Popular Culture (Music AND TeeVee) 20110318: Iconic Themes Part I

(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I love to be able to fuse two topics into one!  Since almost the beginning of TeeVee, there has been theme music for its programs.  Many of you will remember lots of them, but there were some programs without music, the very first TeeVee image being one of them, although it got a theme later.  Does that pique your interest?

TeeVee became widely available in the late 1940s, in large part because of the revolutionary improvements in electronics because of the necessity of the war effort.  However, there is a backstory to that as well:  after the war was over, there was a flood of components that were military surplus, available for cents on the dollar, to be had by manufacturers.

TeeVee had been invented long before World War II, but the components were rare and expensive.  Because of the glut of surplus components, TeeVee became widely available, but that is more of a Pique the Geek piece.

Sound is relatively easy to broadcast on a carrier wave, since it is relatively information sparse.  Pictures, on the other hand, are information dense, and motion pictures are much more so, because of the persistence of vision, making around 28 or so (and the more the better) frames per second necessary for the eye/brain combination to integrate what is a series of still, no matter the recording medium, pictures to flow like a live scene.

However, this is also more a topic for Pique the Geek.  Tonight we shall look back on some of the iconic theme music for TeeVee programs from the early days to around 1970 or so.  I know that I will miss a bunch of them, because there are so many.  However, there are the ones that I remember well and enjoyed.  Please add the ones that you remember and like in the comments.

One of the earliest, and certainly most popular TeeVee shows ever filmed (no tape in those days) was I Love Lucy.  Most people are familiar with the theme, with the velvet heart emblazoned with the title.  Here it is:

This was composed by, as far as I can tell, a man named Eliot Daniel, and was performed by the Desi Arnaz Orchestra.  The Cuban influence is obvious.  However, this was NOT the original opening for the show.

HERE is the original one.  Phillip Morris cigarettes was the main, original sponsor for the program.  The velvet heart opening was a replacement for the original opening when the program went into syndication, since the original sponsors were no longer associated with the program.

Only the cartoon part was the opening theme.  The live action was in internal commercial that shows at the time often ran.  There is another one later when we discuss The Beverly Hillbillies, likely in another installment.  Ironically, Arnaz died in 1986 from lung cancer!

Most people do not know that the I Love Lucy theme acutally had words.  Here is that version.  Desi Arnaz is the singer.

The show ran with that title from 1951 to 1957 as a regular series, and in another reincarnation until 1960.  I have a very soft place in my heart for it, because its success bankrolled the way for Desilu Studios, where the first two seasons of Star Trek were filmed.

Another iconic theme is from the marvelous anthology program created by the brilliant Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone.

However, the one that you remember was not the first one.  HERE is the original opening sequence from 1959:

The iconic one was written by Marius Constant.  I have not been able to determine exactly who performed it for the show.

The original program ran from 1959 to 1964.  It was revived in 1985, long after Serling’s death, with the same theme song, but performed by a band with whom many of us are familiar.  Here is The Grateful Dead’s take on it.  Note that the skull device is very briefly shown.

The Twilight Zone has LOTS of connexions with Star Trek!  William Shatner (twice), Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, James Doohan, and Theodore Bikel (Worf’s adopted human father in The Next Generation) all had starring roles.  There is also a musical connexion, because Jerry Goldsmith wrote a lot of the incidental music in the program itself.  He is remembered as the creator of the theme music for Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, which was also used for The Next Generation.

Another program with an iconic theme, which also happened to premiere in 1959, was Rawhide.  The words for the theme were written by Ned Washington, and the music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin.  A popular singer at the time, Frankie Lane, sung it.  Belushi and Ackroyd seemed to like it, too, since they covered it in The Blues Brothers!

HERE it is, both the opening and closing versions:

Here is the Blues Brothers’ version (it starts about a minute and a half in):

Rawhide also had a lot of connexions with Star Trek.  Here is a partial list of actors who guest starred on Rawhide:  DeForest Kelley, Michael Ansara (the Klingon captain from the episode The Day of the Dove), Susan Oliver (Lena, the human captured by the Talosions in the original pilot for Star Trek, The Cage, most of which was used in the second season for the two part episode, The Menagerie), and William Schallert (most well known as Patty Duke’s father in her self named program, but also played the inept Earth ambassador in the award winning episode The Trouble with Tribbles).

Even animated cartoons had iconic themes.  The Flintstones, the William Hanna and Joseph Barbara production, is probably the most iconic one of all (by the way, Hanna and Barbara provided the original opening for I Love Lucy, the cigarette one, but were not credited because they were moonlighting, since they had an exclusive contract with MGM in 1951).  However, the iconic theme was not the first one!  The first one was called Rise and Shine, and was used for the first two seasons, 1960 and 1961.  Here it is:

The one that you remember is this one:

Personally, I like the earlier one better.  The second one is sort of garish, but Hanna and Barbara like annoying noise.

One more reference to Hanna and Barbara, and we shall go elsewhere.  One of their most popular cartoons was Scooby Doo, Where are You!  It also had two theme songs, and again I like the first one better:

This one was performed and cowritten by Austin Roberts, best known for the horrible Rocky.

