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1950s TV Themes - Composer List

Copyright (c) 1960 - 2009 by The Media Management Group
All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: This list is under construction, as more data is compiled it will be added....


Adamson, Harold (ASCAP) [lyricist] (1906 - 1980)

I Love Lucy (comedy)

     (CBS, 1951 - 1961) (Syndicated) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: I Love Lucy (Signature)


Note: Harold Adamson is a lyricist (or "Author" in the nomenclature of ASCAP), who wrote songs with many major composers, including Lou Alter, Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, Vernon Duke, Duke Ellington, Burton Lane, Jimmy McHugh, Vincent Youmans, and Victor Young. His lyrics include those for songs "Everything I Have Is Yours", "It's a Wonderful World", and "Manhattan Serenade".

His collaborations with film and TV composers are a natural extension of his songwriting. One of the memorable film themes he wrote lyrics for was "An Affair To Remember", a 20th-Century Fox film which was nominated for an Oscar, along with composers Harry Warren and Leo McCarrey.


Daniel, Eliot (ASCAP) (born 1908)

I Love Lucy (comedy)

     (CBS, 1951 - 1961) (Syndicated) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: I Love Lucy (Signature)


Klatzkin, Leon (ASCAP) (June 19, 1914 - May 13, 1992)


He was born in New York, and was known as a conductor as well as an arranger/composer, including writing for radio stars including Ben Blue. In his early film days he worked in the music department of 20th Century Fox. His later reputation as a Music Director and Editor equalled his work as a composer/arranger. He was Music Director of Hal Roach Studios (producer of "The Gale Storm Show"), Four Star TV Productions, and Bing Crosby Productions.

He also supplied many episode scores for the CBS TV Westerns Gunsmoke and Cimmaron Strip. Some of his TV themes were contracted via David Chudnow's "MUTEL" (Music For Television) scoring service for low-budget and syndicated show producers in the 1950s.

As a music editor for MUTEL, he edited together the sound montage behind the famous "Superman" TV series opening credits -- behind the announcement, "Look--up in the sky--it's a bird, it's a plane, it's SuperMan!" This montage included an ethereal flying theme cue, a locomotive, a speeding bullet, and other sound effects culminating in the march theme. Some present-day researchers question whether he composed the Superman theme, or whether he considered his music editing job a form of "composition." At any rate, he got ASCAP credits for having been its composer.

Another oddity, considering that the Superman TV series was produced beginning in 1951, was the fact the Bourne Company (music publisher) didn't file the copyright for this THEME until 26 years later -- in 1977, the year the first "Superman" Movie came out, with a score by John Williams.

In 1963 NBC used a two-part Main Title THEME for the opening of it's first-run network movie series called "Saturday Night at the Movies". Behind the "chase lights" opening seen on screen was a "city hustle-bustle" style cue. At first this cue was credited to Klatzkin, and was called "Saturday Night at the Movies". It was spliced onto romantic THEME which was also called "Saturday Night at the Movies" written by Skitch Henderson. The splice was covered by the opening announcer, so it seemed like one piece rather than the two different cues. Then a curious change in credits occurred, when yet another piece called "Saturday Night at the Movies" was credited to Max Steiner instead of Klatzkin. Both the Klatzkin and Steiner piece were listed as "published" by the publishing company of the MUTEL music service. So it's possible that Chudnow "created the THEME" via music editing, but the source of the original piece was really a Max Steiner Cue.

This researcher spoke to Mr. Klatzkin via a phone interview in the mid 1980s, when he was not in good health. He was particularly proud of the many episode scores he had written for "Gunsmoke", and for his LOGO THEME for "Four Star Theatre."

He regretted the fact that many of his Four Star THEMEs had been replaced by Herschel Burke Gilbert when the latter became Music Director of Four Star Productions.

Curiously, Klatzkin had not much to say about the famous "Superman" TV THEME for which he had been given credit. When asked about where the THEME was recorded, he mentioned it was in a sound stage in New York, but said he had not retained the score. Later evidence supplied by the son of the owner of MUTEL points to at least one version of "Superman" Main Title having been recorded in Europe. This may have been a "re-record" to get around the US Musician's Union restrictions for re-use of TV THEMEs without a hefty repayment.

Leon Klatzkin passed away in 1992 at his home in Newport Beach after a lengthy illness. His TV series THEMES were:

Escape

     (CBS 1950, based upon the CBS radio show) 
     Main Title Theme: "Escape Opening Theme"

Racket Squad

     (Syndicated 1950 - ) 
     Main Title Theme: "Racket Squad Main Title"

Superman

     (Syndicated 1953 - )
     Title filed for Copyright in 1976: "Superman M & E"
     Main Title:  "Superman Main Title"
     End Credits: "Superman End Title"
     Trailer:     "Superman Trailer"

Four Star Playhouse

     (Syndicated 1952 - ) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme 1: "Four Star Signature"

My Hero (starring Bob Cummings)

     (CBS 1952 - 1953) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "My Hero"

Public Defender

     (CBS 1954 - 1955) 
     Main Title Theme: "Public Defender Main Title"

Press Conference (filmed coverage of Presedential Press Conferences)

     (ABC 1955) 
     Main Title Theme: "Press Conference M & E"

Oh! Susanna/The Gale Storm Show

     (CBS 1956 - 1959) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Susanna Theme (Opening and Closing)"

The Verdict is Yours

     (CBS 1957 - 1962) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Verdict M & ET"

Man With a Camera [??]

