Themes From TV’s Top 12/Hefti

April 13, 2012

Neal Hefti, known for his Batman and Odd Couple themes, was a successful conductor, composer, and arranger long before the release of these timeless hits. Working for Reprise Records, a relatively new company created for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and others Hefti came up with an unusual combination of instruments to feature the twelve top television themes for 1962. Quoting Hal Humphrey, L.A. Times writer, “Well, you’ll find out when you put the tone arm down on this album.” Strings, brass, and woodwinds are given a holiday with 40 guitars, percussion, and 8 pianos providing the unusual orchestration. This release is not your typical ‘Hefti Sound’ which is jazz  well filled with biting brass and edgy sax work but a sound that you’re going to have to hear. Hefti was a trumpet player and his roots are from Count Basie and Woody Herman where he learned the craft of composing/arranging.

Wagon Train begins with a cowboy shouting wagons ho with a cracking whip. The theme is offered by a simple piano line with the guitars providing the orchestral accompaniment. Part way through a guitar picks up the melody and it ends as it begins with the cowboy shouting California here we come with the whip cracking. The theme was composed and conducted by Jerome Moross who adapted a melody that appeared in his score The Jayhawkers.


The Flintstones (Rise and Shine), while a theme we remember well is not the vocal that was composed from a theme that appeared in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #17 called “Meet The Flintstones.” There is speculation that this theme was replaced due to the strong similarity with the Bugs Bunny theme. The composer of “Rise and Shine” could have been Hoyt Curtin who did the underscore for the first few seasons. It begins with a tom-tom beat from the drums and the guitars offer the theme with harmony from the pianos.

The Danny Thomas Show “Danny Boy” is a traditional Irish love song that the program used for the main title of the show. The multiple guitars start the theme off with the piano also offering the melody as there is a fluttering of guitar chords. It is pretty much a straight arrangement that doesn’t stand out, elevator music at best.

Perry Mason, composed by Fred Steiner, comes across as something very special in terms of an arrangement. While brass was featured in the original the piano offers a bluesy beat while the guitars are higher register and have a hint of harp sound to them. This was my first experience at hearing this theme without the brass and I liked what I heard.

Ben Casey, composed by David Raksin, begins with the guitars performing the theme alongside the piano as well as dual harmony and a bit of strumming from the other guitars.

My Three Sons, composed by Frank DeVol, is a somewhat complex arrangement starting off with a Latin beat as the guitars perform multiple tasks with the piano offering harmony. Part way through the piano offers the melody all to the steady beat of the sound of rumba percussion.

The Real McCoys offers a little country western twang in this arrangement that is little more than elevator music.

The Andy Griffith Show (The Fishin’ Hole) offers a swaying version of the popular theme with the guitars offering the melody well backed with harmony from other guitars and piano.

Gunsmoke makes it clear from the very beginning that this a western theme with the percussion clacks in the background with rhythm also provided by the piano. The guitars take it nice and slow as the theme unfolds.

Route 66, composed by Nelson Riddle is the highlight of the release! Guitars offer the melody in the beginning with two different harmonies coming from other guitars and piano. Gone is the piano offering on the original that offered the great harmony to begin this timeless classic and guitars provide both melody and harmony. This is a very well done unusual arrangement well worth having in your collection.

The Dick Powell Show is a melodramatic theme played very slowly in an arrangement where both the piano and guitars offer solos.

Bonanza concludes the very brief CD (29 minutes) with the staccato piano first offering the theme with other pianos giving harmony with guitars assisting. The cymbals add a nice touch.

The stereo (over accentuated) is a nice clean recording with nothing to complain about. Apparently it was well recorded by Reprise when released in 1962. Included are the original liner notes as well as updated ones from 2007 where Hefti is quoted providing interesting information. At the time of this writing the cost of the CD is under $6.00 so any Hefti fan will want to own this release for their collection.

Track Listing:

1… Wagon Train (2:21)

2… The Flintstones (2:17)

3… Danny Thomas Show (3:35)

4… Perry Mason (2:01)

5… Ben Casey (1:54)

6… My Three Sons (1:59)

7… The Real McCoys (2:29)

8… The Andy Griffith Show (2:08)

9… Gunsmoke (2:19)

10… Route 66 (3:08)

11… The Dick Powell Show (2:29)

12… Bonanza (1:35)

Total Time is 29 minutes

CD # is CCM837

Originally from LP Reprise 6018

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