Sunday, October 05, 2014

October 5th - Halloween Music : TV Tunes

Television theme songs have to be included in any list of Halloween music. These songs have a way of imbedding in our brains, working into our subconscious. Theme songs set up the program, lead to commercials and leave us humming well after the show has ended. Even the youngest viewer can recite lyrics or hum the instrumental of beloved shows. Here I discuss some of my favorites and their memorable television theme songs.

The original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was my favorite cartoon, and its theme one of my beloved songs. CBS first aired Scooby-Doo September 13, 1969. Fred Silverman, head of Children’s Programming at the time, was looking for a show to break the network’s superhero cartoon rut and move into cartoons with more comedy and adventure. He was seeking a combination of the popular 1940’s radio show I Love a Mystery and the 1959-1963 sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Silverman and Joe Barbera, of the Hanna-Barbera team, came up with the working title "House of Mystery" and took the idea to Hanna-Barbera writers, Ken Spears and Joe Rudy. Spears and Rudy worked on characters, plots and story lines. Initially the story line involved four teenaged detectives who traveled the country in a van called the Mystery Machine solving mysteries. A Great Dane was the fifth member of the crew, but did not play a large role in these plots. Originally titled ‘Mystery’s Five’ the name was changed to ‘Who’s Scared?’ and presented to CBS management as a new Saturday morning cartoon. CBS president Frank Stanton rejected the show because he felt the artwork was too frightening for younger viewers. Still trying to salvage the idea, Silverman flew back to Los Angeles that night, and while listening to airline music on the flight back he was struck by the phrase "Scooby-dooby-doo" from Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night. "We’ll call the show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and we’ll make the dog the star of the show," he told Hanna-Barbera. And the show as we know it was created. The theme music for the first two aired episodes was composed by legend Hoyt S. Curtin, theme composer of The Flintstones, The Jetsons and many memorable television and cartoon themes. The more notable "Scooby-Dooby-Doo" theme song, written by David Mook and Ben Raleigh and sung by Larry Marks was recorded on Wednesday and aired the following Saturday, September 27, 1969. The Scooby-Doo format changed in 1972 and Hanna-Barbera created the Scooby-Doo movies, which aired on ABC, and featured guest stars such as the Addams Family, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, and Laurel and Hardy. After seven years at CBS the Scooby-Doo series moved to ABC in 1976. ABC wanted a new theme song that reflected the current music scene so Hoyt Curtin worked with Hanna-Barbera to compose the disco theme for The Scooby-Doo Show. There are many versions of the Scooby-Doo theme recorded for various shows and movies by Mathew Sweet, The B-52’s, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Billy Ray Cyrus and Third Eye Blind. But my favorite version is the Mook/Raleigh version we all have come to know as the original Scooby-Doo theme.

I love The Munsters. Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, creative forces behind The Amos & Andy Show and Leave It to Beaver, developed, wrote and produced The Munsters which debuted on CBS September 24, 1964. Jack Marshall, one of Capitol’s top producers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s wrote the theme song, which was nominated for a Grammy, with little known lyrics by Bob Mosher. An influential Hollywood guitarist, arranger, composer and conductor, Marshall scored music for television and was an arranger for Peggy Lee and Judy Garland. There are a few versions of The Munsters theme arranged by Marshall, including the pilot theme, the first 1964 arrangement and the final 1964-1966 arrangement. Marshall’s untimely passing at age 51 prompted a scholarship fund for young guitarists to be created in his name at the University of Southern California, where he is credited with starting their guitar program. Billy Strange, Comateens and Los Straitjackets have recorded versions of this classic television theme. This theme is one of the best Halloween instrumentals of all time.

Don Kirshner was president of Columbia Pictures-Screen Gem’s (CP-SG) music division when he assigned Jack Keller and Howard Greenfield to view the pilot for Bewitched and write the theme in 1964. The pilot used Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft but (CP-SG) didn’t want to pay Sinatra for rights to the Witchcraft recording. Keller and Greenfield needed to write something with the same vibe, and they had only a week to write the song, record the demo and get it form California to New York. The song was readily accepted and the decision was made to use an instrumental rather than vocal version to enhance the Hanna-Barbera animated main title sequence. The first instrumental version was a light orchestral arrangement by series composer Warren Barker. The xylophone signature for Samantha’s trademark nose-scrunch was Barker’s idea and was incorporated into the main title for the second season. Talk of a vocal version was squashed when the studio didn’t want to spend $2,500 to pay crooner Jerry Vale. The animation and music for Bewitched changed slightly during its 1964-1972 ABC Primetime run. Alternate versions of the Bewitched theme have been performed by Peggy Lee, Steve Lawrence, The Earl Klugh Trio and 60’s Hammond organ master Jimmy Smith, to name a few. Bewitched is always a crowd pleaser with its fun, jazzy vibe and smooth feel.