     (ABC 1958 - 1960) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: [unknown]

Treasure (travel with Bill Burrud)

     (Syndicated 1958 -) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Treasure Main and End Title"

Rheingold Theatre

     (Syndicated  ) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: [unknown, may be an arrangement
                    of Waldteufel's "Estudiantina Waltz" which was the melody
                    of the jingle "My Beer is Rheingold, the Dry Beer"]

Dennis O'Keefe Show

     (CBS 1959 - 1960) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Dennis O'Keefe Show (Op & Cl Theme)"

Dobie Gillis / Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

     (CBS 1959 - 1963) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"

Jim Backus Show [??]

    [in an interview in 1982, the composer said he wrote a
     theme for such a show, produced at MGM...but no listing
     in ASCAP for such a theme, and can't find a show except
     for "Hot Off The Wire", which had a theme by David Rose.
     Backus also co-hosted "Celebrity Talent Scouts" in 1962??]

     Main Title and End Credits Theme: [unknown]

Tab Hunter Show

     (NBC 1960 - 1961) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Tab Hunter Show M & E"

Full Circle (daytime serial)

     (CBS Daytime, 1960 - 1961) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Full Circle Main and End Titles"

Saturday Night at the Movies

     (NBC 1961 - ) 
     Main Title Theme 1: "Saturday Night at the Movies"
                      [first part of a medley with another
                       composition with the same name written
                       by Skitch Henderson]

Bing Crosby Show (sitcom)

     (CBS 1964 - 1965) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: [unknown]

Second Chance (game show)

     (ABC 1977) 
     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "Second Chance Signature"


Laszlo, Alexander (ASCAP) (November 22, 1895 - November 17, 1970)

He was a Hungarian emigree born Sandor ("San") Totis, who lived during his early career in Hungary and Germany, and then in the U.S from 1938 on. Laszlo began as a pianist, but was a prolific composer of film, radio and TV music via a music service and music library he published under the names "Guild-Universal Music Program Aid Library" (distributed in the 1940s via the Armed Forces Radio Service) and "Structural Music" marketed in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Over the years, his cues were recorded during various trips to Europe by the Bavarian Radio orchestra (known in the US as The Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra) at the Nurnburg Radio Studio.

The total of his cue library was over 3000 compositions by 1959 -- some of which had been adapted from earlier films or recycled from radio and TV series. Some of these same cues in his library were sub-licensed to Capitol Special Products for use in the "Hi-Q" music library during the 1950s.

A more complete biography of Alexander Laszlo is included in the Light Music Hall of Fame pages.

(Special thanks to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming at Laramie for access to scores, recordings and biographical material in the Alexander Laszlo Collection; and to Alexander Laszlo's nephew Andrew Schiller for information about Laszlo's life, and access to his business files and other research materials.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

RADIO SERIES THEMES FOR:

This Is Your Life (biography, hosted by Ralph Edwards)

    (Laszlo composed and conducted the show on NBC and CBS Radio from 1948 - 1950;
     his THEME was also used throughout the run of the TV series from 1952 - 1961): 

     Main Title and End Credits Theme: "This Is Your Life" [aka: "Life Theme"]

[Dupont] Cavalcade of America (historical drama)

    (Laszlo was involved in the show during its NBC radio years beginning in 1952; 
     also on the NBC-TV version of the series, during the years 1952 - 1953):

     Main Title Theme #1: "Glory of America - Arch"
                 from the "Structural Music" library, Vol. 20, No. 485 End Credits Theme #1: "Glory of America - Dome"
                 from the "Structural Music" library, Vol. 20, No. 486 Sub-Theme #2 (First Scene Opener): "Glorification Arch" from the "Structural Music" library, Vol. 20, No. 487 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THEMES FOR THE FOLLOWING TV SERIES (and approximate dates of use of Laszlo's music on the show):

