MORE TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS – Rich Paschall

Western Division, Rich Paschall


While westerns may have fallen out of favor in recent decades, there were a lot of them in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.  Many brought great theme songs to television and I will offer you my favorites here.

If I could not recall the tune without finding it online, I could not consider it for my Top 10.  I did uncover quite a few that I had forgotten.  Perhaps you can suggest more in the comments below.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Lone Ranger had a great theme, but it was actually Gioachino Rossini‘s Guillaume Tell, better known as The William Tell Overture.

Gene Autry and Ray Whitley wrote Back in the Saddle Again, not to be confused with the Aerosmith tune, Back in the Saddle.  Autry’s 1939 song was so much associated with him that it seemed logical to use it for his 1950’s era television show.

Roy Rogers Show. Dale Evans wrote Happy Trails which was used for the Roy Rogers radio and later television show in the 1950s.  The show starred Rogers and Evans who were married and extremely popular country and western stars.  The song was released in 1952 and has been covered by many artists.

TOP TEN COUNTDOWN

10. The Wild, Wild West.  Nope, not the one by Will Smith for his movie version of this television series. This one is a classic.

9. The High Chaparral. The television series began on NBC in 1967 and had a theme that invoked the great outdoors. This music would have fit nicely into many of the great western movie epics.

8. Bat Masterson “Back when the west was very young…” a cool guy used his cane rather than a gun. I could sing along with this one every week.

7. Wagon Train. Wagons Ho was actually the third theme for this show. The season one (1957) theme gave way to another in season two and that was changed to an instrumental version as the season went along. Season three introduced the theme you probably would remember.

6. Zorro was “The fox so cunning and free.” The Disney produced show premiered in 1957 and only lasted two years but the song lives on.

5. Have Gun Will Travel. The Ballad of Paladin. This was actually the closing theme, written by Johnny Western (a stage name, perhaps?), Sam Rolfe and the show’s star, Richard Boone.

4. The Big Valley  This western was not only in a big valley, it had a big name cast led by movie star Barbara Stanwyck.  The theme was by George Duning.

3. Maverick  “Who is the tall dark stranger there?”  Well, the cast of Mavericks kept changing.  Initially it was James Garner and after 8 weeks a brother played by Jack Kelly came along.  There were  4 brothers and a cousin (Roger Moore) by the time they were through.  The theme was by David Buttolph and Paul Francis Webster.

2. Bonanza, by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.  These two were well acquainted with hits, including the famous Mr. Ed.

1. Rawhide.  The hit tune sung by Frankie Laine was famously covered by the Blues Brothers in their first movie.

See also: “The Television Western,” rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog.

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS – Rich Pachall

Comedy Division, by Rich Paschall

sitcomsonline.com

This was a tough category to narrow down.  Even just considering comedies over the years you can compile a massive list.  There really have been quite a few good ones.  When tossing songs from consideration, I found I had to let go of some of those jingles that are more of a novelty than a good song. That would include things like Car 54 Where Are You? and The Beverly Hillbillies. For this same reason, I eliminated a few of my favorites like Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed and The Addams Family.

Cartoon themes could easily have been a component here, but I liked too many of those and think I may have to produce a Top 10 list some day.  I will hand out an honorable mention to The Simpsons for this category, however.  The long-running prime time series, now in its 30th season, is known by just about everyone with a pulse.  So you certainly know the opening theme.

We can also give an honorable mention to a closing theme.  While the opening tune for All in the Family may be well-remembered, the closing had a completely different song, Remembering You.  The tune was written by Roger Kellaway with lyrics by the show’s star, Carroll O’Connor.  If you search YouTube, you can find a performance by O’Connor singing the song, and not as Archie Bunker, or just hit the link here.

10. WKRP theme.  The fictional radio station was quite a hit in the 1970s, along with the theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.

9.  Making Our Dreams Come True, from Laverne and Shirley.  The Happy Days spin-off had a theme by the same pair that gave us the Happy Days theme, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

8.  I Love Lucy. The tune was not written by Desi Arnaz, although his orchestra played the famous theme. Eliot Daniel wrote the music but was not given credit at the time, since he was under exclusive contract to another studio. The lyric by Harold Adamson was only sung by Arnaz on the show one time.

