The SMS Top Five T.V. Themes from the 60’s

The 1960’s are not only “The Greatest decade of music” but they are a part of “The Golden Age of Television!”Every one of your favorite T.V. show’s had an opening and closing musical theme! T.V themes from the 60’s were as diverse, unique and as powerful as the new music coming from our radio’s.  Many of these great themes have been indelibly branded on our culture and psyche! And now,  nearly 60 years later we continue to invoke and reference these great ghosts from Television’s “Golden Age” Naturally we all have our personal favorite’s and all the great memories they inspire! However SMS wanted to focus on 5 themes that are as memorable as the programs they introduced each week and were always the topic of conversation the next day during recess! So! Let’s set the memories in motion, beginning with # 5…

“77 Sunset Strip”

If  nothing else, the 60’s put “Cool” front and center and 77 Sunset Strip was thee coolest show in prime time! The plot was simple, two very good looking private investigators ( played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith maintained offices at the aforementioned address, set just two blocks west of La Cienega Blvd. and right adjacent to the real life “Dino’s Lodge” Dino’s was actually owned by Dean Martin and a favorite watering hole for him and all his cool celebrity also provided a perfect place for a spontaneous “Staff Meeting for the P.I.’s next door and their clients who, with rare exception were, you guessed it, very beautiful women! But! The coolest thing about Dino’s was the valet! Played by Edd Byrnes his character’s name was Kookie! He had Teen Idol good looks, and spoke in a sort of “Beat nik” hipster language that he invented and often had to translate to the “un hip” Lastly Kookie kept a comb in the breast pocket of his jacket and between cars and hipster quips Kookie was always combing his hair! Cool Character’s Cool location, Kookie’s coolness in general, introduced each Friday night by the coolest T.V. theme in history! 77’s theme was created by the remarkable songwriting team of Mack David ( Hal David’s older brother) and Jerry Livingston, whose individual resumes go back 20 years working in feature films, Broadway and of course in the 60’s, Television. The producers at Warner Bros wanted a theme that was “Hip, Cool with a Jazz feel and most importantly a “Musical Hook” Mack and Jerry delivered, with a punchy cool Jazz piece with a musical hook that nobody could resist.. “Finger Snapping” A hook everyone could and would do spontaneously including the finger snaps in every other piece of music or daily conversation… You of course recall….” Seventy seven Sunset Strip..snap snap!” We’ll bet you just sang along and laughed as you “Snap’ snap’d” dint’ja ?
Check it out and of course snap along!


For starters, “Bonanza was simply the most spectacular looking T.V show from the early 60’s! And for a good reason,……To sell color television sets! Yeah, you read that right, so, as Paul Harvey would say, “And now, the rest of the story” Bonanza was produced by NBC whose parent company was RCA whose core business was electronic appliances, primarily Radio’s and T.V sets! In the mid 50’s “Color T.V. debuted and RCA bought in strong, seeing color T.V. as the future, but, while at the very least every home in America had a Black and White T.V, convincing consumers to buy a color set was very difficult! Primarily because there was very little programming being produced, it was expensive and complicated, but RCA needed to lead the market in Color T.V. sales! In a brilliant move RCA turned to their broadcast network NBC and ordered them to produce a one hour prime time T.V. program with an emphasis on color and beauty, where the location, costumes, background and scenery were as important as the scripts and the actors!  Leading to much of Bonanza being shot on location in the Lake Tahoe area, rich with lush green forests Asur blue lakes and deep blue skys and in fact the horse Little Joe rides is a Pinto…”Pinto”, in Latin means Colorful or “Painted! You get the idea, right?

So, with a mandate and commitment like that from RCA, The Producers of the show had to have a powerful catchy theme! They brought in the Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award winning songwriting team of Ray Evans and Jay Livingston and they delivered the powerful Western flavored theme NBC wanted! The beauty, the music, along with four great although unknown actors gave RCA what they wanted, the sales of RCA color T.V.’s shot thru the roof! Lastly, for us the first time we heard the Bonanza theme we were surprised how for the first time the Electric guitar in the theme sounded like the Electric guitars we heard on the radio everyday, so much so that we believed it had to be Duane Eddy or Dick Dale! The truth is it was Master session player Al Caiola who had played on hundreds of hit records and in fact they released the theme and it shot right into the top 40 in 1961 and we were playing it on our “Air Guitar the next day!

So! Hang on partner, it’s gonna be a great ride!

  “The Aadams Family”

If the “Coolest theme on T.V. in the early Sixties was “77 Sunset Strip then the second coolest had to be the opening theme to The Adams Family” Furthermore The Aadams family theme sounded like the 60’s  by prominently featuring a Harpsichord, an instrument The Beatles often included in their recordings! In The Aadams family it appears that “Lurch” added the Harpsichord to their recording! How cool was that? Furthermore the A F theme included and accentuated the aforementioned “Finger Snaps” something none of us could resist and looked forward to a snap along every week!

The theme was written by long time film and television composer Vic Mizzy who added a humorous twist by including the voice of “Lurch” played by actor Ted Cassidy who drolls the words “Neat” “Sweet” “Petite” The whole thing adds up to a funny, catchy, snap along that Wikipedia claims was more popular than the show itself! Remember, they’re creepy and they are Kookie!