"Hank McCune Hall"
   [aka: "The Hank McCune Show"]
(1949 -
 1950)
"Show Time (with Arthur Shields)"
   [aka: "Your Show Time"]
(1949 -
 1950)
"R.C.M.P." (Canadian series synd. in U.S.A.)
(1950 -
 1952)
"Racket Squad"
(1950 -
 1953)
"Beulah"
(1950 -
 1953)
"Trouble With Father"
   [aka: "Life With the Erwins"]
   [aka: "The Stu Erwin Show"]
   [aka: "The New Stu Erwin Show"]
(1950 -
 1955)
"Stars Over Hollywood" 
   [aka: "Gruen Guild Theatre"]
   [aka: "Chevron Theatre"]
(1950-
 1958)
"Mark Saber Mystery Theatre"
   [aka: "Mystery Theatre"]
   [aka: "Homicide Squad"]
   [aka: "The Vice"]
(1951 -
 1955)
"The Adventures of Kit Carson"
   [aka: "Kit Carson"]
(1951 -
 1953)
"Rebound"
(1952 -
 1953)
"This Is Your Life"
(1952 -
 1961)
"Cavalcade of America"
   [aka: "Dupont Cavalcade of America"]
(1952 - 
 1953)
"My Little Margie"
(1952 -
 1955)
"Biff Baker, USA" 
(1952 -
 1953)
"The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show"
   [aka: "The Burns and Allen Show"]
   [aka: "Burns and Allen"]
(1952 - 
 1960)
"This is The Life" (a Lutheran religious show)
(1952)
"Rocky Jones, Space Ranger"
(1952 -
 1955)
"The Groucho Marx Show"
   [aka: "You Bet Your Life"]
(1953)
"Meet Mr. McNutley"
   [aka: "The Ray Milland Show"]
(1953 -
 1955)
"General Electric Theatre"
   [aka: "General Electric Theatre of the Air"]
   [aka: "G. E. Theatre"]
(1953 -
 1954)
"Waterfront"
(1953 -
 1956)
"It's Your Decision"
(1954 -
 1955)
"Author's Playhouse" 
(1954 -
 1955)
"The New Big Town"
   [aka: "Big Town"]
   [aka: "Headlines"]
   [aka: "Heart of the City"]
   [aka: "Byline: Steve Wilson"]
(1954 - 
 1959)
"The Lone Wolf"
   [aka: "Streets of Danger"]
(1955 -
 1956)
"For Your Information"
(1955)
"This Story Is True" (sponsored by Wynn Oil)
(1955)
"O. Henry Playhouse" 
(1956 -
 1957)
"Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal"
(1956 -
 1957)
"Treasure" (travelogue)
   [aka: "Bill Burrud's Treasure"]
(1956 -
 1958)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOTION PICTURE SCORES BY ALEXANDER LASZLO (with primary studio of distribution and approximate release date):

Das Land des Laechelns [puppet film]

Leo-Films, Munich

193?

Wupp [puppet film]

Leo-Films, Munich

Golgotha

Leo-Films, Munich

Palestine

Leo-Films, Munich

Where Christ Lived

Leo-Films, Munich

Cafe Moskwa [aka: "Café Moszkva"]

Phoebus Film Co., Budapest

1936

Der Husar der Koenigin

Veroe Film Co., Budapest

Spinnetz

Bioscop-Tobis Film Co., Budapest

Am Rande der Hoelle

Synchronfilm, Budapest

Mein Sohn

Synchronfilm, Budapest

Trauriger Donnerstag-Froehlicher Sonntag

Phoenix Film Co., Budapest

Momentane Geldverlegenheit

Globus-Film, Budapest

Budapest -- Die Stadt der Baeder

City of Budapest

1936

Die Rinderzucht in Ungarn

Govt. of Hungary

Hungaria [Hungarian government film for 1939 Worlds' Fair]

Govt. of Hungary

1938

Veszprem, Die Stadt Am Bakonyer Wald

City of Veszprem

Der Rollende Filler

City of Budapest

 

[...end of films produced in Europe through 1938 when Laszlo left; start of films 
 produced in the United States beginning in 1944...]:

Charlie Chan in 'The Chinese Cat'

Monogram

1944

One Body Too Many

Paramount

1944

Charlie Chan in 'Black Magic' [aka: "Meeting At Midnight"]

Monogram

1944

Double Exposure

Paramount

1944

Dangerous Passage

Paramount

1944

High Powered

Paramount

1945

Scared Stiff [aka: "Treasure of Fear"]

Paramount

1945

Midnight Manhunt [aka: "One Exciting Night"]

Paramount

1945

Follow That Woman

Paramount

1945

Filmtactics for the U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy

1945

The Great Flamarion

Republic

1945

Strange Impersonation

Republic

1946

They Made Me a Killer

Paramount

1946

Hot Cargo

Paramount

1946

People Are Funny

Paramount

1946

The French Key

Republic

1946

The Glass Alibi

Republic

1946

Accomplice

Eagle-Lion

1946

Joe Palooka, Champ

Monogram

1946

Untamed Fury [aka: Swamp Virgin]

Eagle-Lion

1947

Yankee Fakir

Republic

1947

Banjo

R-K-O

1947

My Pal [short subject]

R-K-O

1947

The Spiritualist [aka: "The Amazing Mr. X"]

Eagle-Lion

1948

Pal's Adventure [short subject]

R-K-O

1948

Pal's Return [short subject]

R-K-O

1948

Parole, Inc.

Eagle-Lion

1949

Song of India

Columbia

1949

Tarzan's Magic Fountain [aka: "Tarzan and the Arrow of Death"]

R-K-O

1949

Amazon Quest

Film Classics

1949

I Found a Dog [a "Pal" series short subject]

R-K-O

1949

Alimony

Eagle-Lion

1949

Dog of the Wild [a "Pal" series short subject]

R-K-O

1949

Pal, Canine Detective [short subject]

R-K-O

1950

Pal, Fugitive Dog [short subject]

R-K-O

1950

Pal's Gallant Journey [short subject]

R-K-O

1951

Dodge For '56 [industrial short film]

Dodge Motor Co.

