Doug Thompson headshotI was saddened by the death of Annette Funicello back in March.  Unlike most of the male members of my age, I did NOT have a crush on Annette.  That honour usually fell to toothy grinned Mousekateer Cheryl Holdridge (who in 1964, became a real-life Countess when she married Woolworth heir Lance Reventlow – his father was a Danish nobleman).   Sometimes friendly Darlene Gillespie became my Mousekateer crush of the day or week, depending on my mood and my hormones.  Turns out, Darlene was born in Montreal and her parents were originally from Saskatchewan, but I didn’t know any of that watching our little black and white TV set then.

Jimmy and RoyBeing a daily viewer of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club back in the late 1950’s with Jimmie Dodd, Big Moosekateer Roy Williams, and all the kids did teach me a thing or twenty-six.  First, I learned to NEVER, EVER forget how to spell the word encyclopedia.  To this day over 50+ years later, I can still hear Jiminy Cricket singing in my head, “E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A”.  Those of you who watched the show should recall the melody.

The Mickey Mouse Club theme song (known officially as the Mickey Mouse March and written incidentally, by on-camera host Jimmie Dodd), is also permanently stuck in my cranium’s memory synapsis.  Sing along, if you’re old enough to remember, “Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?  M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E.  Hey there, hi there ho there, you’re as welcome as can be.   M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E.  Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck), Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck) Forever let us hold your banner high, high, high, high.  Come along and sing the song and join the jamboree.  M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E”.

Then, of course, there was the slower, sadder version the cast all sang at the end of each show: “Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company.  M-I-C (See you real soon) K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you), M-O-U-S-E”.

Ah yes, those heady years of catchy, wonderful TV show themes.  Disney also holds a special spot in the nostalgia corner of my heart for TV themes like Davy Crockett – “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee.  Greenest state in the land of the free.  Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree, Killed him a b’ar (bear) when he was only three.  Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”  I swear I didn’t look any of the lyrics to these themes up on Google, they just poured right out of my cracked cranium.

Earlier this year, to celebrate their 60th anniversary, TV Guide offered a list of their Top Ten TV themes.  Their Top Ten themes are:

10.  “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (“You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air”)

9.  “Sesame Street” (“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”)

8.  “The Jefferson’s” (“Well we’re movin’ on up…“)

7.  “Route 66” (a wonderfully memorable piano based theme song and a chart hit by Nelson Riddle)

                                                                                                                                                                           6.  “The Beverly Hillbillies” (“Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Jed…”)

5.  “Friends” (“I’ll Be There For You”)

4.  “M*A*S*H” (“Suicide Is Painless” from the Robert Altman directed movie of the same name only without the words)

                                                                                                                                                    3.  “Hawaii Five-O” (“Book ‘em Danno”)

2.  “Mary Tyler Moore” (“Who can turn the world on with her smile”)

1.  “Cheers” (“Where everybody knows your name”)

While I agree that some of those ditties deserve to be on a Top Ten TV list, what about catchy themes like “The Andy Griffith Show”?  C’mon, you just started whistling it, didn’t you?  I know I did.  Composer Earle Hagen wrote that theme (and was the whistler as well).

So where have all those great theme songs gone?  Apparently, network executives have demanded shorter and shorter opening titles music so as to get directly into the action (or comedy) of the program, lest viewers get bored with the same theme opening week after week and switch channels OR more likely, to make room to cram in even more commercials.  It’s a good thing producer Chuck Lorre has major clout at CBS, otherwise we’d probably never have heard the wonderful Barenaked Ladies weekly theme to “Big Bang Theory”.  Written entirely by the group (usually the show’s creator has a hand in the lyrics at least), the BNL released a full length version of that theme on their 2011 CD, “Hits From Yesterday & The Day Before”.  I haven’t seen the BNL in concert lately, but I would be seriously surprised if they didn’t do this song at some point every show, maybe as an encore.  Although it never charted, it’s close to # 1 in my TV themed heart.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the theme from Chuck Lorre’s “Two And A Half Men” (which Lorre co-wrote).  That one’s getting to be quite annoying actually (“Men, men, men, manly men, men, men…”.  What the hell is that anyway?

Mr. Ed was another of my favourite TV themes growing up – “A horse is a horse, of course, of course and no one can talk like a horse of course.  That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.”  That little gem was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, who also gave us such delightful ditties as “Buttons and Bows” (Dinah Shore had a # 1 hit with this in 1948), “Mona Lisa” (a # 1 hit for Nat ‘King’ Cole in 1950), “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)”.  This 1956 # 2 hit, sung by Doris Day, was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock film, ”The Man Who Knew Too Much”, starring Jimmy Stewart and the aforementioned Ms. Day.  That song also features prominently in the 1988 movie, “Heathers”, which starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.  Other performers who have recorded “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)” include Natalie Cole, Connie Francis, The Shirelles, P.J. Proby, Mary Hopkin, Sly and The Family Stone and Alvin and The Chipmunks.  Livingston and Evans also wrote the Christmas classic, “Silver Bells” as well as the “Bonanza” TV show theme.  The duo won the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song’ three times.  Jay Livingston’s brother, Alan Livingston, was the long time President of Capitol Records in Hollywood.

