Before the Peacock was the Chimes
Since the radio days, NBC had used its "NBC Chimes" logo. On NBC television, a black
and white animation showing bars of a glockenspiel was used to identify the network.
The familiar tones had evolved into a sound which was a hybrid between a set of
vibes (a vibraphone) and an acoustic piano, which was actually produced by a kind
of clockwork music box commissioned by the network in the radio days, and built by
the Rangertone Organ company called "The Rangertone Chimes Machine..."
A couple of Web Sites (which include photographs of the device) and more detail about
its history can be found at:
Background to the "color TV standard wars"
The first network transmission using the RCA "compatible
color" system was NBC's popular series "The Colgate Comedy
Hour" at 8pm, November 22, 1953.
Previously CBS had also tried color transmission, but CBS's system
wasn't able to be seen in both black & white and color, so
the "compatible" system by NBC's parent company (RCA) was
to win out and become the FCC-approved "standard" for the US.
NBC's "compatible color" approach was a compromise technically.
A "color difference" signal was piggybacked as a separate
but limited sub-carrier wave on top of the grayscale TV channel
signal. Those sets which could decode it, were able to apply
it to the grayscale image to derive color. Those sets called
"Black and White" saw just the normal grayscale image.
However, the compromise made the transition to color possible,
it had the ability to be viewed on black and white sets...so
viewers could become acclimated to what they were missing,
and eventually warm up to the idea of the more expensive
set. From a marketing standpoint, compatible color won the
"color standards" war which the F.C.C. finally approved.
History of color broadcasting on NBC
After the 1953 debut of color on "The Colgate Comedy Hour", other
NBC shows began "colorcasting" including the dramatic anthology
"Robert Montgomery Presents" and the daytime series "Bride and
Groom" (1954) And of course a number of NBC primetime variety
specials were broadcast live and in "Living Color."
The "Living Color" announcement was even re-worded to include the
phrase "Live and in Living Color"...for such "event programming."
The first NBC primetime color series on FILM was -- as you might
expect -- sponsored by Eastman Kodak. It was a 1955 sitcom with
the unfortunate title of "Norby", starring David Wayne. Due to a
very strange time spot (7 - 8pm)...which in those days was not
yet "prime time" when network shows were supposed to begin)...
this poor show therefore didn't get carried by all NBC affiliates.
So due to the poor ratings, it sputtered and died within 13 weeks.
Introduction of the original "Living Color" Peacock logo on
The Peacock graphic logo as a still image was first seen in July
of 1956 (according to Chicago's NBC/5 Web Site.) According to
NBC/5 sources, NBC commissioned New York designer Fred Knapp to
create the graphic logo; obviously done in conjunction with the
NBC Art Department under whose director of design at that time
was John J. Graham. It took another 14 months for the Peacock
to move its wings...in an animation executed by Elektra Film
Labs of New York City.
This first animated version of the Peacock logo started in
black & white and then "fanned" into color. It debuted on
September 7, 1957 for a broadcast of "Your Hit Parade."
In 1958, NBC's "Northwest Passage" was more succesful than the
botched "Norby", with a filmed color western. Unfortunately, the
show was cancelled after just one season, but it foreshadowed
another more succesful color western to come.
The first NBC color series to really catch on with the public was
"Bonanza" (1959 - 1973.)
Although books and other Web sources sometimes incorrectly claim
"Bonanza" was the first color series, it appeared six years after
color broadcasting began on NBC. Hardly the first color series --
but it was the first to catch on in a big way, and help promote
the growing acceptance of color TV with the public.
Initially, "Bonanza" had a lukewarm audience reception. But it did
slowly grow in audience appeal and by the third season in 1961,
its longevity was assured.
For this reason, and because of the addition to the network by
that time of other solid shows like "Walt Disney's Wonderful
World of Color" and the color broadcasts of "Saturday Night at
the Movies" (both in 1961), the public was finally getting used
to the technology in conjunction with solid entertainment.
By 1961, 8 years had passed since the debut of "Compatible Color"
on NBC, so color sets had time to become more reasonably priced
which also contributed to the acceptance of color television.
Introduction of the "Laramie Peacock" logo on NBC
In 1962 a more subtle NBC logo animation was created by
Elektra Film Labs of New York City. This animation began
abstractly, with overlapping color circles revealing a more
modern stylized peacock. Internally this logo which was
called "The Feather" also got the nickname "The Laramie
Peacock." One theory behind this is that it may have first
been shown on the final fourth season of the Western series
"Laramie" (1959 - 1963), although this has not been verified.
New York jingle composer Jack Easton was contracted to score
the lighter new Peacock animation, which he did using a small
ensemble of woodwinds, harp, and a suspended cymbal. See more
about the music below.
--some TV Color history facts above [courtesy Wesley Orr.]
"Laramie Peacock" Logo used beginning in 1962
(a trademark of the NBC Television Network.)
Logo 1 (1956 - 62): [exact title still under
[according to an NBC staffer, who spoke in 1999 to Milton DeLugg
about this music, pianist Louis A. Garisto of the Metropolitan
Jazz Quartet who also wrote advertising jingles composed the first
dramatic logo music used behind the original animated peacock.
It was a serious broad statement scored for a large studio orchestra,
beginning with a cymbal crash, harp swirls on a whole-tone scale,
a suspended cymbal crescendo into a short dramatic motif played
"Tutti" (by the whole orchestra) in the key of A-minor. (The broad
statement was a descending melody: C - - A E - C A E D E - - - -)
Lou Garisto was leader and pianist in the "Metropolitan
Jazz Quartet" which recorded a few LPs in the 1950s.
The NBC source quoted Milton Delugg as remembering there was quite
a flap with ASCAP over royalties regarding this composition.