1955

Beyond the Moon [aka: "Beyond the Curtain of Space"] [TV Movie]

Roland Reed Prod. and Official Films

1956

The Cold Sun [TV movie]

Roland Reed Prod. and Official Films

1956

Fincho [Docu-drama about Nigeria]

Harry Belafonte and Sam Zebba

1958

The Narcotics Story [aka: "The Dreaded Persuasion"]

Police Science Productions

1958

The Ghost of the China Seas

Columbia

1958

Submarine Seahawk [aka: "Submarine X-2"]

A-I-P

1958

Night of the Blood Beast [aka: "Creature from Galaxy 27"]

A-I-P

1958

Forbidden Island

Columbia

1959

The Atomic Submarine [aka: "Atomic Sub"]

A-I-P

1959

Attack of the Giant Leeches [aka: "Demons of the Swamp"]

A-I-P

1959

The Beast From Haunted Cave [aka: "Creature From the Cave"]

Roger Corman and Allied Artists

1959


Llewellyn, Richard "Ray" (BMI)

"Ray Llewellyn" is pseudonym credited with composing THEMEs for several ZIV-TV Productions, which did not allow the real composers to collect performance royalties from BMI. A number of these THEMEs were also part of the "World Broadcasting System" (WBS) Library which Fred Ziv acquired from Capitol Special Products in the late 1940s.

Production Music Library researcher Paul Mandell believes that some of the composers who ghost-wrote under this arrangement included Lyn Murray who wrote several production pieces that appeard in the WBS Library; David Rose (who is thought to have ghost-written the "Highway Patrol" and "Sea Hunt" THEMEs); and Ray Bloch -- the orchestra leader for Ed Sullivan (whom Mandell believes to have ghosted the THEME for "Science Fiction Theatre".) Possibly other composers who ghosted under this arrangement included: Dominic Frontiere, Victor Young, and Irving Orton who all wrote for ZIV under their real names later.

The BMI credit for "King of Diamonds" lists a number of minor cue composers in addition to Llewellyn.

Whomever they were, the composers who wrote as "Ray Llewellyn" are credited with the following TV themes during his/their illustrious, if totally fictional, 12-year career:

  • 1.) 1949 -- Martin Kane-Private Eye
  • 2.) 1953 -- I Led Three Lives
  • 3.) 1954 -- Meet Corliss Archer (syndicated version)
  • 4.) 1955 -- Highway Patrol (aka: "Highway Theme #1" in the ZIV-TV/WBS Library)
  • 5.) 1955 -- Science Fiction Theatre (orig. from the ZIV-TV/WBS Library)
  • 6.) 1956 -- Dr. Christian
  • 7.) 1957 -- Sea Hunt
  • 8.) 1961 -- King of Diamonds

Meakin, John Brunker "Jack" (ASCAP / BMI) (Sept. 28, 1906 - Dec. 30, 1982)

Jack Meakin was born Salt Lake City, Utah where he attended public school. He attended college at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He graduated with a degree in Economics, and took 2 years of pre-med courses. But before he went on to become a Doctor, he made a fateful career decision.

During college he had played piano in various musical groups to earn money, and tried his hand at arranging. But after two years of med school, the more exciting social circle of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco beckoned. In 1929 Meakin began writing the first of what would become a total of 26 Bohemian Club theatrical productions. During this period, he came to the attention of Meredith Willson, who offered Jack a chance to play piano and write arrangements for orchestras in San Francisco, and on the newly commercial medium of radio. One of his college buddies and Bohemian Club friends was Irving Bibo (pronounced BEE-bo), who was to become a music publisher in later years.

In 1936, Jack formed a ragtime jazz group for a radio show originating from San Francisco called "Bughouse Rhythm" which aired on the NBC Red/Blue Networks (1936 - 1937). He wrote its THEME song called "Fan Fare." In 1938 following the end of that program, Jack continued writing ragtime piano novelties, arrangements for various bands, and took his own band on tour across America and even a short tour of Europe. His 1936 piano novelty "Shoot the Chutes" was reminiscent of the Zez Confrey keyboard hit "Dizzy Fingers", but was recorded and still is played on radio ocassionally. Meakin dedicated "Shoot the Chutes" to fellow composer "Mahlon Merrick" who also worked for Meredith Willson during the late 1920s and early 1930s, and who was preceding Meakin in the world of music for network radio.

In 1940 he ended his band road tours, and moved to New York for a eight year period. During this time he worked on staff at NBC radio network, and for sponsors of various popular radio programs. He quickly became known as an orchestra leader and radio producer for musical shows -- which included the "Lucky Strike Hit Parade", "The Eddie Duchin Pall Mall Show", "The Silver Theatre", "The Abbott and Costello Radio Show", "The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street", and a radio show with which he would become associated for many years, "The Great Gildersleeve".

(Special thanks to Jack Meakin's daughter, Jill Meakin Mack and her husband Wayne Mack for information and access to research materials and scores in the Jack Meakin estate.)

