My Favorite TV Show Theme Songs from the Fifties and the Sixties

There are some enthusiasts who will lobby that the Golden Age of Television was the Fifties and still others that maintain the Sixties should hold the title.  As a child of the Seventies, my only experience with shows from those two decades was entirely through syndicated re-runs.  And when you watch a show five days a week, usually immediately after school when your brain is particularly susceptible after learning all day, you soak stuff up without realizing it through sugary snack-fueled osmosis.  Well, I don't know the specific scientific terms but I am living proof of the results.  These are the my favorite theme songs from shows I was too young to see when they originally aired yet I grew up watching them anyway.  The quality of the show has no bearing in my selection - all songs are subjective picks.  The songs and shows below are in no particular order except for the first one which is probably among the oldest shows I've ever seen.

"I Love Lucy"
originally aired: 1951-1960
This is more than likely the first television show I ever watched whether I knew it or not at the time.  Both of my grandmothers as well as my own mother LOVED this show and fortunately for them it seemed to always be on.  Well, my mother still loves it and wouldn't you know the woman I married is a huge fan as well?  Bought both her and my mom The Complete Series on DVD and over the course of a year, my wife and I slow-binged all 2,000 181 episodes.  While the original theme was written as an instrumental, Lucy's real-life and on-the-show husband Desi serenaded her with newly written lyrics during a late season two episode.  Desi's recording of the song languished as a b-side in 1953 but a 1977 disco do-over by the Wilton Place Street Band made the pop Top 40 and the Disco Top 10.

"The Fishin' Hole"
originally aired: 1960-1968
One of the rights of passages of growing up is learning to whistle.  As I suppose many kids did, I learned to whistle along with the them to The Andy Griffith Show (and the Bridge Over The River Kwai theme).  In later seasons, Andy's character was certainly a role model and Aunt Bee was the closest there ever was to a TV version of my Missouri Grandma.  The show features a great cast of characters and does seem to stand up to repeat viewings.   I get the sense that even watching the show live as it aired in the Sixties gave viewers a comforting sense of nostalgia, the same sense I get when I watch it now though I can't help but wonder where all the African-American citizens of Mayberry are hiding out.  Though the theme is whistled, Griffith recorded a lyrical version of it.

originally aired: 1959-1973
I have seen maybe five or six episodes out of the whopping 430 but the theme song has always stuck in my head. Whenever we'd play cowboy as kids, this is the music we'd make when we were pretend riding horses.  Though heard on every show as an instrumental, The Cartwright men actually sang their theme song on-screen in an unaired scene from the pilot episode.  Johnny Cash rewrote the lyrics and released the song in 1962 before series star Lorne Greene revised the lyrics yet again for his solo version of the theme in 1964.

"The Ballad Of Gilligan's Isle"
originally aired: 1964-1967
Running a close third place behind M*A*S*H and I Love Lucy, Gilligan's Island is one of my most watched shows ever.  It just always seemed to be on after school, along with The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch no matter where we lived.  I prefer the color episodes to the black & white ones of Gilligan's Island more so than any other show and I can't really articulate why, I just do.  Like many shows on my list today, this one had a completely different theme song for the pilot episode which also included a slightly different cast playing slightly different roles.  And to answer your unasked question, Mary Ann - always, Mary Ann.

"The Ballad Of Jed Clampett"
originally aired: 1962-1971
The Beverly Hillbillies is another show universally loved by my kinfolk.  It is a rags-to-riches fish-out-of-water hybrid sitcom that attracted a huge viewership made up of the same rural audience it tended to ridicule in each episode.  Though I watched it often as a youngster, now I find it somewhat mean and Miss Jane Hathaway is downright scary, don't you think? Still the bluegrass theme song is definitely a keeper.  On the show, the theme was sung by Jerry Scoggins but on the 1962 single guitarist Lester Flatt handles the vocals.  That single was a Number One song on the Country chart but stalled outside the Top 40 on the Pop chart.

