“A long, long time ago….”

There are some days I sit down and wonder what I am going to write about, today is not one of those days. Today is the “day the music died” – 60 years ago. The phrase comes from the classic Don McLean song “American Pie.”

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The Winter Dance Party Tour

In January of 1959, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts set out to do a tour of 24 Mid-West cities in 24 days. The first problem was that no one had really thought out the tour stops and instead of circling from town to town, the tour was zig-zagging from state to state and sometimes the travel between cities was over 400 miles!

What made this even more difficult was that almost all of the travel was done on buses and there were break downs, and some didn’t have heat. The artists and band members were the ones loading and unloading the buses. Due to the cold, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens were starting to feel ill, complaining of flu-like symptoms. After driving 350+ miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin, the tour arrived at Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2 to play the Surf Ballroom.

When they arrived it became clear that Buddy Holly was over all of the bus issues. After the Surf Ballroom show, the next stop was over 350 miles away in Minnesota. Because of the poor planning of tour stops, this meant that the buses would have to pass through towns they had already played. Buddy decided that he needed some rest and so he chartered a plane to take him and his band (which included Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch) to Fargo, North Dakota. They would rest there and get picked up by the buses when they came through town on their way to the gig.

There are a few versions of what happened next, but the widely accepted story is this: The Big Bopper, who was feeling the effects of the flu, asked Waylon Jennings for his seat on the plane. Waylon agreed to let him have the seat. (Some say that Waylon gave him his seat voluntarily.) One story says that when Buddy found out that Waylon was taking the bus instead of flying, he said “I hope your old bus freezes up” to which Waylon replied, “Well, I hope your old plane crashes”. In an interview later, Waylon said that even though the response was meant as a joke, his words still haunted him.

Richie Valens asked guitar player Tommy Allsup if he could have his seat aboard the plane. (There is some question as to whether Valens or the Big Bopper was the one with the flu.) It was decided that they would flip a coin to see who would get to go on the plane. A radio DJ who was working the show that night flipped a coin in a room off the stage and Richie Valens won the coin toss – and the seat. Ironically, Richie, at one time had a fear of flying.

The Flight

After the show, the manager from the Surf Ballroom drove Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper to the airport. At the time the plane took off, there was light snow falling. The weather was supposed to get worse along the planned flight path. At 12:55 am, the plane took off from the airport. At 1:00, pilot Roger Peterson was supposed to radio to the airport to check in, but didn’t. The airport continued to try to reach him, but there was no answer.

In the morning, Hubert Dwyer, the owner of the flying service and the plane, took off in his own plane to retrace the path of the plane carrying Holly and the others. At about 9:30, less than 6 miles from the airport, he spotted the wreckage of the plane carrying the singers and pilot. The sheriff’s office was immediately dispatched to the cornfield where the plane had crashed, in Clear Lake, Iowa.

It is estimated that the plane hit the ground at almost 200 mph and did cartwheels before coming to a stop. The bodies of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens were thrown from the plane and were close to the crash site. The Big Bopper was ejected and thrown over a fence into a cornfield. The pilot’s body was wrapped up in the wreckage of the plane.

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Afterward

When this happened, there was no protocol for withholding names of victims before notifying their family. Because of this, Buddy Holly’s widow found out about her husband’s death from a TV news story about the crash. They had only been married 6 months at the time of his death, and she was pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage shortly after because of “psychological trauma”. She did not attend her husband’s funeral and has never visited his gravesite. She blames herself for him getting on the plane, stating that if she had been with him, he would not have got on the plane.

An investigation into the crash found that despite the fact that the pilot had passed his written flight test, and had flown many hours, he was not prepared to fly in situations where he must rely solely on instruments (Which he would have had to do on this flight because of weather conditions). Another possible factor is the older equipment on the plane may have cause the pilot to believe he was ascending, but instead was descending. He was also not properly briefed on the weather conditions that he was flying into.