RADIO series Main THEMEs which Meakin composed during his busy New York period were:

  • "Thanks To The Yanks" for "The Bob Hawk Show/Thanks To The Yanks", CBS (1942 - 47)
  • "Hollywood" for Hedda Hopper's show "This is Hollywood", CBS/ABC (1944 - 47)
  • "Our Dream" for comedienne Joan Davis' show "Joannie's Tea Room", CBS (1945 - 47)
  • "Big Boy" Theme for "The Great Gildersleeve", NBC (1945 - 52)
  • "Days Gone By" for "Jonathon Trimble, Esquire", Mutual radio (1946)
  • "Summerfield Cadets" [aka: "All American March"] for "Summerfield Bandstand", NBC (1947)
  • "Quite By Accident" for "The Nestle Chocolate Show" [network unknown]

One unexplained discrepancy in papers in the Meakin estate is that he apparently contributed a new THEME tune for the popular radio show "The Great Gildersleeve" in 1945 called "Big Boy". But he apparently didn't move to Hollywood to take over reins as Music Director of the "Gildersleeve" show until three years later in 1948. Meakin followed several other bandleaders on that popular show, the last of whom was "Claude Sweeten." It's possible that "Claude Sweeten" was a pseudonym of his friend from San Francisco, Mahlon Merrick. When Merrick's other big client, Jack Benny started to do TV as well as radio, Merrick's work for Jack Benny may have been too time-consuming. So the theory is that Merrick handed over the reins of "Gildersleeve" to his colleague Meakin, who had to make the decision to move to LA from New York in 1948. (But unfortunately some of this is still a hypothesis which cannot be verified since many of the people alive at that time are no longer around to corroborate that assumption.)

In his new capacity as music director for "Gildersleeve", Meakin also scored episodes of the show with cues and bridges and special humorous songs such as "The Gildersleeve Song" -- a sentimental tune later adapted and sung by Dennis Day for a variety show.

Veteran character actor Harold ("Hal") Peary who had played the the role of the "Great Gildersleeve" its first 9 years, had gotten tired of the role and quit in June of 1950. The role was taken over by Willard Waterman who did an amazing job of making the transition seamless (and who went on to star in the TV version later.) In September of 1950, Hal Peary starred in his new comedy series called "Honest Harold" which he hoped would give him a chance to play more versatile character. Meakin got the chance to go to this new series with Peary, so Meakin quit "Gildersleeve" (even though his THEME had become a fixture and would continue to be used until the radio series ended two years later.)

Meakin's THEME for the new Hal Peary series was a subtle, understated and whimsical tune called "Honest Harold Hemp." Unfortunately the public didn't like Peary's more subtle character without the overly fussy mannerisms and wacky chortle they were used to hearing in his role as "Gildersleeve". So "Honest Harold" was cancelled after one year. At that point the decision to quit "Gildersleeve" must has seemed ill-timed.

But another lucky break was just around the corner: In 1952 Meakin was offered the chance to become music director for Groucho Marx on both his radio and TV shows. So he quit the "Gildersleeve" show, and began his long association with "Groucho." Groucho shows had previously used a few other band directors including Billy May for a short time, and even experimented with using library music from Alexander Laszlo. But Meakin's personality and musical abilities seemed to click with Groucho and his producer John Guedel. This opportunity was to provide him with a long-standing client and secure position for the next 9 years and royalties for many more.

The "Groucho Marx Show" (later called "You Bet Your Life") was Meakin's first TV show. Although Groucho had used "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" from the movie "Animal Crackers" as his signature ditty for years. But an animated cartoon opening was devised for the TV show with Groucho leering as an animated character with a big cigar and bushy eyebrows...Meakin wrote a whimsical original underscore THEME called "Groucho and the Wolf."

This THEME had a cute "A" theme and a memorable sophisticated "B" theme featuring the sax section. Later when the series was syndicated under the title "The Best of Groucho", Meakin revived this tune, creating a medley of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" and retained the B-section of his own "Groucho and the Wolf" for the new TV THEME which he called "You Betcha Life" [aka: "You Bet Your Life".] This medley THEME is what most people remember when they think of the Groucho show, although they may not realize that the middle "bridge" or "B" theme is an original Meakin composition (and not part of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding".) When TVT Records produced "TV's Greatest Hits - Vol. 7 - Black and White Classics", they recorded what they called the "You Bet Your Life" THEME on the CD. But it was really the syndicated theme for "The Best of Groucho" [Meakin's medley "You Betcha Life"]. The CD producers didn't credit Meakin for either the arrangement or his charming middle section, but it is indeed his original melody and arrangement.

During the early 1950s, Meakin did work on a few other projects -- scoring episodes of Arch Oboler's Radio Series. The personable Meakin even hosted a local Los Angeles musical-variety TV show "Hollywood Studio Party" on KTTV, along with his first wife, vocalist Patricia Norman.

In 1955 Meakin began providing the services of "Music Director" for low-budget filmed series at the Hal Roach Studios. Since the budget there wasn't always able to afford original music to be composed, Meakin was more of a "cue selector" than a composer. But in that capacity, he selected library music for the TV version of "The Great Gildersleeve" Syndicated (1955), the first TV version of "Blondie" NBC (1957), and the Jack Douglas travelog "I Search For Adventure" Syndicated (1957).

From the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s, Meakin was hired to write background cues and individual episode scores for a wide variety of TV series, including:

  • "Blue Angel" CBS (1954)
  • "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" ABC (1955 - 58)
  • "Rescue 8" Syndicated (1958)
  • "The Untouchables" ABC (1959 - 63)
  • "Dan Raven" NBC (1960 - 61)
  • "The Barbara Stanwyck Show" NBC (1960 - 61)
  • "My Three Sons" ABC (1960 - 65)
  • "The Asphalt Jungle" ABC (1961)
  • "The New Breed" ABC (1961 - 62)
  • "Ben Casey" ABC (1961 - 66)
  • "The Fugitive" ABC (1963 - 67)
  • "Rod Rocket" (cartoon) Synd. (1963).

