Peter Gunn Theme

Album: The Music From Peter Gunn (1958)
Charted: 6 27


  • This was written by Henry Mancini for the TV series Peter Gunn, which ran from 1958-1961 and used this song performed by Henry Mancini and His Orchestra as its theme. Released as a single in 1958, the song didn't chart, but in 1959 Mancini's album The Music From Peter Gunn, featuring the theme, became the most popular album of the year, spending 10 weeks at #1.

    In March 1959, a version by the bandleader Ray Anthony reached #8, and in November, Duane Eddy took it to #27. Many other artists have since interpreted the theme.
  • Peter Gunn the TV series did fairly well and certainly helped promote this song, but the theme could clearly stand on its own. In the UK, where the show didn't air, Duane Eddy's version was a big hit, reaching #6 in 1959. Eddy produced his signature "twang" sound by means of a Gretsch 6120 with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece through a 100-watt amp-and a steel water tank for reverb.
  • When Ray Anthony's version made the Hot 100, Peter Gunn became the first TV series with a theme song to reach the chart. The next to do so was the Bonanza theme, which made #19 in 1961. "Theme From Ben Casey" reached #28 in 1962, and several more followed throughout the decade, notably the "Batman Theme," which peaked at #17 in 1966. The first #1 theme song was the disco-rific "Theme From S.W.A.T." in 1976.
  • Mancini got his start in 1952 working at Universal International Films doing arrangements. His first big success was his score to the 1954 film The Glenn Miller Story, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

    Peter Gunn was the first project on which he conducted the orchestra, which made him a famous name (Mancini could play piano, but didn't perform on his compositions because he didn't think he was good enough). In 1961, he hit it big with "Moon River," the theme to the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. It won the Oscar for Best Song, and Mancini's score picked up the award in that category.
  • Duane Eddy recalled to Mojo magazine November 2010 why he decided to cover this song: "We were doing the second album, Especially For You. (Saxophonist) Steve Douglas said, 'Duane, I learnt Peter Gunn last night.' I said, 'Well, that's nice.' He thought it'd just be good as an album cut but I didn't think so. So we forgot about it and we got 11 or 12 songs done. Lee and me were sitting there discussing what we could do and Steve wandered over and said, 'We could do Peter Gunn.' I thought, 'What the heck! It's only an album cut.' So we figured out the intro, then the riff, and we cut it. It became a single because somebody in Australia in the record company took it from the album and it got to #3. Somebody in England noticed that so they released it as a single. It got to the top of the charts. Finally, Jamie noticed this and said, 'Maybe we should make this a single in the US.' So that's how Peter Gunn came to be."
  • In 1986 the British techno-pop trio The Art Of Noise covered this with Duane Eddy guesting on guitar. It was a Top 10 hit around the world, peaking at #8 in the UK and winning the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. It also gave Eddy the distinction of being the only instrumentalist with Top 10 singles in four different decades in the UK.
  • A funky disco version by the Brazilian musician Deodato reached #84 in 1976. This one has some female vocals that come in to talk about how "bad" Peter Gunn is (kind of like the "Theme From Shaft").
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer often used this song to open their shows (their version can be heard on their 1979 album In Concert). "'Peter Gunn' has got this sort of great satisfying feeling when you're playing it, because it is simple," Carl Palmer said in his Songfacts interview. "It's not very technical, but it means a lot. It gets right to the point. It's a great piece of writing. Musically, it works on keyboards or guitars or both."

    There was also a practical reason why ELP used it to start their concerts: It's a relatively straightforward song that uses lots of frequency bands, which makes it a good one for sound engineers to work with as they try to sort out the mix.
  • The B-52s lifted the riff for their 1979 song "Planet Claire," which appears on their first album.

Comments: 12

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer:
    Corki Casey O'Dell, pioneering female guitarist who played with Duane Eddy, died Thursday, May 11th, 2017 in Nashville, at the age of 80, according to multiple news sources.
    Her session work in the early days of rock and roll helped pave the way for future female musicians...
    In the late 1950s in Phoenix, O’ Dell was part of a group of musicians that included Duane Eddy, Lee Hazelwood, and Sanford Clark. In 1956, she played rhythm guitar on Clark’s hit song “The Fool”. Elvis Presley would record a version of that song. Hazelwood would use O’Dell on many of the sessions he produced...
    She played guitar on many of Duane Eddy’s early hit songs as a member of his backing band the Rebels, including the iconic “Peter Gunn”*. According to the Tennessean, the two were “lifelong friends and sidekicks,” a bond that motivated Eddy to call O’Dell “the first side-chick of rock ‘n’ roll”...
    May she R.I.P.
    * Duane Eddy's "Peter Gunn" peaked at #27 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on November 14th, 1960.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 31st 1960 Duane Eddy performed "Peter Gunn" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #32 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and fourteen days later on November 14th, 1960 it would peak at #27 {for 1 week} and spent a total of 9 weeks on the Top 100...
    The year before in 1959 it was released in the England and peaked at #6 on the U.K. Singles chart...
    On the same 'Bandstand' show he also performed "Kommotion"; it entered the Top 100 on August 22nd, 1960 for a six week stay, peaking at #78...
    Between 1958 and 1986 he had twenty-eight Top 100 records; three made the Top 10, his biggest hit was "Because They're Young", it reached #4 {for 2 weeks} on July 4th, 1960...
    His last charted record was a re-mix of "Peter Gunn" with the British trio the Art of Noise; it peaked at #50 in 1986.
  • Jim from Boston, MaSorry I forgot to share that Poison Ivy's cover of "Peter Gunn" appears on the 1996 "Shots in the Dark," a Henry Mancini tribute CD released by Del-Fi's Donna subsidiary (#DOLP 2113).
  • Jim from Boston, MaPoison Ivy (a/k/a "Ivy Rorschach," nee Kristy Wallace, bassist of The Cramps) also recorded a cover of the "Peter Gunn" theme, taking the classic tune of Henry Mancini from noir to nightmare, as was the wont of the great psychobilly sound had by The Cramps, now sadly no more due to the 2009 death of lead vocalist "Lux Interior" (Erick Lee Purkhiser ), who was also married to "Rorschach"/Wallace.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThis tune was also used in a 1980s video game called (I believe) Spy Hunter.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHenry Mancini won the very first (1958) Grammy for Album of the Year; The Music From Peter Gunn Album... {He also won a Grammy for Best Arrangement for the same album}
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyRay Anthony's version peaked at #8 in 1959, Duane Eddy's at #27 in 1960, & Deodato's at #84 in 1976. Henry Mancini's version was never released as a single record...
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaI would like to add Henry's comment on his own song..(paraphrasing)"the whole thing had basically one chord throughout the whole tune, and a repeating figure on the piano,
    played marverlously by John Williams(of Star Wars Fame)That was the beginning of becoming known, and all of my fame and what I've built up started with that."
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Cathe big hit record was by Ray Anthony and his orchestra(1958?)...Mancini's verison was out also, but didn't make as big of a splash.(I prefer MAncini's)I don't know where Mancini's version was recorded -RCA or Universal?
    but it was a bit more subtler, while still being dynamic.
  • Brian from Bentonville, ArThe Ventures also covered this song. An early digitized version was used as the main theme to the "SpyHunter" video game.
  • Joshua from La Crosse, WiEmerson, Lake and Palmer have also covered this song, and have been known to perform it live.
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhThe Peter Gunn theme was an absolute sensation: it was played in every conceivable context and parodied endlessly.
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