"Petticoat Junction"
originally aired: 1963-1970
For my money, Petticoat Junction is a better show then the one directly above for several reasons, not the least of which is the three interchangeable Bradley sisters, who like to skinny dip in the water tower which is an admirable if somewhat unsanitary habit.  The easy to sing-along theme song, with that line about "Lotsa curves", is another reason.  Flatt & Scruggs didn't perform the original theme for the show but they cut their own version, which made it to Top 15 on the Country chart.  
As the show continued past it's fourth season, it moved away from that slapstick humor that brung it to the dance and towards music, with the Bradley Sisters singing both together and solo, in several episodes and releasing at least two singles under the name The Girls From Petticoat Junction and one under Meredith MacRae's name - she played the blonde Bradley girl, Billie Jo.  In 2011, the savvy city-fellers at Real Gone Music rounded up those three singles, added two unreleased singles (including a Beatles cover!) and topped it off with Curt Massey's single of the show's theme for a CD titled The Girls From Petticoat Junction - Sixties Sounds.

"Green Acres"
originally aired: 1965-1971
Sort of a reversal of The Beverly Hillbillies, with affluent city folks moving to the country and running a farm, Green Acres had one of the more memorable and goofy cast of characters with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor rising above it all.  Far from being content as a Petticoat Junction spin-off, the writers incorporated outlandish surrealism and biting satire into the story lines.  Like Hillbillies and Petticoat before, the theme song to Green Acres told the show's premise and was voiced by the show's leads, Albert and Gabor.  It is a delightfully fun sing-along and I enjoy it when my wife lets me affect a vaguely Hungarian accent as I sing Gabor's parts: "Daahling I love you but give me Park Avenue!"

"(Theme From) The Monkees"
originally aired: 1966-1968
Naked in its ambition to mimic the zany Fab Four as seen in A Hard Day's Night, The Monkees employed the finest songwriters and session players in an effort to dominate TV ratings and the Pop charts.  And though the Emmy-winning show barely lasted two seasons, the pre-fab four (sorry, always wanted to use that) scored twenty-one Hot 100 hits across twenty-two years, including three Number Ones.  And they did even better on the album charts, flinging 18 albums onto the Top 200 across the same period.  The group's first four long players all hit the top spot, actually besting the Beatles, though none of the members did much more than sing on them, though they eventually won the right to play and sing on their albums.  The theme song was a mixtape favorite back when the group was enjoying a huge and unexpected resurgence in popularity nearly thirty years ago after MTV aired the entire series as a marathon.

originally aired: 1964-1966
I have never been a fan of horror or monsters but I do enjoy creepy and The Munsters fit the bill.  As a big doofus, I identified with Herman more than Eddie and have always loved the groovy theme song.  And the Munster Coach was my first experience with a George Barris custom car though I later found out he built the famous if less than glamorous truck used in The Beverly Hillbillies.  The instrumental theme song rocks with a bit of surf rock guitar and a big brass section.  Lyrics were written for the theme but never heard on the show.

"The Addams Family Theme"
originally aired: 1964-1966
I prefer this show to The Munsters.  The theme song is a hoot, with harpsichord, finger snaps and big ol' Lurch punctuating the lyrics with single words using his deep voice.  Like the theme for Green Acres, The Addams Family Theme was written and arranged by Vic Mizzy who would go on to score my favorite Don Knotts film, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

originally aired: 1966-1968
If you don't know about this one, I can't tell you.  The show is lots of cheesy fun and it all kicks off with the opening theme.  

originally aired: 1964-1972
A very twinkly and breezy theme for a very subversive show about witchcraft, otherworldly realms and body snatching.  Despite the subject matter, my deeply religious grandmother loved this show.  As do my Mom and my wife.  While I'm sure I've seen every episode, the complete series recently arrived in our home and still sits shrink-wrapped on the shelf.  The theme song was an instrumental but lyrics had been written and the song was later recorded by Peggy Lee.

originally aired: 1965-1970
This show was created in direct response to Bewtiched's runaway popularity and I prefer I Dream Of Jeannie.  Though a different theme was used in the show's first season, the now-familiar mambo theme is universally recognized as being from I Dream Of Jeannie.  All I know is that it is as slinky and sexy as Jeannie herself.  As seems to be the story with themes from mid to late Sixties shows, "Jeannie" was an instrumental on the show but had lyrics and was recorded by its composer Hugo Montenegro among others.