Many of the cues he wrote for these series, ended up being re-cycled for use on other TV series via Bibo Music Publishing owned by his college chum Irving Bibo. The royalty income from this helped considerably during the next three decades.

1961 was a pivotal year for Meakin. The Groucho Marx show "You Bet Your Life" had ended its long run on NBC, but was just beginning an even longer run in syndication, which meant royalties for THEMEs and Cues continued. Meakin resigned from ASCAP that same year and joined BMI whose royalty formula was more favorable for the distribution of payments to Cue Composers.

In 1962, Groucho attempted a second comedy interview series on CBS (which was short-lived) called "Tell It To Groucho", for which Meakin created a THEME. This piece was named "Groucho's Pad", but the melody was taken from the opening overture "All Roads Lead to Atlhens", from an off-off-Broadway theatrical production Meakin wrote, which was attempted on the East Coast in 1959 entitled "The Money Machine."

In 1964 Jack Meakin formed a partnership with Foster Carling who had written lyrics on the "Gildersleeve Show" and various other songs. Their Hollywood company was to include writing commercial jingles and other production music. Their projects included industrial film scores, stage shows, and commercial jingles and underscores for Parkay, White King, Frigidaire and Colgate. Probably his best known jingles were "Pick Shick" for Shick Razors, and "When You Buy Peanuts" for the Planters Peanut Company.

Also in 1964, Meakin created a score for a Mr. Magoo cartoon titled "Mr. Magoo's Lodge Brother" which included a new Main Title/End Credits THEME called "The Nearsighted Mr. Magoo". This tune was frequently heard in theaters and on TV broadcasts of Magoo Cartoons, although it may not have been the Main THEME for the cartoon shows on which the Magoo Cartoons appeared. This 1964 Magoo THEME melody was freely adapted from Meakin's radio THEME for "Honest Harold Hemp" which he had written some 14 years earlier for the short-lived Hal Peary radio show in 1950.

In 1965, Meakin wrote a THEME ("Holiday In Paradise") and cues for a night-time NBC Soap Opera called "Paradise Bay" (1965 - 66). But this was to be his last TV scoring assignment.

In 1975, he married his second wife Celeste, and in 1977 retired to Palm Springs, where he passed away from a heart attack in 1982. Main Title THEMEs were written by Meakin for the following TV series:

  • 1.) 1952 -- The Groucho Marx Show --You Bet Your Life [NBC]
  • 2.) 1961 -- The Best of Groucho (syndicated re-runs of You Bet Your Life)
  • 3.) 1962 -- Tell It To Groucho [CBS]
  • 4.) 1961 -- Topsy-Turvy Theatre (syndicated)
  • 5.) 1963 -- Rod Rocket (cartoon)
  • 6.) 1964 -- The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (cartoon)
  • 7.) 1965 -- Paradise Bay

Merrick, Mahlon Le Grande (ASCAP / BMI) (January 28, 1900 - August 7, 1969)

Mahlon Merrick was born in Farmington, Iowa. At the age of 5 his family moved to Centralia, Washington. He attended college at both the University of Washington and at Washington State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics, intending to make teaching his profession.

In order to pay for his education, Mahlon had played in a dance orchestra. He was surprised to discover he could actually make money as a musician while having fun too. By college graduation in 1923, music began to absorb most of his time and attention. So after graduation, instead of going into teaching as he had originally planned, he made the fateful decision to study with Leo Sowerby at the Chicago Conservatory of Music.

After his music studies in Chicago, he returned to the West Coast and lived in Spokane, Washington. He played in, and organized various groups, to play music at hotels and then on the emerging new medium of radio.

In 1927 he left Washington state and moved to California to advance his career. He first worked for Meredith Willson as arranger and later music director of "Blue Monday Jamboree" program on San Francisco radio station KFRC, for which Willson composed a THEME called "The Jamboree March". He stayed with that program when it moved to the fledgling Don Lee Network.

During these early radio days, one theory under investigation is that Mahlon Merrick supplied music under the stage name "Claude Sweeten and his 16-piece orchestra" during this period.This name was to come up later during his Hollywood period.

In San Francisco, he also had a prestigious nightly engagement leading the orchestra at the Palace Hotel. Shortly after his hotel band was "dis-banded", he got the opportunity to move to Los Angeles to become Music Director of the "Don Lee Network" -- which was eventually absorbed into the Mutual Radio Network in order for it to reach all the way across the nation.

Although an early marraige ended in divorce, Merrick's career ascension continued. In 1935, he had the good fortune to become musical director of the Jack Benny Show for NBC when Benny moved his show from New York to Hollywood. The show was to change networks several times thereafter, but Merrick remained Benny's orchestra leader from that point on. Although Phil Harris sometimes was heard in Benny's cast of characters as the vocalist who enjoyed a drink and erstwhile "band leader", this was merely a role he played. It was really Mahlon Merrick in the pit, conducting Benny's orchestra for 30 years, from 1935 until the end in 1965 (not including all the years of re-runs :-) And working for Benny had an unexpected benefit -- it was Benny's wife Sadie Marks (who played Mary Livingston on the show) who introduced Mahlon to his second wife Grace.