The tour continued for a couple weeks afterward with Waylon Jennings taking on the role of lead singer. Bobby Vee came to national attention due to the crash, because he was brought onto the tour because he basically knew all the words to the songs.

The Legends

22-year-old Buddy Holly left behind some songs that, despite his short career, have become rock and roll classics. Peggy Sue, Every Day, That’ll Be the Day, Rave On, True Love Ways, Raining In My Heart, and “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” remain on the play lists of oldies stations across the country. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has released an album of his music with his original vocals with a more orchestral background (they have done this with Elvis, Aretha Franklin, and Roy Orbison), giving the songs a fresh new sound.

The Big Boppper, AKA JP Richardson, will forever be remembered for his classic hits Chantilly Lace and The Big Bopper’s Wedding. He had a career as a radio DJ and also had great success as a songwriter. He wrote George Jones number one song “White Lightening” and Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear.” He was only 28 at the time of his death

Richie Valens was a mere 17 years old when he perished in the crash. His career was only just beginning, having begun just eight months earlier. He left behind three songs that remain fixtures in the first decade of rock and roll: Come One Let’s Go, Oh Donna, and, of course, La Bamba.

Like Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Jim Croce, John Lennon, and Stevie Ray Vaughn – all who left this world too young – we can only sit back and ponder how the face of music would have changed if they hadn’t died so young. Each of their careers cut short by a tragedy. Three voices silenced by fate.

Remembering Them

Every year, there is a memorial concert held at the Surf Ballroom to honor the memory of these three rock and roll icons. Outside the venue is a four-foot tall monument that had the names of the pilot and the three singing legends. This was placed there in 1988. At the crash site, there is a large steel structure which looks like a pair of glasses (much like the ones Holly wore), which stands as a memorial.

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The most popular tribute is Don McLean’s 1971 American Pie. The song refers to the date of the crash as “the day the music died”. While some take this song to be about Buddy Holly, McLean insists that while the crash is referenced in the song, it is not really about Holly – it’s “about America.” He states, “Buddy Holly’s death is what I used to try to write the biggest possible song I could write about America. And not a ‘This Land Is Your Land’ or America, the Beautiful” or something like that. I wanted to write a song that was completely brand new in its perspective.”

The song will no doubt be played many times on radio stations across the country today.

Final thoughts

60 years later, artists such as The Beatles, Elton John, and Bob Dylan have all cited Buddy Holly as a musical influence. His songs have been covered by numerous artists including Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Martina McBride. There have been movies made surrounding the lives of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. And the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra album with Holly’s original vocals is available now, too.

So has the music really died? I don’t think so. Today, as we remember the 60th anniversary of their tragic deaths, we must also look back and remember their music and the mark that they left on musical history. Their voices may now be silent, but their influence continues to trickle down through music today. Rave On!

40 years of the Dukes

“Just a good ole boys … never meanin’ no harm….”

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This is an impromptu blog that comes about as a result of scrolling Facebook.  I was reminded that it was 40 years ago today that “The Dukes of Hazzard” premiered on TV.  This show was such a HUGE part of my childhood!  I remember sitting in front of the TV faithfully every Friday night to see how Bo & Luke got out of trouble and avoid getting “cuffed and stuffed” by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.

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What kid didn’t watch in awe as the General Lee made yet another jump over something?! I remember loving it each time the General, Dixie, or a cop car fishtailed as it made a turn on the dirt roads of Hazzard County.  Many of the kids in the neighborhood played “Dukes” during the summer.  Our bikes served as the General Lee, Boss Hogg’s convertible, Cooter’s tow truck, or Rosco’s police cruiser. Of course, when we’d “jump” a curb, in our imagination, we’d be jumping over a cop car, jumping over a bridge that was out, or a ravine.

