Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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“Dragnet” TV Theme Song

Based on “The Killers Main Theme” by Miklos Rozsa (1946).
Hit versions (as “Dragnet”) by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra (US #3/UK #7 1953), Ted Heath Orchestra (UK #9 1953), Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (as “Dragnet Blues” R&B #8 1953), The Art of Noise (UK #60/NZ #25/SWZ #29 1997).
Also recorded (as “St. George and the Dragonet”) by Stan Freberg (US #1 1953).

From the wiki: “Miklós Rózsa was a Hungarian-American composer known for his dramatic film scores.

“His career in Hollywood gained him tremendous fame: Rózsa received 17 Oscar nominations and won the award three times for his music for the films Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947) and Ben-Hur (1959). But the only musical motif he wrote that is easily recognizable to the general public was not part of an award-winning composition. In fact, the motif is often not associated with Rózsa at all, since the more popular version is credited to another composer.

“The famous four-note motif was originally composed by Rózsa for the 1946 American film noir, The Killers. In 1951, the same motif appeared in the ‘Main Title’ theme music for the radio and television drama, Dragnet, composed by Walter Schumann. The music became the subject of a copyright lawsuit when Abeles & Bernstein, lawyers representing Robbins Music Corporation, the publishers of Rózsa’s score for The Killers, filed for copyright infringement on Rózsa’s behalf in January 1954.

“Rózsa’s lawyers argued that Walter Schumann was on the sound stage during the recording of The Killers in 1946. A check procured by Universal Pictures did place Schumann on the set during this time. This evidence was used to establish that Schumann had heard the melody and, consciously or unconsciously, copied the theme. It was at this point during the trial proceedings that Walter Schumann instead claimed that he had received permission from Rózsa to use the motif.

“By the time the lawsuit was filed in 1954, Schumann’s theme for Dragnet had already exploded as a household gimmick. The four-note motif had already become a widely popular theme by the mid-1950s – it was the score’s most memorable effect. Dragnet began airing television episodes in 1951, but two wildly popular versions of the show’s theme music were released in 1953. First, Ray Anthony’s jazz orchestra rendition debuted in June 1953. Stan Freberg’s parody single, ‘St. George and the Dragonet’ came out in October 1953 (and the motif was also referenced on the single’s B-side, ‘Little Blue Riding Hood’). Both versions sold well and landed high on Billboard’s charts. The popularity of the other versions of the song demonstrated both the success of the theme, and the possible monetary value of the work if it could be proved to be solely Rózsa’s composition.

“In 1955, a settlement between the two publishers concluded the case by allowing both Rózsa and Schumann and their publishers to share the royalties for the four note theme ‘Main Title’, which was later titled ‘Danger Ahead’. (The ‘Dragnet March’, which was everything other than the four note theme, remained the intellectual property of Walter Schumann.) It took several years for the decision to be enforced, made evident on LPs published after 1955 that list either Walter Schumann or Miklós Rózsa as the composer – but not both.

“The 1953 recording of ‘Dragnet’ by Ray Anthony and his Orchestra (‘The Bunny Hop’, 1952; ‘Hokey Pokey’, 1953) sold over 500,000 copies in the US and rocketed Ray Anthony to popularity. A cover version released in the UK by the Ted Heath Orchestra peaked at #7 on the UK Single chart.

“Other courtroom drama ensued after Frankie Ervin recorded ‘Dragnet Blues’ as lead singer with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, on the Bihari brothers’ Modern label. The record company faced legal action from Jack Webb of the Dragnet radio and TV show, for a blatant and unauthorized use of the show’s theme and parody of the show’s spoken introduction. The case was resolved and the record sold well, reaching #8 on the Billboard R&B chart.

“A 1987 version by The Art of Noise was an international hit when used as the score for the 1987 film version of Dragnet (starring Dan Akroyd and Tom Hanks) based on the TV show. The group’s arrangement won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

“A popular variant of the theme was also used for many years as the commercial jingle for Tums antacid, with the melody vocalized as ‘Tum-ta-tum-tum Tums’.”

Ray Anthony, “Dragnet” (1953):

Ted Heath, “Dragnet” (1953):

Stan Freberg, “St. George and the Dragonet” (1953):

Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, “Dragnet Blues” (1953):

The Art of Noise, “Dragnet” (1997):

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