Being involved with such a prestigious post gave Merrick a lot of opportunities to freelance if he had time. In 1941, Merrick also was music director of a syndicated radio show called "Skippy Hollywood Playhouse" sponsored by the Skippy Peanut Butter company, and provided its Signature THEME.

There is also an unconfirmed theory that in 1945, he also found the time to take over the music directorship of "The Great Gildersleeve". But so that no conflict might be perceived with his role as Benny's orchestra leader, on theory is he revived an old pseudonym of "Claude Sweeten" for the "Gildersleeve" show. In 1948, when Benny started doing TV shows as well as radio, Merrick got too busy, and had to turn the reins of "Gildersleeve" over to an old friend from his San Francisco days -- Jack Meakin. (But unfortunately this is still a hypothesis which cannot be verified since many of the people alive at that time are no longer around to corroborate that assumption.)

Part of Merrick's work on Jack Benny's radio show involved arranging singing commercials sung by "The Sportsmen Quartet", a male vocal group. Their elaborate appearances often included hilarious commercial spoofs, which led to a career for Merrick to write music for advertising. Over the years, over 100 advertising accounts used his music. The most well-known were for Acme Gold Label Beer, Hoffman Beer, Purex, Toni Home Permanent Wave, and the classic "How Are You Fixed For Blades?" jingle for Gillette Razors.

This jingle was expanded for its use on the "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports" which started on NBC radio and TV in 1944. It evolved from the original quartet vocal arrangement into a well-known instrumental march called "The Gillette Look Sharp March" [aka: "The Look Sharp - Be Sharp March".] Although its motif has some similarity with the NBC Chimes motif, the accent and placement of notes is different and of course the short 3-note NBC chimes signature is more of a point of departure. The development of the march was superb from its classy "chimes" introduction, to its "A", "B" and even "C" Themes. Quite complete and elaborate for a TV theme. It was as craftsmanlike as anything ever written by John Phillip Sousa. By 1948 - 1952 the Gillette TV show was one of the widely watched events on the NBC network nationwide. Soon school marching bands were clamoring for Merrick's catchy march, and a band arrangement was published.

When Jack Benny began doing TV specials and eventually a weekly CBS-TV series in 1950, Merrick continued to direct his orchestra. He also composed background cues and a snappy broadway two-beat number, a perfect tune for the TV show. Benny had been long-associated with the sentimental melody "Love In Bloom" by Rainger and Robin used as a "Play-On" for his guest appearances everywhere. But it was Mahlon Merrick's snappy TV THEME music which was often the last piece heard over the closing credits of Benny's CBS TV show. This piece was originally called the "S and J Stomp" [no doubt for "Jack and Sadie" Benny.] Sadie Marks was the maiden name of Benny's wife who had the recurring role of girlfriend Mary Livingston on the radio and TV show. Perhaps tiring of having to explain the title, Merrick soon gave the THEME tune a new title -- "J and M Stomp" [for "Jack and Mary" Livingston, I presume...:-) "J and M Productions" was also the name of Benny's TV production company at the time.] The THEME was also called on various BMI cue sheets, "Jack Benny Sig", "Benny Sig", and of course, "Jack Benny Theme."

Merrick also wrote separate THEMEs for 1964 re-runs of the Benny Show on CBS Daytimes and Sundays, and its final season show on NBC in 1964. Those are not nearly as recognizable as the toe-tapping "S and J Stomp". They had various titles like "J B Daytime Theme", "J B Sunday Theme", "Jay Bee" and "Waukeegan Walk" (a closing theme.) The "Waukeegan Walk" was used as closing credits for re-runs on CBS, and it had a similar tune to the big-band hit "Pennsylvania 6-5000."

Over the years Merrick provided marches for TV sports coverage, no doubt because of his striking "Look Sharp - Be Sharp March" originally written as the Gillette Razor jingle. Some of those marches included "The Main Event" (1960), and various themes for NFL Football coverage including a march called "Collosus of Columbia" which also has had several commercial recordings, and which NFL Football used for decades even into 1990s coverage on the Fox TV Network.

His memorable THEMES for sitcoms of the early days of TV are some of the best examples of the genre, including "The S and J Stomp" used first on the Jack Benny primetime TV Show on CBS and later for re-runs of the "People's Choice"; his composition "Soft Shoe Dance" was a gently swaying vaudeville two-step used as a BG cue on the "Jack Benny TV Show" but it was also used to close the "George Burns and Gracie Allen TV Show" for many years (right after Burns said "Say 'Goodnight', Gracie); his "Bob Cummings Show Theme" was written for Cummings original sitcom -- "Love That Bob"; and his delightful "Private Secretary" was the THEME for Ann Sothern's first sitcom of the same name.

Some of Mahlon Merrick's recorded TV THEMEs were "re-cycled" starting in the early 1950s via a deal he made with the MUTEL Music Service of David Chudnow, who also sub-licensed them to Capitol Special Products for use in the "Capitol "Q" Library of the early 1950s. So they were used widely on local shows and as background cues for other shows.