"Twilight Zone Theme"
originally aired: 1959-1964
Though it was sometimes too preachy, I always found The Twilight Zone to hit that sweet spot of suspenseful, thought-provoking and creepy my young (and now old) brain enjoys.  And the show's disjointed avant-garde theme song fits it perfectly.  The show and song are so pervasive that the theme is often used in other shows or movies to convey something weird or unexpected.  I was amazed to find a song with lyrics during my research.

originally aired: 1965-1969
Though the Western had dominated TV screens since the Fifties by the late Sixties spy shows were the new hotness.  The Wild Wild West was a hybrid of the two genres and though it's legacy was tarnished by a big-budget movie in 1999, the show still holds up for me.  The instrumental theme song, described by the composer as combining "jazz with Americana", combined the fast-paced rhythm of a spy theme with the sweeping orchestration of the traditional Western theme.  Who knew there were lyrics for this song as well? Not I.

Please tell me about your favorite 50s and 60s themes in the comments!  And don't forget to share your childhood TV memories as well.  Next time around, we'll be focusing on Kids TV and Cartoon Themes from the Fifties through the early Eighties.

Honorable mentions:
My Three Sons   *   Star Trek   *   Gentle Ben   *   Peter Gunn   *   Lassie   *   Mister Ed  
Perry Mason   *   Flipper   *   The Mod SquadDennis The Menace   *   Green Hornet 
77 Sunset Strip   *   Alfred Hitchcock Presents   *   Tarzan   *   The Ballad Of Davy Crockett   Adventures Of Superman   *   Hogan's Heroes   *   Outer Limits   *   Dragnet   *   Get Smart   The Lone Ranger   *   Maverick   *   Leave It To Beaver   *   The Dick Van Dyke Show 
The Honeymooners   *   Mission: Impossible   *   The Brady Bunch   *   That Girl
The Carol Burnett Show   *   My Favorite Martian   *   The Rifleman   *   McHale's Navy
Rawhide   *   Laugh-In


  1. So much to comment on! Like you, I grew up on many of these shows thanks to afterschool reruns on the local UHF channel. Like you, I have never sat thru many Bonanza episodes. Like you, I too preferred the color Gilligan episodes to the b/w ones; the b/w ones almost give the show a dark comedy vibe. I'm about even between my like of the Addams Family and the Munsters. Surprised no mention of the use of the Munsters hook in Fall-Out Boy's latest hit "Uma Thurman". Unlike you, I am on Team Samantha over Team Jeannie all the way; I just loved all of her kooky relatives. I got the full Batman Blu-ray set and am slowly working thru it all again; it looks amazing on this set. And, last but never least, I Love Lucy still holds up - timeless show that I can sit down and watch an episode of at any time.

    1. As you have mentioned it at least three other times in our offline conversations, I was hoping you would drop The Munsters/FOB connection here and you have come through for me once again. Points for Martin.

      Like you, I have the Batman blu ray set - but unlike you, mine is just sitting on the shelf, still in shrink wrap along with the complete Bewtiched and I Dream Of Jeannie sets. One of these days... Who knows, maybe my appreciation of Bewitched will improve after binging on it for a few weeks.

  2. So much good stuff here I wouldn't know where to begin. We didn't have cable in the desert when I was growing up so we were at the mercy of the 3 local affiliates for reruns. I remember one about a horse named Fury in addition to all you've listed above. The theme to Family Affair is an earworm every now and then, too. You may get to game shows in a different post, but I'll always associate the Tijuana Brass with The Dating Game.

    1. You know, I had Family Affair on my initial list but after watching a few episodes online, the theme did not trigger any memories or an earworm. Cissy may have triggered a few memories though.

      Have thought about doing game show themes - I have two CDs devoted to them - but for now, they will not get their own post.