September 20, 1925 – October 1, 2022
Christopher Story VI was Santa Barbara’s very own “Music Man,” and how lucky we are that he was.
Performing since 1955, Chris, who died on Oct. 1, 2022, was best known as the creator and conductor of the West Coast Symphony, the West Coast Chamber Orchestra, and the Goleta Valley Chamber Orchestra.
He organized, promoted and conducted concerts until his final Fiesta Concert in 2019. And promote them he did. Chris advertised the old-fashioned way, by walking into individual businesses, shops and banks, asking if he could hang his flyers in their windows.
Nobody could resist Chris’ charm, optimism and humor; he’d depart with his flyer taped to their front doors, and would typically garner a donation and sell a few tickets, as well. He made many a friend that way and all looked forward to his return for “the next show.” He was truly “The Greatest Showman.”
Whether conducting one of his orchestras, drumming in his jazz trio, crooning with his Barber Shop buddies, singing in his kids’ bands, acting on every stage in town, writing hit songs, or just throwing a swingin’ party, Chris was ever the consummate entertainer and gentleman.
Besides all this fabulous right brain activity, Chris’ left brain was just as stellar. He was a self-made businessman, selling insurance, managing investments, and playing financier for family and friends. He was a brilliant broker and underwriter.
Born on Sept. 20, 1925 the son of a Standard Oil manager and raised in New Jersey, Chris began playing piano as a boy. After the near loss of a hand in an accident at age 14, he turned to percussion to assist in his recovery. Both instruments stuck.
A chance encounter in his youth put him on stage, and led to training under Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg in method acting. As a page at NBC Studio in New York, he worked on “Howdy Doody” and Abbott & Costello, finally coming to Santa Barbara to do photography for KEYT.
While in New York, he was overheard doodling on the piano and asked to write a song for a Gene Autry movie. He collaborated with Dick Charles on the lyrics, and the memorable “Cherokee Canyon” was published in 1947 and recorded by Tex Beneke, Woody Herman, and Four Chicks and a Chuck.
Asked about the five Christopher Storys who preceded him, he reported that they were everything from farmers to salesmen.
His talent for music and the arts most likely came from his mother’s side as she was related to Felix Mendelssohn. One of his favorite stage memories was performing with David Crosby in “Slings and Arrows,” a hilarious parody of Santa Barbara life for which he co-wrote the music.
He shared the stage on several occasions with his beautiful second wife Barbara, and was a regular fixture as “Grandpa” in local productions of “The Nutcracker.” Chris sang with the Channel City Chorus and continued taking acting classes well into his golden years.
As a dedicated member of Optimist International, Chris’ motto was “Why not?” He believed a new role could be around the corner at any time. He kept his S.A.G. membership up to date. After all, a lead role in a film like “Rise of the Surf Zombies” doesn’t come along every day.
The only thing rivaling Chris’ love of music and performance was his love of “Star Trek.” An original Trekkie, he became friends with creator Gene Roddenberry, and his wife, and managed to make it to annual “Star Trek” conventions until he was in his late 80s.
He got William Shatner to ride a horse while he conducted “Carnival of the Animals,” and even went so far as to create Star Port—a visionary Star Trek-themed hotel project to be built in Las Vegas.
Chris’s first wife Dorothy was an actress whom he joined on stage (along with Charlton Heston) at the Lobero Theater. Together they had son Christopher VII. Chris met his second wife (of 43 years) Barbara in Santa Barbara. They married, moved to the Mesa, and raised five daughters.
After the passing of his beloved Barbara, Chris met and married Candi, with whom he traveled and hosted many parties for his tennis buddies, concert musicians, and a multitude of friends and acquaintances.
Chris is survived by his six children Christopher VII, Dawn, Tiffany, Cynthia, Sabrina and Heather, along with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, all of whom are devoted to keeping his legacy alive.
A Celebration of Life will be held 2-5 p.m. Nov. 20 at Harry’s Plaza Café in the Ranchero Room. All are welcome and encouraged to pop in and share a favorite “Story story” about the late, great Chris Story.