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When the Dukes came out, I watched James Best as the bumbling sheriff and loved every minute of it.  I learned how to do the “Rosco laugh” and when we played outside, I often assumed the role of Mr. Coltrane.  My dad had bought be a cowboy hat, and on a trip to Mackinaw I bought a silver sheriff’s badge.  I “was” Rosco – writing tickets and chasing Duke boys.

To this day, I feel that Rosco and Boss Hogg are often overlooked as one of TV’s great comedy teams!  They played so well off each other.  I remember how much I used to crack up when Boss Hogg called Rosco a “do-do” or “dipstick”.  While not full blown slapstick, it still made me laugh.

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The show had a great cast of characters, too.  The good ole boys were, of course, Bo & Luke.  As a kid, I thought bow and arrows were cool – but Bo & Luke made them cooler!  They had sticks of dynamite on the arrows!!  Uncle Jesse was the patriarch who kept everyone in line and always had a lesson to teach.  Cooter was crazy, just like his CB handle. Enos and Cletus were the idiot deputies who were sometimes dumber and sometimes smarter than Rosco. And then there was Daisy….

Catherine Bach is one of my childhood crushes.  I always thought she was beautiful.  Every week, you’d see her in her bikini during the opening credits and then throughout the show, she’d be wearing her Daisy Duke shorts … yep, that’s where they got their name!  There were three posters that boys in the 70’s had … Wonder Woman, Farrah Fawcett, and Catherine Bach!  I had them all.

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Everyone knew the theme song, too!  Waylon Jennings sang it.  He was also the narrator of the show.  He had a hit with the song, which had an additional verse that poked fun of the fact that the only showed his hands and not his face on TV.

I remember I stopped watching the show a couple times.  When Bo & Luke left and their cousins Coy and Vance (literally carbon copies of Bo & Luke) came to visit – even a kid knew that these two guys were nowhere close to Bo and Luke and we were glad to see them go.  I also stopped watching when Rosco was replaced by Sheriff Grady (played by Darren #2 from Bewitched – Dick Sargent) for a short time.  I haven’t watched the show in a long time, but I have been meaning to grab the DVD’s.

I remember when I was 9 or 10, I found a book of celebrity addresses (I think it was in one of the school book club order forms) and I wrote to James Best.  I told him how much I liked watching the show and stuff.  He sent me an autographed picture of him as Rosco with Flash the dog.  I wish I still had that picture.  It hung on my bedroom door for a very long time.  It was my first celebrity autograph.

I feel bad for the kids of today.  They have so many electronic distractions (tablets, cell phones, and video games) that they rarely “play” anymore.  In this day and age, they seem to have trouble carrying on a conversation, grasping the concept of imagination, or being creative.  For us, our imaginations ran wild when we were outside playing.  We created the stories as we went along.  We’d pick up wherever we left off the following day if it got too dark to play.  As I reread this, it makes me smile and wish I still had that bike and cowboy hat!  I am thankful that I was a child of the 70’s … we used to have a lot of fun!

(Insert Rosco P. Coltrane laugh here….)

 

My Biggest Musical Influence – Dad

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Over the years I have been influenced musically by many people, but I would have to say that it is my father who has had the biggest influence. This blog is sort of a continuation of the “series” I have been doing based on “songs from my iPod”.

My dad introduced me to almost every genre of music. My love for oldies music comes from some of my earliest memories of songs he played. I was also introduced to classic country and country music in general by him. He played in a wedding band for years – the first being Now & Then, and the second was Foxfire. I recall him sitting in front of the stereo playing along with 45 records of songs that they were learning for gigs. I remember long nights when my brother and I had to go to “band practice” as well.

Rock and Roll music was a staple in our house, probably because it was the stuff he grew up listening to. The first song that comes to mind is Dream Baby by Roy Orbison. As a kid, I would ask, “Daddy please play ‘boom boom boom….bum bum boom'”. This was a reference to the bass notes that open the song. I loved that song. While so many other folks always connect Roy to Pretty Woman (a classic, no doubt), I remember Candy Man, In Dreams, and Crying. Roy was awesome – and dad introduced me to him.