Alfred Hitchcock presents, the 30-minute television series that aired October 2, 1955 to September 6, 1965, was the brainchild of Hitchcock’s friend and ex-agent Lou Wasserman, president of MCA. Alfred Hitchcock presents was one of the longest-running shows in television history, winning two Emmys and receiving 17 Emmy nominations. Hitchcock chose the classical novelty Marche Funèbre d'une Marionnette (Funeral March of the Marionette) composed in 1873 by French composer Charles Gonoud. The song was adapted and arranged over the years by many composers starting with Stanley J.Wilson, Music Director of MCA-Revue Studios (the TV wing of MCA-Universal Studios). Stan Wilson was a key figure in Hollywood’s music industry in the 1950s and 1960s and started the careers of several young composers including Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. In 1960 the theme was credited to arrangers Dave Kahn and Melvyn Lenard. Kahn became music supervisor for the Filmways TV shows and Lenard was the pseudonym of publisher David Marvin Gordon, who wanted a piece of the royalties. In the fall of 1962 episodes expanded to an hour, and the title was changed to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. The theme was adapted and arranged by Lyn Murray (the pseudonym of Lionel Breeze). Murray had scored Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. The Lyn Murray Orchestra played with Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers and Louis Armstrong. His personal diary detailing the New York and Hollywood Film and TV social scene was published in 1987: Musician – a Hollywood Journal. Bernard Herrmann arranged and adapted the theme a fourth time in 1964 opening the second hour-long season. In Herrmann's arrangement the melody was transposed up a diatonic third. He also composed music for many of Hitchcock’s films including Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Marnie and Torn Curtain. Hitchcock’s choice of theme song shows his self-amused attitude toward the joke that was his public persona. Funeral March of the Marionette will forever be linked to the fun and frolic of Halloween.

"There is nothing wrong with your television set…" those chilling words were first heard September 16, 1963. Outer Limits terrified audiences on ABC Primetime from 1963 until 1965. Leslie Stevens, president of Daystar Productions, and Joseph Stefano, scriptwriter for Hitchcock's Psycho and Marnie, developed Outer Limits in 1962 in attempt to compete with CBS’s The Twilight Zone. Composer and leading jazz accordionists Dominic Frontiere penned the first theme for the series. This was Frontiere’s first major achievement as a composer. He was also a production executive for the show. Frontiere’s main title theme and the music he wrote for the series are some of the most incredible and innovative scoring ever on television. It is also some of the creepiest. Frontiere is known for his film scores Hang ‘Em High (which Booker T & the MGs made into a top ten hit) and television scores like The Invaders. He, Stefano and Stevens left the series in 1964 after a crippling time-slot change and serious issues regarding funding. Frontiere became head of Paramount’s music department and won a Golden Globe his composition for The Stunt Man. Harry Lubin replaced Frontiere as series music director and replaced the main theme music and spooky melodies. A Lubin composition called ‘Weird’ had been used in Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond and this replaced the Outer Limits theme to save money. The track is almost unaltered from its original version used on One Step Beyond. Lubin is probably best known as composing for The Loretta Young Show and for the motion pictures Disaster, Wyoming Mail, Waterfront at Midnight, Mr. Reckless, Caged Fury and Tibet. Frontiere and Lubin’s compositions helped achieve that extra level of fright that Outer Limits enjoyed.

Whether you enjoy cartoons, sit-coms, murder mysteries or aliens and paranormal exploits, television themes are part of our musical Halloween celebration. Creating music that will be heard week after week, season after season isn’t easy. A successful theme song will outlast syndication and transcend the show it represented. A memorable theme song is a true work of art, a stroke of genius. I hope you have enjoyed learning about of these geniuses. Mark Harvey is a Halloween music enthusiast and archivist. Mark owns and operates,, Pumpkinland Studios and Halloween Radio plus a number of Halloween and non-Halloween related websites. His own Halloween releases include the Pumpkinland Halloween ‘HauntScape’ Trilogy and Rain Station’s DARK RIDE.
Article from Happy Halloween Magazine Volume 5/Issue 2 & 3 – Autumn 2002
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