7.  Movin’ On Up, from The Jeffersons. The All In The Family spin-off produced a great opening theme by Ja’net Du Boise.

6.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name, from Cheers. Yes, this popular tune makes the top of some lists. The song was performed by the composer, Gary Portnoy, and was so popular he recorded a longer version for release after the show began. It also earned him an Emmy nomination.

5.  The Muppet Show theme by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Sam Pottle.  The prime time puppet show was way beyond Sesame Street.  The little ones may not have gotten all the jokes, but the show was always fun to watch.  The openings varied each season, but the music was the same.

4.  The Andy Griffith Show theme by Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer, and Everett Sloane.  It’s Hagen that is doing the famous whistling.  Sloane wrote words and Griffith later recorded that version, with him singing instead of the whistling.

3.  Welcome Back, Kotter by John Sebastian.  The former Lovin’ Spoonful singer did not have much of a solo career until this number 1 hit song in 1976.  The television series was a hit as well.

2.  Happy Days by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  The song perfectly fit the nostalgic TV series set in an earlier time.  The original opening was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley but was soon replaced by this original theme song.

1. Those Were The Days from All in the Family.  The tune by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse was so popular that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, the stars of the show, performed it for each studio audience.

See also: TOP TV DRAMA THEME SONGS

TOP TV DRAMA THEME SONGS – Rich Paschall

Non-Western Division, by Rich Paschall

You have clearly been waiting patiently for the coming of my next top 10 list.  Well, wait no more.  I have diligently gone through the memory banks to produce a list for you.  After compiling a hefty amount of TV theme songs, I find that I had to limit the category.  Out went the novelty songs like The Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island.  Out too were the game show themes.

We could not include your cartoon favorites or even the great pieces written for news broadcasts or special events.  The Olympics theme that NBC gets to overuse with each Olympics is a stand out piece introduced in 1984 and easily recognizable now.  I could make a case for a hundred songs if I did not find a “theme” for this list of themes, so drama shows is the category. Comedy and Western top tens will come in the following weeks.

Now I admit I do not watch a lot of television shows anymore, aside from sports, so most of these will not be of recent vintage.  But it is uniquely my list and may include a few of your favorites.  Please add to the list in the comments below.

Getting an honorable mention is the theme from MASH.  You may say that it is a comedy, but many considered it a serious show with some dark humor tossed in.  Also, the theme song, Suicide Is Painless, was actually written for the movie and wisely used without the words for the television show.  Along with the series, the theme has reached iconic status.

Another honorable mention goes to the Star Trek themes.  Many will tell you that the second series, The Next Generation, improved upon the original song, scripts, and special effects.  I still like the original series with William Shatner chewing up the scenery at every chance.

10. The West Wing theme.  The show gave us a White House that was not chaotic and actually rather “presidential.” President Bartlet was the strong and compassionate leader we could love.  The theme shouted Americana and represents a grandeur of the office.  Composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden won an Emmy for the work.

9. Twilight Zone theme.  The one you all know was not the original theme.  The first season had a different, more ethereal style theme. The famous one was a couple of short cues CBS had commissioned of Marius Constant as “work made for hire” and spliced together.  Have you ever gone “do do do do, do do do do” to something strange?

8.  Believe It Or Not, The Greatest American Hero. The unlikely hero of this show (William Katt) gets a superhero suit, but no instructions. The recording by singer Joey Scarbury stayed 18 weeks on the Top 40 and made it to number 2 in August of 1981.

7. Hill Street Blues theme, by Mike Post who also co-authored Believe It Or Not. The 1980’s cops drama was a critical success and ran 7 seasons.  Released in 1981, the song spent months on the pop charts.

6. Rockford Files theme, Mike Post teamed up with yet another person to pen this tune. The 1970’s detective drama starred James Garner and ran 6 seasons.  The theme was Post’s first theme to reach the top ten.

5. Hawaii Five-0. The tune was written by Morton Stevens who also added some episode scores for the original series.  A hit version by the Ventures climbed the pop charts in 1969. The iconic tune was reused for the current series.