He also introduced me to Elvis. Man, Elvis was cool! Sure, every one knows Hound Dog, All Shook Up, and the biggies….but dad played me songs like Steamroller Blues, Moody Blue, and Way Down! He had the Moody Blue album (which was on Blue Vinyl) and Elvis In Concert and I remember playing them on the stereo many times. I remember the look on my dad’s face when the news came on the radio that Elvis had died. We were at the drive in movie getting ready to watch Smokey and the Bandit, when Honey Radio announced it. Dad was shocked. We listened to Elvis music until dark and the movie started.

I have to include another person in this section about music – my Godfather, my Uncle Tom. He and my dad grew up together and their exploits can be an entirely separate blog. For now, let me talk about R&B and “local” music. When I first started working at WKSG (Kiss-FM) in Detroit, my dad asked if I could find him some songs. I told him I would look and if they were at the station, I’d throw them on tape for him. These were songs that he and my Uncle Tom grew up listening to.

As I looked over the list, I remember thinking, “What the hell are these songs? Were these even hits? Who are these people?’ The result was me getting a taste of some really amazing music. I cannot listen to any of these songs without thinking of them. This is music that was stripped down, funky, and amazing.

Mind Over Matter by Nolan Strong jumps out at first. This song is classic! Backing Nolan on this is the group the Diablos. Simple instrumentation and a powerful vocal makes this one of my favorites. This was not a song that would play on the radio much in the late 80’s, and I recall watching my uncle and my dad listening to the tape I made and loving every damn second of it. I watched them become transported back to when they were teens and jamming to these songs for the first time – it was magical!

Village of Love by Nathaniel Mayer is another one that is worth a listen just for the bass singer – it is R&B gold!. Two songs that were on his list (and now on my iPod) that were local hits that I absolutely love were by the band The Dynamics. I’m The Man and Misery are two very different songs, but they capture the sound of Motown prior to the Motown sound emerging.

A couple oldies that were on the list which we actually played in a regular rotation at WHND Honey Radio were Don’t Let Go by Roy Hamilton, You Can Have Her by Roy Hamiliton, So Fine by the Fiestas, Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, What In the World’s Come Over You by Jack Scott, and Agent Double O Soul by Edwin Star. I loved when these songs would come up on the play list.

Another one that would come up was the song You’re So Fine by the Falcons. Wanna talk about stripped down? This one was as simple as they come. It was recorded in a garage with probably one or two microphones. You can totally tell that they it recorded all at once on one track and it was one take. You can even hear a little guitar feedback at the end. GREAT song! I love it!

My dad was instrumental in introducing me to blues music too. One of those songs that he and my uncle asked for was Baby, What You Want Me To Do by Jimmy Reed. Wow. It is one of those songs that DEFINES the blues in my opinion. Other songs he had me listen to were Fannie Mae by Buster Brown, which we played at WHND, Baby, Scratch My Back by Slim Harpo, Shake Your Money Maker by Elmore James, and The Thrill is Gone by BB King. The blues and R&B music helped shape Rock and Roll and these songs are a must for my iPod.

I grew up in the Urban Cowboy era when country music got a lot of attention and a lot of radio airplay. I don’t know that I would say country music is my dad’s favorite genre, but he sure introduced me to some great artists and songs. He, of course was responsible for me hearing Willie Nelson & Johnny Paycheck (who are mentioned in other blogs), but he also introduced me to Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. I recall him playing the two of them singing a duet on Tear in My Beer. This was high tech at the time, they took Hank Sr’s vocal and isolated it and then Hank Jr. sang with him, It was a great song with just Hank Sr., but adding Hank Jr. was excellent.