Here is the second one, written by Hoyt Curtin.  I could not find who performed it:

Red Skelton had a variety program that ran for many years.  Skelton was sort of multitalented individual:  composer, comedian, serious actor, and one of the outstanding mimes of all time.  Here is the theme music for The Red Skelton Show, called Holiday for Strings.  David Rose wrote the piece and conducted the orchestra, and we will see more of him in a bit.  This is the long version of it:

Another iconic theme with which Rose was associated was the theme for Bonanza!.  Written by David Rose, Walter Scharf, and Harry Sukman, Rose conducted the orchestra playing it, here:

What most folks do not realize is that this actually has words, and here is Lorne Greene singing them:

I was unable to find a list of guest stars, but know for a fact the DeForest Kelly was on at least once, so there is a Star Trek connexion.  One episode stands out to me in my alter ego role as The Geek.  I do not recall the name of the episode, but it had to do with Hoss helping a young, Jewish boy by the name of Albert Abraham Michelson trying to figure out the speed of light by using a circular array of mirrors cut like a pie, with alternate spaces being non mirrored.  This actually is based on fact, in that Michelson did spend some time in his youth in Virginia City.

For those of you more artistic than scientific, Michelson was the first American to win a Nobel Prize, in this case in physics.  His Nobel Prize was for several accomplishments, and the Nobel citations states it was “…”for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations carried out with their aid.”  I really need to do a Pique the Geek installment with his biography as the topic.  Interestingly, this yet another Star Trek connexion, because the bigoted teacher who declined to recommend him for the Naval Academy (Michelson actually was graduated from it) in the episode was played by William Schallert, mentioned before.  By the way, Michelson made the best determination of the speed of light in a vacuum until the electronics revolution made more precise measurements decades later.  In 1926 his value was 299,796±4 km/s.  The best value known now is 299,792.458 km/s.  Note that his 1926 value, with error limits, is within the modern one that contains nine digits.  By the way, the modern value is defined to be an exact value, with no error.

Only two more themes and I shall stop for this installment.  I can see that there needs to be a second, and perhaps, a third one.  Likely the most iconic theme for any TeeVee show is the whistled one from The Andy Griffith Show.

This tune actually has a name, called The Fishin’ Hole, written by Earle Hagen.  Here it is as it was aired, except without the voiceover announcing the name of the show and the cast.

But there is MORE!  This song acutally has words, like several ones earlier!  Here is Andy Griffith himself singing it:

Before he got the show, he was, amongst other things, a singer.  This was a song strongly identified with him, so they adopted it for the theme.  As you might suspect, The Andy Griffith show ALSO has a connexion with Star Trek!  Both were filmed at Desilu Studios until 1967, and both were filmed at Paramount after that.

Are you getting the idea that Star Trek is connected with almost everything?  Well, it is.  The inventor of the “flip” cellular telephone admitted that he got the idea from the original communicators from Star Trek.  The original ideas for remote medical imaging also had their roots there, as does the idea of having a COMPUTER terminal in every crew quarter.  By the way, the very first interracial kiss EVER on TeeVee was on Star Trek!

With that said, I must finish this installment with the theme from Star Trek.  It was written by Alexander Courage, and is perhaps almost as iconic as The Fishin’ Hole.  Here is the full, original version.  Note that for the first season it was mostly the string part that was used, the vocal one coming out later.  Also please give a couple of seconds of thought for Majel Barrett, DeForest Kelly, and James Doohan who are no longer with us.

Here it is as it appeared, with the voiceover, for the first season:

Can it get any more iconic than that?

Now, here is the second one.  Note that the Enterprise orbits the strange, red planet and did not do so in the original one.  Also notice that the motions of the Enterprise are much more fluid, and that DeForest Kelly’s name was added to the front credits.  Although the effects got better, the stories did not.  The first two seasons were much better written for the most part.

Here is the theme that Jerry Goldsmith wrote for Star Trek:  The Motion Picture.  I have a story to tell about waiting in line to see it on opening night in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but that is for the comments.  You will likely notice that a modified version was used for Star Trek:  The Next Generation for all of its wonderful run.  I am POSITIVE that there is a blend of Alexander Courage’s original theme and Goldsmith’s new one in the motion picture, without the voiceover, somewhere, but I can not find it.  Perhaps it is when the motion picture starts, but they repeated it in a modified manner for The Next Generation.  Here is the opening theme for the first season.

Note that the sexist phrase “…where no man has…” was by then replaced by the more acceptable “…where no one has…”.  BUT they NEVER corrected the split infinitive, “… to boldly go…” with something more acceptable, like, “…boldly to go…” or “…to go boldly…”.  But that is just The grammarian Geek in me!  LOL!  See?  I just split my alter ego’s name!

I know that I have missed many iconic themes from this period, but that is why we have Comment Time.  I would love to hear your favorites, and if you can find video feeds, so much the better.  If you can not, just describe them and I bet that someone here might find one.

It is always my honor to respond to comments, because without a loyal readership, I would not write very much.  The responses from all of you keep me going.  Please check in Sunday evening at 9:00 PM Eastern for my Pique the Geek first installment of Nuclear Reactors:  How they Work Part I.  I think that you might like it, considering what has happened and is still happening in Japan.

Warmest regards,


Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette.com.  Crossposted at Antemedius.com, Dailykos.com, and Fireflydreaming.com.


  1. music that everyone remembers, even if not the first openings?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I really appreciate it.

    Vern had to take my post on his site down because the many embeds were draining his bandwidth.  We have agreed that I shall only embed a couple, and use links for the rest.

    Does my propensity to embed video negatively affect this site?  If so, I shall use fewer of them and more links.  The links are not as effective as the embeds, but if it helps you out I am glad to do so.  The same goes for the ‘zette.  Please just let me know.

    Warmest regards,


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