A few months ago, our classic theme tune was my own favourite western TV theme, from The High Chaparral.
However, the all-time favourite and best-remembered TV western (and western theme) is probably Bonanza.
Like The High Chaparral, Bonanza was created by David Dortort. Unlike The High Chaparral, which ran for only four season, Bonanza rode on for 14 seasons between 1959 and 1973. It racked up an incredible 430 episodes, making it the second-longest running TV western ever, after Gunsmoke, which produced 635 episodes between 1955 and 1975.
It told the story of Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene), owner of the Ponderosa ranch on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada, and his sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon).
There can’t be many people who don’t immediately recognise Bonanza‘s classic theme tune, which was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans – it’s possibly the most recognisable TV theme ever. That said, there were a few different versions and arrangements through the years.
Here’s the original theme:
This is the second version, a slightly rearranged, less twangy version of the original, used between 1968 and 1970:
Incredibly, someone thought it would be a good idea to write a new theme tune for the show. This was used between 1970 and 1972 and while it’s not bad, it’s not the original:
A faster, rearranged version of the original Bonanza theme returned for the 14th and final season:
And finally, here is Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three performing his version of the song (the theme tune had lyrics but they only ever featured in the opening credits of the pilot episode of the TV show):