“Route 66”

Our choice for the penultimate position in our Fab Five goes to a program that debuted in 1960 and is considered one of the shows that influenced “The Golden Age of Television! The shows premise surrounds two young men who inherit a little money and a beautiful brand new Chevy Corvette and set out on the legendary hiway seeking Adventure and romance! “Route 66” was unique in a number of ways and not the least of which was it’s incredible theme! Of the Fab Five themes we focus on, only Route 66 can be considered a serious and legitimate piece of music! Holding it’s place along side the best of Sinatra, big bands / orchestra’s and deserves to be included in The Great American Song book! and who was behind this powerful classic piece? It was written and arranged by the great Nelson Riddle, the talented man behind much of the music we mentioned above. The producers, always focused on distinctive quality for the series and commissioned Riddle to write this piece,  passing over Bobby Troup’s  popular “Get your kicks on Route 66!” Not a criticism of Troup’s work, but a statement about the unique quality that they were always seeking with the series! Riddle’s theme would go on to win a Grammy award and be the first T.V. theme to land into the Top 30 Billboard Charts! Kick back, relax and enjoy this great theme like you did n your living room in 1960!

 “The Twilight Zone

Let’s begin by agreeing that the reason The Twilight Zone theme is our number one Fab Five choice is quite simple because it’s playing in your mind right now, only because you just saw the title… Ain’t it?

Like no other theme this simple eight note “Riff” has leeched into our lives and culture and has come to define anything mysterious or foreboding! Let’s be honest, who hasn’t had the experience of hanging out with friends one evening and the conversation is interrupted by a strange sound, you stop, stare and then someone begins chanting “de de de dee, de de de dee” You know what we’re saying? And consider this, we’ve been “de de de deing” for three generations

The shows theme was written by Academy Award winning composer Bernard Herrmann who was best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock! A natural match! However after the first season the producers brought in a second composer Marius Constant who delivered  a series of tones and cues he randomly acquired to deliver a more ethereal mysterious and perhaps “Spookier” theme! It worked and none of us will ever forget it, even if we want to! Keep the lights on and listen again like it’s 1962 and yes, you can hold our hand!

But now! We want to hear from you Do you agree with our Fab Five? Do you have a particular Fave? Please let us know and we’ll get the popcorn!



  1. Gotta add the theme from “KAREN” by The Beach Boys. Classic.
    Also , Al Caiola’s guitar work on Bonanza was a huge influence on me. I bought his album, bought a Gretsch, and learned every tune.

    • Hey John,
      Great call, and I remember thinking “The Beach Boys in Prime Time” How Cool” And I get what you’re saying about Al Ciola, he and Tommy Tedesco were the cats! And in fact depending on what season of “Bonanza you were watching you may have been hearing Tommy Tedesco! He and Al traded off, but it’s Al in Season One
      As always, great story Johnny Z!

  2. Actually, the one that just came to mind that I REALLLY loved was the theme song to Sunday afternoon’s 60’s Curt Gowdy show “American Sportsman.” The show was fun because it had sports heroes and stars doing outdoors stuff–often stuff they did not know much about. Lots of humor and fun AND a great theme song. Always a great show.

  3. Rick, I like your choices and Owen’s and Fred’s too. You are right about “Twilite Zone” being an earwig (there was even a Night Gallery episode like that, I believe) and Night Gallery was good too. “Bonanza” was not only a great theme but a hit record ta boot! I like snapping my fingers to “Adaams Family” theme and altho the Munsters’ theme gets lots of airplay due to it being sampled recently, I also prefer the Vic Mizzy theme. I love Vic’s music. I believe he did shows like “Green Acres” as well, which is excellent. I even bought the CD soundtrack of “Ghost & Mr. Chicken” because I loved the music in it that Vic did.
    I never watched “Route 66” and “77 Sunset Strip,” but the 66 theme is a GREAT 45 I keep in my faves, while I only marginally acre for the 77 theme.
    My top 5 off the top of my head would be:
    1. Avengers
    2. Monkees
    3. Andy Griffith
    4. Dick Van Dyke
    5. Mission: Impossible
    Honorable mention: Star Trek

  4. I don’t like top 5’s i always have a hundred or so to fit! Those you have are all excellent from the uk i would like to add the following themes …. Tbe Prisoner by Ron Grainger…. Vendetta by John Barry…. And the original Dr Who theme

    • Hey Simon,
      I’m with you, “Fab Fives or Top Ten’s are frustrating but ultimately great fun just to see everyone’s diverse contributions!
      Like “The Prisoner” theme I totally agree with you but would have never thought of it Thank You! And I’m not familiar with Vendetta? Was it aired in the U.S.?
      One final question was Dr. Who around in the 60’s? But loved it here in the U.S. later in the 80’s or 90’s!
      Thanx Simon always great to see you show up!

  5. Just a note regarding the Addams Family comment: the “harpsichord” solo in the middle of The Beatles’ “In My Life” is actually a piano played at half speed an octave lower, then played back at actual speed to get the harpsichord effect (same process as the vocals for The Chipmunks). It was explained that none of The Beatles nor George Martin were good enough keyboard players to play that section in real time.

    • Hey Steven,
      As always thanx for providing more detail and interesting background info! I recall reading about that little trick on “In My Life” in one of the many Beatle Books I’ve read! However, even today if I hear a Harpsichord I think of The 60’s
      Thank you once again Mr. Dud ya!

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