George Maharis, best known for his role as Buz Murdock on the hit TV series Route 66, passed away on May 24 – though early reports suggested he died on May 25 – after a 60-year battle with hepatitis. He was never married and never had any children, but he is survived by his brother and sister.
“George Maharis passed away on Wednesday, May 25. George is well known for his stardom in route 66, stage productions, singing, artist, and above all a great guy would do anything for anyone. My dear friend, you’ll be terribly missed,” Marc Bahan – Maharis’ longtime friend and caretaker – wrote on Facebook.
Maharis began his acting career in 1953 and appeared in various films, sitcoms, and television series over the next seven years – including Naked City in 1959. He was cast in Route 66, a spin-off series of Naked City, the following year (1960) and starred in the show’s first three seasons before leaving in 1963.
Maharis earned himself an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Series in 1962 – the award went to E.G. Marshall, who starred in The Defenders. This was also around the same time he started releasing and performing some of his most popular music.
He contracted hepatitis in late-1962 and attempted to make a comeback to Route 66, but it was too much – citing the excessive hours and work schedule. “The doctor said, ‘If you don’t get out now, you’re either going to be dead or you’re going to have permanent liver damage,’” Maharis said in a 2007 interview.
It took Maharis nearly two years before his body could handle the workload, but he eventually returned to the big screen in 1964 with Quick, Before It Melts. He appeared in dozens of films, TV series, and sitcoms over the next three decades, ending his career with the role of Mike Wallace in Doppelganger (1993).
Some of his other popular projects include Sylvia (1965), A Covenant with Death (1967), The Happening (1967), The Desperados (1969), The Most Deadly Game (1970-71), and Fantasy Island (1979-82). Some of his popular songs are ‘Teach Me Tonight,’ ‘After the Lights Go Down Low,’ and ‘They Knew About You.’
The younger generation might not remember the impact George Maharis had on the 1960s. We’re talking about someone who starred in one of the most popular shows of the early-1960s, but also had a song – ‘Teach Me Tonight’ – hitting No. 25 on the Billboard charts in 1962. His face and voice were everywhere.
“I had a huge crush on George when I was a teen and he was on Route 66. I read all the magazine articles on him. I recently bought the entire first season of Route 66 VHS. I might get it changed to a DVD. I still have one of his albums,” wrote one of his fans, who followed the actor/singer throughout his career.
“Who didn’t have a crush on George? As a kid, I recognized him as one of those iconic mid-century manly men I wanted to grow up to meet. I always heard he was kind, and good to his fans. I’d certainly have enjoyed meeting him.c