4. A few notes in and you will immediately know the music for the spy thriller Mission Impossible. The show is pretty dated now, but still fun to watch. Here Lalo Schifrin plays his famous composition:

3. Doctor Who theme. The current theme is an updated version of the original but is still pretty good. Can you imagine the Doctor travelling in the tardis to any other music? Here are all the versions, just in case you need them.

2. Perry Mason theme. For some unknown reason, this did not even make some lists I reviewed. I think it fits the show perfectly. It was reused in a series of Perry Mason movies long after the television series. The movies also starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer who never loses.

1. The best television theme was the classic tune by Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn. The private detective series featured jazz music like any good film noir detective movie of the 1950’s. The music was also recycled in the Blues Brothers movie. Mancini won an Emmy Award for the music and a Grammy for the album.

Sources:

Believe It or Not, Wikipedia
Peter Gunn, Wikipedia

Next week: Top Television Theme Songs, Comedy Division

A LITTLE SOMETHING SCARY

My top 10 Halloween Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Halloween music is becoming popular in the same way as Christmas music.  You don’t think so?  Listen up.  It’s all around and has been playing all week.  Sirius XM radio has a temporary station dedicated to Halloween music, almost like they do for Christmas music.  Just for howls, you can listen in on Halloween for a night of creepy and scary sounds.  It’s a little something to traumatize the little ones.

96-KK-Halloween-1

So with the emphasis on the ghoulish this week, it seems only right that I give you again my top ten favorite Halloween songs.  When I thought of this list I soon had 20 titles, so I stopped looking and started trimming it down.  Some of the titles sounded good, but the music was a disappointment.  For example, I hunted down the theme song to the old television series, Thriller, but the music was more of a 50’s jazz sound and not scary at all.

A few were fun songs and while they were popular, they didn’t make the cut.  Ghostbusters immediately came to mind.  It is a slick melody, but not necessarily fitting of a fright night.  Little Shop of Horrors was a fun play and the title tune is catchy, but also not scary or fun in a traditional Halloween way.  Rocky Horror Picture Show gave us Time Warp.  That may make a lot of lists, but not mine.  Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, has some gruesome moments, but which song would make the grade here?  A Little Priest?

Counting down from number 10, I offer the first 5 (last five?) on the list as musical themes to frighten the little trick or treaters.  Perhaps you would like to have these playing through a speaker on your front porch to encourage little ones to make the frightful climb to your front door.  Who knows what might be lurking just inside?

10. Halloween movie theme
9. Jaws movie theme
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street movie theme
7. Exorcist movie theme
6. Psycho movie theme

These five should provide plenty of creepy music for you.  If that doesn’t do it, add in one of my all-time favorite television themes.

5. The Twilight Zone theme song

We can lighten the theme up for a moment “with a spooky little girl like you.”

4. Spooky, Classics IV

The classic theme song from The Addams Family goes on my list.  It is not “mysterious and spooky,” but it is a lot of fun.  Go ahead, sing along.  You know you want to.

3. The Addams Family theme song

If it is Halloween, then we need some Werewolves.  This famous pop song was recorded in 1978 and the studio recording featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on drums and bass.

2. Werewolves of London, Warren Zevon

There is no doubt what will be number one.  It is the all-time classic that everyone knows.  Despite the fact that radio stations overplay it every year at this time, its appeal never wears out.  It was released in 1962 with Bobby Pickett performing the song with his Boris Karloff imitation.  The week before Halloween it went to number 1 on the charts.  Fittingly, it has been dragged out every year since.

1. Monster Mash, Bobby Pickett

Monster Mash, Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi, Garpax (US); Decca (UK) labels, 1962

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS III

Western Division, Rich Paschall

All of the comments over the last two weeks were proof that we should have had a Western Division.  While westerns may have fallen out of favor in recent decades, there were a lot of them in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Many brought great theme songs to television and I will offer you my favorites here.

As with the Drama and Comedy Divisions, if I could not recall the tune without finding it online, I could not consider it for my Top 10.  I did uncover quite a few that I had forgotten.  Perhaps you can suggest more in the comments below.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Lone Ranger had a great theme, but it was actually Gioachino Rossini‘s Guillaume Tell, better known as The William Tell Overture.

