Don Grady, a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club who portrayed son Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons, one of the longest-running family sitcoms in history, died of cancer in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday. He was 68.
In 1960, three years after he was hired at age 13 as a Mouseketeer on the third season of ABC’s Mickey Mouse Club, Grady began an 11-year run as Robbie on the sitcom My Three Sons, starring alongside Fred MacMurray as the widower father, William Frawley (and later William Demarest) as the family housekeeper, and Grady, Tim Considine (Mike), Stanley Livingston (Chip), and Barry Livingston (Ernie).
(At the beginning of the sixth season, Mike was written out and Ernie was adopted, keeping the number of sons at three.)
My Three Sons, which originally aired on ABC, shifted to CBS in 1965 because ABC declined to fund the series’ transition to color.
The Saturday night favorite is second only to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (14 seasons) as the longest-running live-action family sitcom on television, with 12 seasons and 380 episodes produced.
Grady’s character and his wife Katie (Tina Cole) had triplets during the 1968-69 season. In 1971, towards the end of the eleventh season, he left the series when Robbie, by then a structural engineer, traveled to Peru to work on bridge construction.
Grady, a musical prodigy who had mastered many instruments including clarinet and accordion by age 10, featured on My Three Sons with his band The Greefs and composed two songs for the show.
After the series ended, he and songwriter Gary Zekley founded the band Yellow Balloon, named for Zekley’s 1967 sunshine pop hit; played with the folk-rock group The Palace Guard; and toured with The Windupwatch Band (which included Daryl Dragon, the future male half of Captain & Tennille).
Under his true identity, Don Agrati, Grady recorded an album of his own compositions for Elektra titled Homegrown in 1973.
One track featured the Army Reserve Band, of which he was a member at the time. Boomer, a collection of songs created for and about the baby boomer generation, was released in 2008.
Grady was the composer for the 1991 Blake Edwards comedy Switch, starring Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits; he wrote the theme song for the syndicated Phil Donahue Show; and he was the driving force behind a Las Vegas multimedia stage show called EFX at the MGM Grand, which featured Michael Crawford, David Cassidy, Tommy Tune, and Rick Springfield at various times in the late ’90s.
Grady also composed music for the live stunt shows at Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida (his score for The Wild, Wild, Wild West played for fourteen years) and more than thirty Disney DVDs.
Grady has performed in a national tour of the musical Pippin and appeared in Godspell and Damn Yankees on stage.
Grady, who was born in San Diego and raised in Lafayette, California, appeared as a child in a number of TV Westerns prior to My Three Sons, including Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Have to Gun — Will Travel, The Restless Gun, and Zane Grey Theater.
Surviving family members include his wife Ginny, his children Joey and Tessa, his mother Mary, his sister Marilou Reichel, her husband Meryl, their daughter Kelly and husband Mike Edwards, and Kelly’s husband Mike Edwards.