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WKRP in Cincinnati theme by Steve Carlisle

Album: WKRP in CincinnatiReleased: 1978Charted:
  • WKRP in Cincinnati was a TV show about a radio station. Unlike the glorified versions of radio stations commonly portrayed on movies and TV shows, this one was realistic, which eccentric DJs, a clueless general manager and an unkempt engineer named Bucky. The show ran from 1978-1982 and was revived in 1991 in a version devoid of the authenticity and spirit of the original, which predictably failed after just two seasons. The remake did, however, feature both Tawny Kitaen and Michael Des Barres.

    Thank you for indulging our nostalgic rant - Songfacts was created by DJs and we have an affinity for this show and the special characters we came across at radio stations just like it. Anyway, the theme song was written by the composer Tom Wells, with lyrics by the show's creator Hugh Wilson. Orchestrations were added by Jim Ellis, and it was sung by Steve Carlisle. The song tells of the transient life of a radio professional, moving from market to market in search of a better gig, unable to settle down. It's a very melancholy tune that could relate to a few different characters on the show, as the singer is telling his girl that he once again is moving on, maybe they were never meant to be, and he'll be in Cincinnati for the time being. All he can hope is that she'll think of him once in a while. Want to know what happens to this guy? Check out Harry Chapin's "W.O.L.D.."
  • In the '70s, shows very often had closing credits and musical themes for those as well. The one for WKRP was particularly aggressive: a rock tune with loud, unintelligible lyrics. Jim Ellis, who is the voice of those lyrics, explains: "Talk about lucking out! My first TV show turns out to be a sit-com legend. Hugh Wilson. Working for MTM Enterprises, created WKRP In Cincinnati, and Hired Tom Wells to write and produce original music for the show. Tom, in turn, hires me to arrange and orchestrate the opening theme that he and Hugh had written, and to write a rock and roll closing theme. I had originally written the closer to be an instrumental, but on the day of recording, I began joking around singing the melody that the saxophone would eventually play. Of course there were no lyrics and I was just sort of scatting gibberish. Well Hugh and Tom thought that was funny, and that it made a joke about the general unintelligibility of rock lyrics. So, out with the sax and in with the Jim Ellis' only professional job as a lead singer. Not bad if you're only going to have one."
  • Who is Steve Carlisle, who sings this theme? He's a singer who was based in Akron, Ohio and worked with Hugh Wilson, who created WKRP. In 1982, he released an album called Steve Carlisle sings WKRP in Cincinnati, which contains 10 songs, including this theme.
  • A full-length version of this song, running 2:51, was released as a single in America in 1981, charting at #65. This version explores more of the DJ's journey as he leaves his girl behind to make it in Cincinnati. "The price for finding me was losing you," he sings.

    This version was produced by the team of Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, who had a big hit in 1982 with "Pac-Man Fever."
  • When Carlisle recorded the full-length version of this song, he and his producers also made a whole bunch of customized versions for different radio stations around the country, replacing the ending line, "I'm at WKRP In Cincinnati," with the call letters and city of these stations. For instance, "I'm at WGAR in Cleveland."

    They put these custom versions on cassette tapes and sent them to the various radio stations, many of which played them on the air. It was time-consuming, but effective marketing that gave the song a big push.
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Comments: 4

On September 18th 1978, the 30 minute sitcom 'WKRP in Cincinnati' debut on the CBS-TV network...
The series ran for four seasons with a grand total of 88 original episodes...
Three years later on November 15th, 1981 the show's theme song, by Steve Carlisle, entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at #87, and on January 3rd, 1982 it peaked at #65 {for 2 weeks} and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." The Big Guy
What a classic series!
Brent - Denair, Ca
Hey DeeTheWriter, you forgot one...."The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati" by Rose & The ArrangementMichael - Akron, Oh
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Deethewriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
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