Gene Autry and Ray Whitley wrote Back in the Saddle Again, not to be confused with the Aerosmith tune, Back in the Saddle.  Autry’s 1939 song was so much associated with him that it seemed logical to use it for his 1950’s era television show.

Roy Rogers Show. Dale Evans wrote Happy Trails which was used for the Roy Rogers radio and later television show in the 1950s.  The show starred Rogers and Evans who were married and extremely popular country and western stars.  The song was released in 1952 and has been covered by many artists.

TOP TEN COUNTDOWN

10. The Wild, Wild West.  Nope, not the one by Will Smith for his movie version of this television series. This one is a classic.

9. The High Chaparral. The television series began on NBC in 1967 and had a theme that invoked the great outdoors. This music would have fit nicely into many of the great western movie epics.

8. Bat Masterson “Back when the west was very young…” a cool guy used his cane rather than a gun. I could sing along with this one every week.

7. Wagon Train. Wagons Ho was actually the third theme for this show. The season one (1957) theme gave way to another in season two and that was changed to an instrumental version as the season went along. Season three introduced the theme you probably would remember.

6. Zorro was “The fox so cunning and free.” The Disney produced show premiered in 1957 and only last two years but the song lives on in my brain.

5. Have Gun Will Travel. The Ballad of Paladin. This was actually the closing theme, written by Johnny Western (a stage name, perhaps?), Sam Rolfe and the show’s star, Richard Boone.

4. The Big Valley  This western was not only in a big valley, it had a big name cast led by movie star Barbara Stanwyck.  The theme was by George Duning.

3. Maverick  “Who is the tall dark stranger there?”  Well, the cast of Mavericks kept changing.  Initially it was James Garner and after 8 weeks a brother played by Jack Kelly came along.  There were  4 brothers and a cousin (Roger Moore) by the time they were through.  The theme was by David Buttolph and Paul Francis Webster.

2. Bonanza, by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.  These two were well acquainted with hits, including the famous Mr. Ed.

1. Rawhide.  Just like Bonanza we served this one up in the Drama Division before we realized we needed a Western subset.

Related: The Television Western, Sunday Night Blog

 

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS II

Comedy Division, by Rich Paschall

This was a tough category to narrow down.  Even just considering comedies over the years you can compile a massive list.  There really have been quite a few good ones.  When tossing songs from consideration, I found I had to let go of some of those jingles that are more of a novelty than a good song. That would include things like Car 54 Where Are You? and The Beverly Hillbillies. For this same reason I eliminated a few of my favorites like Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed and The Addams Family.

Cartoon themes could easily have been a component here, but I liked too many of those and think I may have to produce a Top 10 list some day.  I will hand out an honorable mention to The Simpsons for this category, however.  The long running prime time series, soon to enter its 27th season, is known by just about everyone with a pulse.  So you certainly know the opening theme.

We can also give an honorable mention to a closing theme.  While the opening tune for All in the Family may be well-remembered, the closing had a completely different song, Remembering You.  The tune was written by Roger Kellaway with lyrics by the show’s star, Carroll O’Connor.  If you search You Tube, you can find a performance by O’Connor singing the song, and not as Archie Bunker.

10. WKRP theme.  The fictional radio station was quite a hit in the 1970’s, along with the theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.

9.  Making Our Dreams Come True, from Laverne and Shirley.  The Happy Days spin-off had a theme by the same pair that gave us the Happy Days theme, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

8.  I Love Lucy. The tune was not written by Desi Arnaz, although his orchestra played the famous theme. Eliot Daniel wrote the music but was not given credit at the time, since he was under exclusive contract to another studio. The lyric by Harold Adamson was only sung by Arnaz on the show one time.

7.  Movin’ On Up, from The Jeffersons. The All In The Family spin-off produced a great opening theme by Ja’net Du Boise.

6.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name, from Cheers. Yes, this popular tune makes the top of some lists. The song was performed by the composer, Gary Portnoy, and was so popular he recorded a longer version for release after the show began. It also earned him an Emmy nomination.

5.  The Muppet Show theme by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Sam Pottle.  The prime time puppet show was way beyond Sesame Street.  The little ones may not have gotten all the jokes, but the show was always fun to watch.  The openings varied each season, but the music was the same.

4.  The Andy Griffith Show theme by Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer and Everett Sloane.  It’s Hagen that is doing the famous whistling.  Sloane wrote words and Griffith later recorded that version, with him singing instead of the whistling.

3.  Welcome Back, Kotter by John Sebastian.  The former Lovin’ Spoonful singer did not have much of a solo career until this number 1 hit song in 1976.  The television series was a hit as well.

2.  Happy Days by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  The song perfectly fit the nostalgic TV series set in an earlier time.  The original opening was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley but was soon replaced by this original theme song.

1. Those Were The Days from All in the Family.  The tune by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse was so popular that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, the stars of the show, performed it for each studio audience.

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS

Drama Division, by Rich Paschall

You have clearly been waiting patiently for the coming of my next top 10 list.  Well, wait no more.  I have diligently gone through the memory banks to produce a list for you.  After compiling a hefty list of TV theme songs, I find that I had to limit the category.  Out went the novelty songs like The Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island.  Out too were the comedy themes of note like Welcome Back, Kotter and the theme from Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

We could not include your cartoon favorites or even the great pieces written for news broadcasts or special events.  The Olympics theme that NBC gets to overuse with each Olympics is a stand out piece introduced in 1984 and easily recognizable now.  I could make a case for a hundred songs if I did not find a theme for this list, so drama shows is the category.

Now I admit I do not watch a lot of television shows anymore, aside from sports, so most of these will not be of recent vintage.  But it is uniquely my list and may include a few of your favorites.  Please add to the list in the comments below.

Getting an honorable mention is the theme from MASH.  You may say that it is a comedy, but many considered it a serious show with some dark humor tossed in.  Also, the theme song, Suicide Is Painless, was actually written for the movie and wisely used without the words for the television show.  Along with the series, the theme reached iconic status.

Another honorable mention goes to the Star Trek themes.  Many will tell you that the second series, The Next Generation, improved upon the original song, scripts, and special effects.  I still like the original series with William Shatner chewing up the scenery at every chance.

10.  Believe It Or Not, The Greatest American Hero. The unlikely hero of this show (William Katt) gets a superhero suit, but no instructions. The recording by singer Joey Scarbury stayed 18 weeks on the Top 40 and made it to number 2 in August of 1981.

9. Hill Street Blues theme, by Mike Post who also co-authored Believe It Or Not. The 1980’s cops drama was a critical success and ran 7 seasons.

8. Rockford Files theme, Mike Post teamed up with yet another person to pen this tune. The 1970’s detective drama starred James Garner and ran 6 seasons.

7. Bonanza. This instantly recognizable theme was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the long running television western. The insanely talented songwriting duo also gave us the theme to Mr. Ed and the Christmas classic, Silver Bells, among many others.

6. Hawaii Five-0. The iconic tune was updated and reused for the current series. There’s not much difference to my ears.

5. A few notes in and you will immediately know the music for the spy thriller Mission Impossible. The show is pretty dated now, but still fun to watch. Here Lalo Schifrin plays his famous composition:

4. Rawhide launched the career of Clint Eastwood. The theme song was not written for the Blues Brothers movie, as some might think, but instead for this much earlier classic western series. The vocal by Frankie Laine was a big hit.

3. Doctor Who theme. The current theme is an updated version of the original but is still pretty good. Can you imagine the Doctor travelling in the tardis to any other music? Here are all the versions, just in case you need them.

2. Perry Mason theme. For some unknown reason, this did not even make some lists I reviewed. I think it fits the show perfectly. It was reused in a series of Perry Mason movies long after the television series. The movies also starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer who never loses.

1. The best television theme was the classic tune by Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn. The private detective series featured jazz music like any good film noir detective movie of the 1950’s. The music was also recycled in the Blues Brothers movie. Mancini won an Emmy Award for the music and a Grammy for the album.

Sources:

Believe It or Not, Wikipedia
Livingston and Evans
Peter Gunn, Wikipedia

Next week: Top Television Theme Songs II, Comedy Division