Another song he played for me was Okie from Muskogee. The opening line is “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”…not exactly the best song for a 10 year old to hear, but I had no idea what it meant and I liked Merle Haggard’s voice. I also recall him playing Amanda by Waylon Jennings. It is probably one of my favorite Waylon songs. Such a simple ballad, but I could listen to it over and over. I also loved when he bought the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit II because it was the only place you could find a great song by Don Williams called To Be Your Man. Among other acts he played were the great Ronnie Milsap, George Jones, Juice Newton, and Charlie Pride.

Two country albums I remember him calling me in to hear were from Dwight Yoakam and The Kentucky Headhunters. The Headhunters album had a great cover of Oh Lonesome Me on there, but the song he played for me was Dumas Walker. It sounded fresh and almost a little rockish. I remember immediately getting this on cassette for the car. The other album was If There Was a Way from Dwight. In my opinion, this is one of his best. My favorite cut from the album was never released as a single – The Distance Between You and Me. The instrumentation is perfect and the lyric is classic – almost Brad Paisley-ish. I crank it up ALWAYS.

On the “pop” side of things, a few songs stand out, most of which because they were songs he learned and played for his wedding band gigs. The first one I think of is the Breakup Song by Greg Kihn. I remember him putting the 45 on the stereo, and playing that intro over and over. The first time I heard him play it note for note, I was blown away! I loved watching him work out licks and chords and stuff by simply listening to it on the stereo! America by Neil Diamond was another. By the time this one came out, he was in Foxfire and playing bass guitar, not lead guitar. These guys were good. Not that the other band wasn’t, I just know that they sounded amazing. Dennis, the lead singer, (and at one time my boss at my first job) NAILED his vocals. I could swear he was Neil Diamond! Every song he sang was dead on. Man, I miss that group of guys!

Probably the craziest musical incident involving my dad was when he introduced me to the music of Red Prysock. My grandmother always wanted to go to garage sales. I think my dad hated it. There was a familiar look of disgust on his face one day when she asked to go. While at one garage sale, he was going through old 45’s. His face lit up with boyish excitement as he stopped at one 45 with a black label on it. I heard him so, “I can’t believe it…” He bought the 45 and couldn’t wait to play it for me … and to be able to hear it for the first time in years. Hand Clappin’ was the song. It was a jazzy sax number that caused to you tap your toes. It was GREAT. It was like nothing I had ever heard. My dad said that DJ’s used to use it for their “theme song” back in the day. Still remains a favorite for me. Who says garage sales are bad?!

Over the years, my dad has called me over to the turntable, the cassette deck, the CD player, the mini-disc player, and his computer with the words, “Hey son, listen to this …” Very rarely was I ever disappointed. Today, I listen to almost every type of music and have always kept an open mind to genres because of dad. I am so lucky that he was such an instrumental (pun intended) part of my musical influence. Thanks, Pop!

Tube Tunes….

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Today, Quincy Jones turns 85.  He is a legend in the music business.  He is a record producer, actor, conductor, composer, musician, TV & film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive and humanitarian.  He’s worked with some of the best musicians and produced some of the biggest albums in history.  He has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.  Call my crazy, but despite all of the things Quincy Jones is known for – I remember him for one thing – he recorded the Sanford and Son Theme song!

There was just something cool about this theme song.  The opening bass line followed by the catchy melody.  To this day, I laugh when I see a beat up truck driving around, I will sing the Sanford theme out loud!  In an episode of Scrubs, JD and Turk are having a serious discussion, that eventually ends up with them singing and dancing to the Sanford theme!  Recently someone did a “mash up” with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and, you guessed it, the theme to Sanford and Son.

Today, many shows don’t even bother with a theme song.  You see the credits scroll on the screen while the show is in progress.  This is sad.  A TV theme song kind of sets the mood for the show.  It will be a song with catchy lyrics or a melody that you can hum along with.  Today, lets go back and look at some of my favorite theme songs from TV’s past.  When we’re done – tell me your favorites that I may have missed.

