updated 06/28/2012 AT 6:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/28/2012 AT 8:10 AM ET
Don Grady, who played the dimpled-chinned Robbie Douglas on the 1960-72 sitcom My Three Sons – and, at age 12, was a Mouseketeer on Walt Disney’s original The Mickey Mouse Club – died Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, Calif., after a battle with cancer, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was 68.
Like The Donna Reed Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons, which debuted on ABC before moving to CBS, was squeaky clean and went for the gentle laugh.
Seasoned screen star Fred MacMurray played the easygoing, widowed father Steve Douglas, with the senior member of the all-male household – which also had an English sheepdog – played by I Love Lucy’s William Frawley, as the boys’ maternal grandfather “Bub.” When illness forced Frawley to retire, he was replaced by actor William Demarest, as Uncle Charley.
As the middle son (Tim Considine and Stanley Livingston played the other two), Grady helped keep the sitcom’s evolving roster of characters going, though, by the final season, Robbie, by then a married man, was written out of the show – when he was sent to Peru to work on a bridge as a structural engineer.
When that happened, “I needed to start to learn to grow up,” Grady told PEOPLE in 1992. Only, like many child stars, he found the adjustment back to the real world difficult.
“One minute you’ve got a wardrobe man and a script girl and a director all concerned about you,” he told PEOPLE. “And then it’s gone. I’d never put my kids through that unless they knew it was what they really wanted.”
As for his own childhood, Grady was the son of a Layfayette, Calif., salami maker and his wife. In the years after his TV stardom, he recorded a jazz album under his real name, Don Agrati, and hit the college circuit with his own trio.
A musical prodigy who played eight instruments before he hit his teens, Grady was able to make a successful career transition to composer, working in a music studio he set up in his Studio City, Calif., home. “Now it seems like I work a lot harder for less money,” he told PEOPLE 20 years ago, “but I’m doing what I really want to do.”
Among his film and TV music credits: the theme for The Phil Donahue Show and the movies Skin Deep and Switch, both for director Blake Edwards.
Grady is survived by his second wife Ginny, a former choreographer, and their two grown children, Joey and Tessa, as well as his mother, Mary, among others, says the Reporter.