The Wild One, Marlon Brando’s 1953 motorcycle-gang movie, was based on a real-life 1947 incident in which thousands of bikers, many of them blue-collar World War II vets from Los Angeles, descended upon a northern California town and frightened its inhabitants by drag-racing up and down the streets and hurling beer bottles through storefront windows.
Leith Stevens, who was commissioned to write the movie’s score, was a regular at the Lighthouse jazz club in Hermosa Beach, California, where trumpeter Shorty Rogers frequently gigged. Stevens played Rogers’ Capitol Records 10-inch LP Modern Sounds for Brando, who was so impressed that he insisted Rogers be used on the soundtrack. Rogers arranged Stevens’ compositions and brought in a number of fellow West Coast musicians to record them, including Jimmy Giuffre, Bud Shank, and Shelly Manne. The resulting “rebop,” as one of the film’s characters called it, was used to suggest a grimy but exuberant anarchy and rebellion.