The 50’s

Two of the earliest themes on my list come from shows considered classics.  First, The Andy Griffith Show.  This catchy tune is one that you can whistle along with.  Even without looking at a screen, whistling it makes you picture Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles to the lake.  Second, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  What’s not to like about this one?  You only have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna trip over the ottoman when he walks in the house.

Then there is the Twilight Zone.  The haunting guitar part that plays those same four notes over and over is scary as hell!  As a kid, I remember freaking out when it was on.  Today, as I listen to it, it is perfect for the show.  It was the perfect music to play while Rod Serling explained that we were entering another dimension.  I can’t tell you how many times something obscure happens and I start humming the theme song!

Another one of my favorites was the theme to Perry Mason.  It was written by Fred Steiner who said he wanted to capture Perry’s sophistication and toughness.  The song is actually called Park Avenue Beat and it is a bluesy “piece of symphonic R&B”.  The song was re-recorded for the Perry Mason TV movies and was used by the Blues Brothers band while out touring.

Another theme song that I absolutely love, has a Blues Brothers tie in, too.  Peter Gunn is a private eye.  The initial base line accompanied by low brass instruments screams sleazy private eye.  It’s a great piece.  The song actually plays in the first Blues Brothers movie as the brothers are driving through Illinois.  They do a fine cover of it.

The 60’s

The shows of the 60’s and 70’s had some of the best theme songs!

The theme to Mission: Impossible is instantly recognizable.  It was composed by the great Lalo Schifrin.  What’s neat about the song is that it is in 5/4 time.  From the opening note – you can see the fuse light up and begin to burn.  It’s such a cool piece of music.  I was glad that they used it in the movies with Tom Cruise (even though I disliked them).

Wanna sing along with the theme to Batman?  You only need to sing the word “Batman” and you got it!  Neil Hefti, who was a composer and arranger, composed the theme with it’s simple guitar lick and vocal.  It was a hit for Hefti, The Ventures, and the The Marketts.

William Dozier, creator of Batman, also created the Green Hornet.  Even though the show didn’t last long, the theme song is memorable for a few reasons.  First, it is based on the classical piece, The Flight of the Bumblebee.  Second, playing the trumpet on the song is the great Al Hirt!  Classic!  One that you will hum for days.

Who can forget the theme to the Monkees?  “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet….”  Hey!  Hey!  They’re the Monkees!  For this show, they gathered 4 guys with little or no musical experience and made them a band.  The show appealed to kids and adults alike.  It was fast paced with quick jokes and 4 lovable characters who featured many of their hit songs on the show.

In the 60’s the guitar played a big part in theme songs.  Think about this, The Munsters theme had such a catchy lick that was sampled for the song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.  It was cool enough to sample for one of today’s hit songs.

One of those great guitar theme songs was to Get Smart.  The opening sequence changed a little from season to season, but it always included Don Adams walking through a corridor with sets of doors one right after another until he finally makes it to the payphone that gets him into CONTROL headquarters.  Love this song and it never fails, if I am ever walking down a long hallway – I will almost always start to hum this song.

I mentioned the Ventures earlier, and they have one of the coolest theme songs – Hawaii 5-0.  It was a huge instrumental hit for the band.  It’s a great balance of guitar and horns.  The use of the tympani drum and the pyramid effect by the horns in this song is masterful!  It’s one of those theme songs you instantly crank up.

The 70’s

Disco was in and some theme songs were just “funky”.  Two examples of this are Barney Miller and it’s spin-off, Fish.  The funky bass in the two theme songs is prominent and sets the tone for the them.  The guitar melodies blend in and make them two themes that you could listen to over and over.  The horns in Barney Miller continue to crescendo to the end of the song itself.  It started slow and funky and ends in such a way that when it’s over you are disappointed cause you want more.

Norman Lear was a staple of 70’s TV.  He created All In The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and the list of his credits goes on and on.  The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family.  George Jefferson is “moving on up” to a bigger and better life and that’s where the theme song sets you up.  It tells you the story.  The theme song was written by Ja’net Dubois (of Good Times) and Jeff Berry and sung by Dubois and a gospel choir.  Her vocal is amazing and so is the song.