A charming pair of two-beat compositions by Merrick which was in the MUTEL library called "Toy Soldiers #1 and #2" were also used to provide second season THEMEs for "The Abbott & Costello TV Show". Oddly enough, although those pieces were written and recorded in the Key of D Major, an anlysis of airchecks shows they were sped up 25% for a more comic effect on the air (or maybe to fit the allotted time, or both). At any rate, they were braodcast as if they were in a faster tempo, and in the Key of F Major. That is how many people may remember them.

There were several TV shows for which Merrick did not write the Main Title/End Credits THEME, but wrote incidental background cues for episodes of "Mr. Adams and Eve", "This Is Alice", and "Room For One More". Several other sets of cues ended up being recycled via Sam Fox Publishing and Capitol Special Products' "Hi-Q" library for use in other series and films. These included cues Merrick originally wrote for episodes of "Ozzie and Harriet", "Father Knows Best", "The Real McCoys", "Huckleberry Hound", "Gumby", "Wanted: Dead or Alive", "Ben Casey", "The Untouchables", "Checkmate", and "My Three Sons."

Down through the years, Mahlon Merrick also scored a few motion pictures, including "The Girl From Monterey" (1943), "Sensations of 1945" (1944) [aka: "Sensations" -- which was nominated for an Academy Award for the year 1944], "Miss Mink of 1949" (1949), "Alaska Patrol" (1949), "Deputy Marshall" (1949), "The Lawless" [aka: "The Dividing Line"] (1950), "Passage West" (1951), and "Red Planet Mars" (1952.)

He was a talented and busy man whose career spanned the early days of radio and the golden days of TV. His semi-retirement years in Palm Springs were cut short. Sadly, he succumbed to cancer in 1969.

(Special Thanks to Mahlon Merrick's stepson, C. Richard Guenther, for information about Merrick's life and credits.)

Mahlon Merrick used both his own name and a pseudonym "Gene Le Grande" which most likely indicate collaboration with his 2nd wife who used the professional name "Gene" Grace Merrick. He also used the pseudonym "Lou Kosloff" for a few projects as well. Under those three names he wrote Main Title/End Credits THEMEs used on the following TV series:

  • 1.) 1944 -- The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports [NBC-TV network since 1948]
  • 2.) 1949 -- The Life of Riley (1st Series, starring Jackie Gleason)
  • 3.) 1950 -- The Jack Benny TV Show [CBS]
  • 4.) 1950 -- The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show
  • 5.) 1953 -- The Abbott & Costello TV Show [2nd Season]
  • 6.) 1953 -- Private Secretary (starring Ann Sothern)
  • 7.) 1955 -- Love That Bob (The 1st "Bob Cummings Show")
  • 8.) 1955 -- The People's Choice (starring Jackie Cooper)
  • 9.) 1957 -- Panic! [aka: No Warning (1958)]
  • 10.) 1960 -- The Main Event [synd. sports hilites with host Rocky Marciano]
  • 11.) 1963 -- Wild Kingdom (with Marlon Perkins)
  • 12.) 1964 -- The Jack Benny Daytime Show [CBS Reruns]
  • 13.) 1964 -- The Jack Benny Sunday Show [CBS Reruns]
  • 14.) 1964 -- The Jack Benny Show [NBC]
  • 15.) 1966 -- NFL Game of the Week [synd., NFL East/NFL West]

Rose, David D. (ASCAP)

TV Show themes by David Rose (all ASCAP). See also the pseudonym "Ray Llewellyn" above:

  • 1.) 1951 -- The Red Skelton Show
  • 2.) 1956 -- West Point
  • 3.) 1957 -- Mr. Adams and Eve
  • 4.) 1958 -- Bat Masterson
  • 5.) 1959 -- Bonanza (Ponderosa Chapter Title, and later Big Bonanza)
  • 6.) 1959 -- Men Into Space
  • 7.) 1959 -- Bold Venture
  • 8.) 1960 -- The Case of the Dangerous Robin
  • 9.) 1960 -- Jim Backus Show/Hot Off The Wire
  • 10.) 1960s -- Hallmark Theme (prob. Hallmark Cards TV Specials)
  • 11.) 1961 -- World News March (for the ZIV-TV/WBS Production Music Library)
  • 12.) 1966 -- The Monroes
  • 13.) 1967 -- Dundee and the Culhane
  • 14.) 1967 -- The High Chapparal
  • 15.) 1969 -- Bracken's World
  • 16.) 1974 -- Little House on the Prarie (vocal title: "When You're With Me")
  • 17.) 1981 -- Father Murphy
  • 18.) 1984 -- Highway To Heaven

Shield, Leroy "Roy" (ASCAP) (Oct. 2, 1893 - Jan. 9, 1962)

Little Rascals (children)

     (Syndicated) 
     Theme: Good Old Days

Note: Roy Shield composed many of the cues used for the "Our Gang Comedies" [aka: "Little Rascals"] series. Shield also scored other productions of the Hal Roach studios of the 1930s, including many Laurel and Hardy shorts subjects.

The Laurel and Hardy THEME "Ku-Ku" [aka: "Dance of the Cuckoos"] was arranged for orchestra by Leroy Shield, but was originally composed by T. Marvin Hatley as a time-signature for a Hollywood radio station which was located in the same building as the Hal Roach studios.

See a longer biography by Piet Schreuders in the Internet Movie Database















































































































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