What Did Doris Day's Son Have To Do With The Manson Family Murders?

How the movie star's son, Terry Melcher, reportedly ran afoul of Manson — and may have been the killer cult's real target.

May 14, 2019

Photo by: Doris Day [Wikimedia Commons]; Charles Manson [Los Angeles Police Department]

Doris Day [Wikimedia Commons]; Charles Manson [Los Angeles Police Department]

By: Mike McPadden

LOS ANGELES, CA — All-American blonde movie queen Doris Day may seem as culturally far removed as you can get from homicidal hippie cult leader Charles Manson, but the two 1960s icons reportedly do share one factor in common — record producer Terry Melcher, who was Doris Day’s son and, some analysts believe, may have also been the actual target of the 1969 Manson Family massacre.

The Charles Manson connection to Terry Melcher allegedly came about through Dennis Wilson, drummer for superstar pop group The Beach Boys. Wilson had once reportedly picked up two female acolytes of Manson who had been hitchhiking and allowed them to crash at his beach house. From there, it’s said Wilson took to spending time with mad guru Manson himself, along with other members of the cabal that followed him known as the Manson Family.

Photo by: Terry Melcher in the studio with the Byrds [Wikimedia Commons/KRLA]

Terry Melcher in the studio with the Byrds [Wikimedia Commons/KRLA]

At the time, Dennis Wilson was reportedly also very tight with Terry Melcher. He was the son of Hollywood star Doris Day, and he performed backing vocals on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. By 1968, Melcher had become a hot property after producing the first two Byrds LPs and cofounding the Monterey Pop Festival.

According to multiple biographies, Manson always fancied himself a singer-songwriter and he longed, feverishly, to be a rock star. The Beach Boys even ended up recording two of Manson’s songs.

Reportedly using Dennis Wilson as his ticket inside the music biz, Manson cozied up to Terry Melcher and, for a while, it worked. Manson got a record industry audition, and Melcher publicly contemplated making a documentary about the Family.

As tended to happen with non–Family members, though, Manson’s charm allegedly wore off on Melcher. Reportedly, Melcher witnessed Manson commit frightening violence during a fight with a hanger-on inside the Family’s compound at Spahn Ranch.

Melcher is said to have then quickly dashed any plans of signing the cult leader as a music client or creating any kind of movie about him. At the same time, a similarly upset Dennis Wilson allegedly also cut ties with Manson.

All this is said to have led to the massacre that took place in the Beverly Hills home located at 10050 Cielo Drive.

While Melcher was reportedly hanging around with Manson, records indicate he rented that Cielo Drive house and lived there with his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen, and musician Mark Lindsay of the rock group Paul Revere and the Raiders.

It’s also believed that Manson may have auditioned for Melcher on Cielo Drive and that’s why, some sources theorize, he may have picked that house on August 8, 1969, to unleash his apocalyptic theory of “Helter Skelter” by having Family members invade and slaughter its inhabitants.

Melcher, at that point, had moved out, though, leaving the Manson Family to brutalize and murder its next occupants — actress Sharon Tate, along with her friends who were visiting, and another visitor of the caretaker.

In his 2016 memoir Good Vibrations, Beach Boys cofounder Mike Love expounds on the Melcher-Manson relationship and even theorizes that Doris Day may have saved her son’s life.

Love claims that Manson watched Melcher enter the Cielo Drive home and then knew where to find him after a proposed record deal never materialized. Love states in the book: “Manson was also in the car one day when Dennis dropped Terry off at his rented home at 10050 Cielo Drive, at the top of a steep hill in the Benedict Canyon area.”

As for the attack, Love reportedly makes it clear in Good Vibrations that he believes Melcher was Manson’s intended victim.

Love also contends that Melcher relocated to a home owned by Day specifically at her instruction, writing: “The move was no accident. Terry, Doris’ only child, was extremely close to his mom. He had told her about Manson — and about some of his scary antics, his brandishing of knives, his zombie followers — and that Manson had been to the house on Cielo and she insisted he move out. A mother’s intuition, perhaps, and it may have saved his life.”

Terry Melcher died at home on November 19, 2004 after a long battle with cancer-related illness. He was 62.

Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017, in a prison hospital from cardiac arrest resulting from respiratory failure and colon cancer after serving more than 36 years for the Tate-LaBianca massacres. He was 83.

Look at those dates again: Both Terry Melcher and Charles Manson died on November 19.

Read more: Entertainment Tonight, Newsweek You Must Remember This podcast: “Doris Day and Terry Melcher”

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