How do I describe the theme song from What’s Happening!!?  As the show opens, the main characters are running down a sidewalk bouncing a ball.  The music kinda sounds like a ball is bouncing and then the soprano sax jumps in.  It’s odd, but it’s catchy.  It’s also written and composed by one of the most respected men in music – Henry Mancini!

The 70’s introduced us to the superhero Wonder Woman.  I do not know a boy alive who did not have a crush on Lynda Carter.  Much like the Batman theme, this theme repeats the character’s name a few times, but then expands on how wonderful she is.  There is a funky little bass line that drives the song and I can’t really remember much more because I was watching Lynda Carter run ….

Welcome Back, Kotter was the show that introduced us to John Travolta.  It was a comedy about a guy (Gabe Kaplan) who goes back to his old neighborhood to teach.  The show was originally going to be called Kotter.  The title was changed, however, because of the theme song.  It was written and recorded by former lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian.   The song hit the charts and went all the way up to #1.  This song give you the feel of the “folksy” 70’s.

The 80’s

There are so many great theme songs from the 80’s!  Let’s start with Night Court.  Night Court’s theme song throws me back to the 70’s because of that funky bass open.  You also have that soprano sax melody.  It’s not a long theme, and when it’s done, you wish that you could find somewhere an “extended club mix”.

Police Squad only produced 6 episodes and it was cancelled.  It starred Leslie Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin.  At the time, the network didn’t think that a show like Police Squad would be something an audience would want to watch (so they could catch all the jokes – remember, this was done by the guys who gave us the movie Airplane!).  The theme song was accompanied by a voice over announcer reading the credits.  He would also announce tonight’s guest star (who would always die during the credits) and give the name of the episode (which never matched with the title read on the screen).  Thankfully, when the Naked Gun movies were made, the kept the theme song.

In 1980, Urban Cowboy hit theaters and country music was all the rage.  It only made sense that we’d have a country comedy show on TV.  That show was the Dukes of Hazzard.  Talk about big name singers – Waylon Jennings sings the theme song, and he was also the show’s narrator.  The song was released as a single in August of 1980, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts!  Yee-haw!

The 90’s

It is here that we begin to see the decline in the use of the TV theme song.  As a matter of fact, it became a habit to edit them down to 10-30 seconds from the already short 60 seconds.  There are some that stand out for me though from this decade.

Tim Allen’s Home Improvement was a show based on his comedy act.  His grunts and vocalizations intermingle through the theme song, almost as if they are a part of the musical score.  The theme song almost sounds like a “work” song, both in sound and in tempo.

Seinfeld was one of those shows who used a theme song for a while, and used it at the end of the show, but often times especially in the show’s later seasons, it was shortened.  The bubbly, poppy, twangy bass, and silly feel will forever be associated with the show about nothing and it’s silly characters.

From the opening guitar of “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, you are in New York with Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica.  The theme to the show Friends was an international hit.  It was a song that was requested on radio and used at wedding receptions to introduce bridal parties.  The song is heavily influenced by the Beatles (I Feel Fine) and the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday).  It was originally just one minute long, but the band went in an recorded an extended version, which became a radio hit.

Who could forget It’s Garry Shandling’s Show?  The show, in itself, was silly.  Garry interacts with the cast, but often will interact with the studio audience as well.  It was just so weird.  The theme song is just as weird.  It’s a bouncy song that basically references itself (this is the theme to Garry’s show) and tells you how it came to be (Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song) and then asks how you like it (we’re almost halfway finished how do you like it so far?).  The melody is so catchy, you can’t help but want to sing (or whistle) along with it.

Wrapping up

With the TV theme song becoming more and more absent from TV…what are your thoughts?  Which ones did you love growing up?  Which ones do you still sing?  Which ones did you hate?

Now it’s your turn – I look forward to seeing your comments.