perspective was that the closing titles on Airwolf were never the same length.

As you undoubtedly know most closing titles (back then) were of a standard length (30 or 60 seconds). Airwolf was continually being edited right up to the wire to deliver "the can" to CBS to air [Note: Airwolf had a 4 week lead time to air, compared to modern shows that have a minimum of 6+ months], so when it was time to dub the music, the film editors simply turned the film over to me to finish it as music was normally added last. For the closing titles we normally used snippets from the show that week, or after a while generic, stock footage of Airwolf flying around.

If the episode was short (which happened now and again), I sometimes had closing titles that ran up to 3 minutes long. So every week I had to edit music to fit and it was never the same length week to week. I wasn't satisfied until the music edits were as near perfect as I could make them (it was just my music sensibilities).

I always enjoyed hearing the closing titles' music on the dubbing stage. Irony of ironies when it was played on the US TV networks they always lowered the volume of the music and promoted the following show that night with a voice-over. All that work for naught each week!

Q4: Did you have to use the same recording for the Closing Titles during Season 2 and Season 3?

The closing titles / end credits were recorded during the early season one (and to my best recollection) the music I used to edit the closing titles was music recorded during the Session that week. I had a contract with the Musicians' Union that so many episodes had to be scored on a TV show.

However, during the second and third seasons many episodes had to be 'tracked' each year. Tracking meant using music recorded generically that year for the Music Editor to later use more than once and thus 'track the episode'.

I never kept note of how many I tracked in the end as the Airwolf producer would simply say 'you're going to track this episode'.

One can only but imagine how much money was saved for the production by having me do this for the show. No composer's fees, no musicians' fees, no scoring stage time. The Music Editor had to keep track (and fully list) which cues the Film Editor used and create a "music cue sheet". See an example of an Airwolf Music Cue Sheet HERE), for Season 3 premiere episode, 'THE HORN OF PLENTY'.


AIRWOLF is a Trademark of, and licensed to NBC Universal Television Studios 1984. All images and multi-media content of this website are Copyright Mark J.Cairns 2014. Under NO circumstances must any images or digital content be used from it on any other websites or media without the express written consent of the Copyright / Intellectual Property owner. All MP3 theme tune files remain the Copyright of Mark J.Cairns, Sylvester Levay and Jan Michal Szulew 1999 / 2014. The Airwolf Themes soundtrack is the officially licensed score based on the original CBS episodes of the Airwolf TV series. The Replica Helmet is Copyright Steven. W. Stull 2007 and is only marketed and promoted in good faith on his behalf within this website, but neither Mark J.Cairns nor anyone on the project team receive any benefit whatsoever whether fiscal or otherwise thus any and all communication must go directly to Steven W. Stull.