It was aired quite frequently during the five year period of
1957 - 1962 when a second more subtle musical logo behind a more
modern Peacock took its place.
But if Garisto's logo was a work-for-hire, ASCAP may have told
the composer that such a contract precluded the composer sharing
in royalties until after the copyright reverted to him. In 2002,
Mr. Garisto's daughter confirmed with her mother that Mr. Garisto
was in fact the composer of the first NBC Peacock Music, and that
there was a lot of difficulty over collecting royalties.
It's possible that if it was a work-for-hire job, it may have
had a simple title like "Color Logo Signature" etc. However, if
it was a library piece or generic composition later registered
with ASCAP, there are several titles listed in the ASCAP Index
and database under Garisto's name published by the music division
of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson.
Some of these possibilities are:
"Announcement" (JWT Music Inc.)
"Formal Presentation" (JWT Music Inc.)
"Prestige Event" (Consonant Music) ]
Composer: Louis A. ("Lou") Garisto (ASCAP)
1978 Publisher: [unknown at this time]
1999 Publisher: [unknown at this time]
As of 2001 ASCAP lists the following composition WITHOUT COMPOSER, implying
that since it is a "work for hire", no composer gets the royalty. This
is apparently the logo composed by Louis Albert ("Lou") Garisto:
Title: N B C PEACOCK THEME
Title Variations: NBC PEACOCK THEME
NBC PEACOCK THEME 01
Writer(s): (none found)
Publisher(s): SPECTACULAR MUSIC INC. (ASCAP)
c/o EMI-APRIL MUSIC INC.
of New York, NY
Logo 2 (for "The Laramie Peacock", 1962 ) music
title: "NBC Peacock"
[aka: "N B C Peacock Theme",
"NBC Logo (Theme)", and
[Easton was a New York composer who also wrote many advertising jingles.
His lighter, more subtle Peacock logo music was arranged using more
"soft jazz" style harmonically, and the instrumentation and concept
reminiscent of Ravel's chamber music works.
An examination of the manuscript of this logo music at the Library of
Congress in Washington shows the piece was written in Db, has a bar of
6/4 meter in the middle presumably to catch some subtlety of the
animation. It is scored for a small ensemble featuring woodwinds.
The melody was played by a solo flute, and there were 2 Bb clarinets,
a bass clarinet, concert harp, percussion (a suspended cymbal) and a
single Db Major 7th arpeggiated chord on the very end played in the
high register by a celeste.]
Composer: Jack Easton (ASCAP)
1978 Publisher: Anne Rachel Music Corp. (ASCAP)
1999 Publisher: EMI April Music Inc. (ASCAP)
c/o EMI Music Publishing of
New York, NY
Copyright Date: March 1, 1966; Eu 927 158.
Renewal Date: Jan. 24, 1994; RE-659-145.
Program-specific Peacock Logos (1958
A number of other composers supplied "Living Color" Logo music,
behind the peacock used to open specific programs...
Although these were not widely used, a few of them are:
A.) "The Peacock"
by Walter Scharf (ASCAP)
Copyright Date: May 22, 1958; Eu 525 620.
use unknown -- there is a slight chance the composer credit
regarding Lou Garisto above is in error, and this was
the original "big orchestration" logo/signature heard
starting in 1956.
B.) "Color Logo Signature" [aka: "The Peacock"]
by David D. Rose
Copyright Date: Nov 2, 1961; Eu 693 851.
for use on "Bonanza"
C.) "Peacock Billboard"
by Buster Davis
Copyright Date: Feb 2, 1966; Eu 922 926.
for use on "The Bell Telephone Hour"
Anniversary Promotional Logos (circa 1963
In 1963, for the 25th anniversary of the TV network, NBC commissioned
a number of famous graphic artists to create their own interpretation
of the Peacock Logo, and to score them as they saw fit. This resulted
in several curious graphic and musical logos...
The 1975 Snake Logo (end of 1975/1976):
At the end of 1975, NBC retired the "Living Color" Announcement preceding
all color programs, although individual shows ("The Hollywood Squares",
for example) kept the announcement as a tradition.
So as long as the Peacock was being retired, what could replace it?
On New Years Day, 1976 the animated letters "NBC" formed out of a cylinder
which resembled a hose or a pipe (or even a snake)...A similar logo had
been used at the ENDINGS of shows as early as 1959, in which the letters
"NBC" were formed out of a black line; the "1975 Snake logo" lines were
more 3-D (more dimensional.) The difference was -- this "Snake Logo" was
used at BEGINNINGS of shows replacing the Peacock (the troublesome analogy
of a snake after a bird notwithstanding :-) Music behind this animation was
only a seasonal promotional jingle, or no music at all behind the announcer.
The Bird Returns (1979):
In 1979, after just three seasons of the snake at the beginning of shows,
NBC brought back the Peacock sitting (triumphantly??) on top of the
"NBC Snake" letters...the overall logo had a more triangular shape, and
was used both statically and in animation with only a seasonal promotional
jingle -- such as "Proud As A Peacock" (1979 - 1981)...
A New Bird (1986):
In 1986, NBC commissioned a revision of the peacock which was more of
a graphic change to simplify and make it "more emblematic", implemented
by the design firm of Chermayeff & Geismar....again the graphic logo was
used with only a seasonal promotional jingle, or no music at all.
Johnny Chimes (1997):
In 1997, a whimsical animated peacock was created by the animation house of
Spumco...nicknamed "Johnny Chimes", the animated Spumco Peacock used the
NBC Chimes signature.
Corporate and Crystal Clear
Soon the temporary whimsical bird was replaced by a more corporate logo
again, and only in the background or in the lower right corner -- known
as "The Crystal Logo" because of its transparency.