Then there was the super catchy theme from “The Monkees” (“Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from everyone we meet.  Hey, hey, we’re The Monkees and people say we monkey around.  But we’re too busy singing to put anybody down…”).  Although that theme song never charted, The Monkees were so popular at the time, that they could have even had a hit with the Kellogg’s jingle (which they actually did sing).  “K-E double L, O double good, (DRUM RIFF HERE) Kellogg’s best to you.”

The theme to “Mary Tyler Moore” (it was never called show) was a song called “Love Is All Around” (“Who can turn the world on with her smile”).  It was written by Sonny Curtis, who joined Buddy Holly’s Crickets after Holly’s death in 1959.  Curtis also wrote the hits “Walk Right Back” (In 1961, The Everly Brothers had a # 7 hit with this) and “I Fought The Law”, made famous by the Bobby Fuller Four who took it into the Top Ten in 1966.  The Clash also recorded their own version of the song in the ‘80’s.

And I would be remiss if I left out the “Seinfeld” theme, composed by Jonathan Wolff.  Tough to hum, but memorable nonetheless.  Plus, it’s playing  every second of every day somewhere in the world and Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David just keep getting richer and richer and richer and richer.

Oh, there are scads and scads of wonderful TV themes.  TVT Records (which stood for TV Tunes) made a fortune releasing compilation CDs of hundreds of TV themes), but how many of them actually made the Billboard charts?

Well, come along and let’s take a look, shall we?  By the way, we’ll do this list chronologically, at least until we get to the Top Ten.

Guitar legend Duane Eddy had several TV themes on the charts.  First in 1960, with the theme from “Peter Gunn” (written by Henry Mancini) which went to # 27.  In 1962, the ready Mr. Eddy took the theme song from the CBS TV show “Have Gun Will Travel” starring Richard Boone, to # 33 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart.

Legendary composer Henry Mancini first hit the singles chart in 1960 with his theme from the TV series “Mr. Lucky”, which climbed to # 21.

New York based session guitar player Al Caiola had a Top 20 instrumental hit with the theme from “Bonanza” in 1961.  The same year, Lawrence Welk and his ‘Champagne Music Makers’ took the sax driven theme from “My Three Sons” to # 55.

Nelson Riddle took his previously mentioned instrumental theme from the Martin Milner/George Maharis TV series “Route 66” to # 30 in ’62.

Country pickers and grinners, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs charted the theme from “The Beverly Hillbillies” aka “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” at # 44 in 1963.

In the fall of 1965, Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon (“Palisades Park”) had the # 13 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Action”, the theme to Dick Clark’s daily after school ABC TV series “Where The Action Is”, starring Paul Revere & The Raiders.  The show ran for two years, from ‘65 until ‘67.

Composer Neil Hefti took his original “Batman” TV theme (BAP!!! POW!!!) to # 35 in 1966.  The Marketts (in actuality, a group of LA studio musicians known collectively as the Wrecking Crew) took the “Batman Theme” even higher that same year, hitting the # 17 spot.

Lalo Schifrin’s “Theme From Mission: Impossible” climbed to # 41 in 1968.  In 1996, when Hollywood eventually made a movie out of that TV series, U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen took their version of the theme to # 7, but this was, after all, the movie version, so therefore, it’s disqualified from our TV show themes list.

It was Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, stars of the ground breaking Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin TV series “All In The Family”, who sang that shows’ opening theme song, “Those Were The Days” (“Boy the way Glenn Miller played.  Songs that made the hit parade.  Guys like us we had it made.  Those were the days…”) and took it to # 43 in 1972.

Cyndi Grecco’s “Making Our Dreams Come True”, the theme from “Laverne & Shirley”, went to    # 25 in 1976.

1980 was the year Waylon Jennings had a # 21 hit with “The Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)”.

Steve Carlisle wrote and recorded the opening theme to “WKRP In Cinncinatti”.  His full length version only made it as far as # 65 in 1981.

In 1983, composer Gary Portnoy took his TV hit, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name (The Theme From Cheers)”to # 83 on the Hot 100 chart.

In 1995, The Rembrandt’s had “I’ll Be There For You (Theme From “Friends”)” as a # 17 hit.

So what were the ten biggest hits from TV themes based on Billboards Hot 100 chart? 

10. Actor and singer Richard Chamberlain recorded “The Theme From Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight)”, a TV series he also starred in, and had a # 10 hit in 1962.

