There is something very special about television theme songs. It wasn’t until I started doing these Morning Music posts that I realized just how often it is these songs that go over and over in my head. But it is hardly surprising. Even a really big hit will only be played so much over a short period of time. But you may hear a theme song for years. And when I was a kid, we actually watched reruns, because there really wasn’t anything else on.
So today I bring you the song that has been oppressing me all day long: the theme to Bonanza. When I was a kid, I didn’t much like westerns. In fact, it wasn’t until my early teens when I saw A Fistful of Dollars that I realized that westerns could be really cool. Most westerns I had seen up to that time had been too “clean.” I didn’t like that and I still don’t. But there was a reason that I liked Bonanza: Hoss, played by Bonanza — the Sergeant Schultz of the old west. (I mean as the genial fat guy archetype.)
The Bonanza theme was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Actually, although they were both composers, when working together, Livingston wrote the music. And Evans wrote the lyrics. You can hear some of those lyrics in a cut version from the pilot of the show and from Buddy Morrow’s recording of it. But let’s listen to Johnny Cash do his version with a different set of lyrics: