As the vibraphonist for Martin Denny's group, Lyman was instrumental in crafting the sound of exotica. Lyman didn't stay with Denny for long, however, leaving the ensemble in 1957 to start a solo career that was nearly as successful as Denny's. To no one's surprise, Lyman's albums sounded very much like Denny's, with even more of a somnambulant feel. Much of the public wanted to relax, though, and they sent his debut, "Taboo," to number six in the album charts in 1958. In addition to playing vibes on his group's recordings, Lyman also played some guitar, piano, and drums, as well as paying careful attention to using stereophonic sound.
Lyman also had a few hit singles, with "Taboo" and "Love for Sale" reaching the middle of the charts, and "Yellow Bird" (the only big exotica hit besides Denny's "Quiet Village") making number four in 1961. Like Denny (though to a lesser extent), Lyman experienced a resurgence in popularity in the '90s, when the space age pop revival made it acceptable to drag out his old LPs and sit in tiki bars again. He continued performing for tourists in Waikiki until a year before his death from throat cancer on February 24, 2002. ~ Richie Unterberger