"The Biggest Show in Town"
I love Lucy, Fred and Wilma, Hawkeye and the Friends themes too
Well folks, I haven’t made a new Photowalks video in several weeks, and it’s not because I switched gears and now seek a new career in music. I’ve got some huge new plans for Photowalks in the coming weeks that I’ll tell you about soon. And they have seen me locked behind the computer.
So I haven’t posted a new newsletter, as I was awaiting the next wave of Photowalks to plug, but no greater authority than Mr. Chris Best himself told me no, keep on sending out the newsletter—even if you have nothing to say.
Best is the CEO of this fabulous newsletter platform Substack, and you know me—I always have something to say.
So here goes:
Today, I’m all about TV themes.
As many of you know, my musical vocabulary is highlighted by two different genres: jazz standards from the great American Songbook and (classic) TV themes. It’s what comes out of my fingers. I’ll play you classic rock, I’ll even do recent ballads from Adele, but they’ll always have a jazz feel.
Excuse me if you’ve heard this, but I learned to play by lying on my bed in New York City, watching a 13-inch black and white TV, with a guitar (my first Epiphone) in one hand, a three-stack row of Oreos in the other.
I played along with “I Love Lucy,” “M*A*S*H,” “Bewitched” “The Flintstones” “I Dream of Jeannie” “Popeye,” you name it. I learned chords. I learned melody. I figured out how to match them together.
It’s not just me. The late, great Jaco Pastorious once said he learned to play the bass by playing along with TV shows too. (I’m no Jaco.) And there’s a great column on Guitar.com on how all aspiring guitarists should play along with the TV. (This is best if you’re by yourself, because you can drive others crazy doing this.)
But the musical knowledge was a fantastic door opener for me. At parties, if I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, I could look for the musical instrument (usually a piano, I play that too) and engage with “Name that Theme.”
Who wouldn’t want to play along with that one? Because everybody has their favorite TV theme.
If you loved the show, you loved the theme. It brought back memories. It made you feel good. A great theme makes you happy to see the start of a show, whether that be the “Looney Tunes,” opening or the big heart opening up on “I Love Lucy”, the photo montage from “Friends.” A really cool theme will tell you what the story of the show is all about in song—think “Green Acres,” “Beverly Hillbillies” or “The Patty Duke Show.”
It gets you in the mood—”Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.”
I used to play along with the show opening, and have to wait until the next time it aired to try again. Now life is so much more simple. You go on YouTube, type in the name of the TV show, and the theme is waiting to be played for you over and over again.
Or, you do an online search for the song, with “free sheet music” and 9 times out of 10, someone has posted something that’s close enough to give you a map of how to play it. You take it from there.
Meanwhile, if you were to ask me, “Hey Jeff, what’s your favorite TV theme?” I’ll start with the greatest hits: “M*A*S*H” “I Love Lucy” “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
But for all-time best? How can you top the biggest show in town? You know. Huckleberry Hound. For all you guys and gals.
Come on, gather 'round.
Get yourself all set,
Turn on your TV set
For Huckleberry Hound.
Come Chuckleberries, what’s your favorite theme?
And stay tuned kids, because I’ll be back later this week to tell you about my upcoming summer vacation, back to the Oregon Coast. (Half-hour Photowalk episode in the works!) Yes, we’re going on the road in a pandemic.
If you enjoy seeing the return of the newsletter, let me know and you know me—I’ll have another one for you tomorrow. Please tell all your friends to subscribe, share on Twitter and LinkedIn or just hit reply and let me know your thoughts!