9.The Rockford Files” theme was a # 10 hit for composer Mike Post in 1975.  Post won his first Grammy Award at the age of 23 for ‘Best Instrumental Arrangement” for Mason Williams 1968 hit, “Classical Gas”.  In an interesting twist, Post co-produced (with Eddie Van Halen) 1998’s “Van Halen III” album.

8.  “The Theme From Hill Street Blues”, another hit for the busy Mike Post, hit # 10 in 1981

7.  Barry DeVorzen’s haunting instrumental, “Nadia’s Theme” made it to # 8 in the summer of 1976.  The song has an interesting history.  It was originally called “Cotton’s Dream” and was used as incidental music in the 1971 film, “Bless The Beasts And Children”.  In ’73, DeVorzen re-arranged the tune and it became the theme for the long running CBS TV Network soap opera, “The Young and The Restless”.  In the summer of ’76, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” used “Cotton’s Dream” as the musical score for a montage of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s routines and son-of-a-gun, the next thing you know, the damn thing became a huge hit.

6.  In 1976, Pratt & McClain took the theme from “Happy Days” to # 5.  This theme replaced the original, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”.  I suspect the Pratt & McClain version was a whole lot cheaper for the show producers.  The writers of the new theme were Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, who also wrote theme songs for several other TV series such as “Love American Style”, “Wonder Woman”, “Laverne & Shirley (“Makin’ Our Dreams Come True”) and “The Love Boat”.

5.  1969 was the year The Ventures took the theme from “Hawaii Five-0” to # 4.  Morton Stevens was the composer of this ‘Diamond Head’ gem.

4.  The Markett’s version of “Out Of Limits” went it to # 3 on Billboards’ Hot 100 in 1964.  The opening riff was actually ‘borrowed’ from “The Twilight Zone” theme and the original copies of the 45 listed the title as “Outer Limits”, the same as the weekly TV anthology sci-fi series, but “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling got pissed and had his lawyers send The Marketts a ‘cease and desist you villains, lest we sue’ letter and the title of the song was changed to “Out of Limits”, which doesn’t make a lot of sense since Serling had absolutely nothing to do with “The Outer Limits”.  I would have thought they would have had to change the opening “Twilight Zone” music notes.  Ah well, it’s just another Hollywood mystery.

3. The Theme From The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)” went to # 2 in 1981 for Joey Scarbury. Another hit written by Mike Post (and lyricist Stephen Geyer).  The popular Mr. Post is also the composer of themes for “NYPD Blue”, “Hunter”, “L.A. Law” and the various versions of the “Law And Order” theme.

2. In February of 1976, Rhythm Heritage had the # 1 hit with the “Theme From SWAT”.  For those not familiar with police jargon, SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics.  The theme was written by our number-seven-on-this-list-pal, Barry DeVorzen, and was produced by Michael Omartian and Steve Barri, both of whom are quite familiar with number one hits.  Omartian produced two # 1 smash hits for Christopher Cross – 1980’s “Sailing” and ‘81’s “Theme From Arthur (Best That You Can Do”), as well as hits for artists such as Donna Summer, Pratt & McClain (see # 6), Michael Bolton and Rod Stewart.  Steve Barri, on the other hand, had a hand writing and producing (or co-writing and co-producing) literally dozens of hits, including John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” (he co-produced it) and Alan O’Day’s 1977 # 1 biggie “Undercover Angel”.  Barri (real name Steven Barry Lipkin from Brooklyn, New Yawk), also co-wrote and co-produced most of the hits for The Grass Roots, along with his creative partner P.F. Sloan (“Eve of Destruction”).  In Canada, the THP Orchestra disco-fied the “Theme From SWAT” and had a # 1 hit on the RPM charts the same year as the U.S. version.  It certainly helped the THP gang that radio stations in the Great White North had a strictly enforced government mandate to play 30% Canadian content material on their airwaves.

1. 1976 was also the year that John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” was # 1 for one week.

So as you can see, based on the record charts, only one of TV Guide’s Top Ten TV Themes list made this list.  That would be their # 3 and our # 5, “Hawaii Five-O”, which just goes to show you that one person’s fond memories are another’s “Men, men, men, manly men, men, men…”.     


Doug’s column appears here every 4th Monday.

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DBAWIS ButtonDoug Thompson has spent his entire adult life in broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S. and has won 152 awards for his work.  He worked with Canadian actor John Candy for 17 years, writing and producing commercials, specials and several weekly radio programs.

Currently, he’s writing and producing the second season of a television program for the Hi Fi channel in Canada called “Hi Fi Salutes”, a series of short biographical documentaries on Canadian musicians, producers and record industry pioneers.  One of those programs recently won a Platinum Award at the World Film Festival in Houston.




  1. Warren Cosford Says:

    The “definitive” version of The Mickey Mouse Club Song?

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