THE SATURDAY MORNING SONG CHRONICLES - PAGE 36

-- Paul B Allen III: January 11, 2020

TV THEME SONGS 

Music that is indelibly etched in our minds did not just come from listening to the radio. A medium that engages our eyes and our ears and our imaginations is TV, and the theme songs of our favorite TV shows are still present with us in our minds for decades after the TV shows have ended. 

We don’t give much thought to the fact that these TV theme songs are “music” (in most cases) and that they are money makers in and of themselves, but they are, they most certainly are. 

Paul Anka, one of the teen heart-throbs of the 1950s was also an excellent songwriter, and though he had million-selling hit songs himself, probably his most profitable song ever was the TV theme song he wrote for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Johnny’s hosted version of The Tonight Show ran for 30 seasons, nightly from 1962 through 1992, and that Paul Anka written tune was played to introduce each show, to end each show, and to go in to, and come back out of commercial breaks. Paul estimated that this song was played about one and one half million times during that 30 years. He got paid each time it played. How much? He was paid $200,000 a year, every year, for thirty years! Now, being paid $200,000 dollars a year in the 1960s was the same as being paid $1.7 million dollars a year today! I don’t know about you, but as soon as I finish this week's Saturday Morning Song Chronicles, I’m going to learn how to write TV theme songs! 

Many of these theme songs had vocal lyrics that told us the premise of the show. “Come and listen to the story of a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And then one day he was shooting at some food and up through the ground came a bubbling crude. Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea…” I may have missed a word or two here or there, but that was from my memory only, the introduction to the show called The Beverly Hillbillies that aired when I was just a kid. (I have to throw in here that me and every other red-blooded male watching TV in those days fell in love with “Elly May Clampett,” played by Donna Douglas. I have been star-struck only one time in my entire life and that is when I got to spend an evening with her years later at a performance of The Platters. Out of all the stars and musicians I have ever met, she is the only one I ever asked for an autograph, and she gave it warmly. We talked together privately for a long time, and frankly, I was in heaven! I framed that autograph and still treasure it to this day). 

But, many of the TV show theme songs or introductions were instrumentals, and again, just hearing the instrumentals today, I know in most cases what show they went to. How about you? 

Today, please allow the Saturday Morning Chronicles to take you back in time to when you were a kid, and if you will, I guarantee you that you will be smiling this morning. We have something different for you today, video clips that covers a decade of TV theme songs, and I have one for the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. Pick your era and listen to those TV theme songs and see if you know which show each one goes to. I’ve been around for all of those decades, and then some, so I listened to each one, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Man! What a trip down memory lane. Of course, you can listen to all of them too, if you like. Each one is wonderful. 

These clips display pictures of the TV shows as well. Notice a young Clint Eastwood and others who would go on to become major stars. 

The video section starts off with the Johnny Carson Theme Song so that you can hear the music that brought Paul Anka nearly two million dollars per year, for thirty years. And, here is another little thing you may not have known. In order for Paul Anka's song to be used as the theme song for Carson, Anka had to make Carson a "co-writer" which meant that Carson was also making $1.7 million dollars a year from that same tune! I'm telling you, TV theme songs, here I come! 

Please have fun. See if these TV theme songs jog your memory as they did mine, and get ready to smile. 

See you back here next week for another Saturday Morning  Song Chronicles.

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