Earle Hagen, 1919-2008

If it had only been the whistle, Earle Hagen would have qualified for major send-off from TV Land. That’s his own windy pursed lips at the beginning of The Andy Griffith Show as Andy and Opie head to the fishing hole, and it’s his tune as well. But Hagen, who died this week at 88, was a prolific television themesman. He also wrote the opening riffs to The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Gomer Pyle USMC, That Girl, I Spy, Eight Is Enough, and The Mod Squad.

Quite the line-up. His Mayberry theme and Dick Van Dyke work open two of the great sitcoms, instantly recognizable. But Hagen also scored Call Me Madam and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, played trombone with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Ray Noble, and wrote Harlem Nocturne as a tribute to Duke Ellington.

So in Earl’s whistling honor, a list of sorts – please add to it. My favorite television theme songs, in no particular order:

– The Rockford Files (Mike Post)
– Sanford and Son (Quincy Jones)
– The Honeymooners (Jackie Gleason)
– The Dick Van Dyke Show (Earle Hagen)
– The Bob Newhart Show (Patrick Williams)
– The Odd Couple (Neal Hefti)
– The Andy Griffith Show (Earle Hagen)
– The Sopranos (Rob Spragg)
– The Office (Jay Ferguson)
– Underdog (Ortala le Clerc Germaine)
– Dragnet (Miklos Rozsa)
– Chico and the Man (Jose Feliciano)
– Miami Vice (Jan Hammer)
– Fat Albert (Herbie Hancock)

Comments 3

  • I realize it has its origins in Robert Altman’s movie, but I’ve always admired the theme from M*A*S*H. It helped encapsulate, for me at least, the social importance of the show in a way that would be hard to describe.

  • In your capacity as editor of this blog, I believe you need to exercise a bit more editorial control, especially with regard to writers such as Lance Manion. His writing is frequently so poor and grammatically unstructured that it is virtually unreadable.

    Anyway, I always loved the Gilligan’s Island theme. I wish I had written that one.

  • – “Secret Agent Man,” (PF Sloan and Steve Barri)

    – “Hawaii Five-O” (Mort Stevens)

    – “Peter Gunn” (Henry Mancini)

    – “The Tonight Show” (Paul Anka)

    – “Get Smart” (Irving Szathmary)

    – “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Nerf Herder)

    – “The Monkees” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)