It's not often that a piece of production music makes it into our database, but this is no ordinary piece of production music. "Brass Bonanza" was the theme song for the Hartford Whalers hockey team, which in 1997 moved to Raleigh and became the Carolina Hurricanes, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Stuck between Boston and New York, Hartford is a minor-league sports town, but for many years the Whalers provided a taste of the big leagues. And even though the team rarely had a winning record, they could claim the greatest theme music in hockey. With an array of horns, the Brass Bonanza would introduce the often hapless Whalers and celebrate their goals. The song found it's way to audio operators at stadiums around New England, and is still played from time to time at various minor league stadiums, at UCONN basketball games, and even at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. For a city looking for a distinguishing characteristic besides the title of "America's Filing Cabinet," the Brass Bonanza brought some musical pride.
Little was known about the origin of the Brass Bonanza until 2010 when Jeff Jacobs, the determined sports reporter for The Hartford Courant, tracked down the composer... in Belgium. He was listed in the song's credits as "Jack Say," but his name is really Jacques Ysaye, pronounced Ee-sigh-ya. He told Jacobs, "The original title was 'Evening Beat,' but I don't know why the editor changed it. My pseudonym is Jack Say and I was arranger and conductor of the recording orchestra."
Jacques Ysaye is the grandson of the famous Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye, who for a time was the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Jacque made his living as a composer, and sold some of his songs to music libraries that producers could purchase for use on commercials, corporate videos and highlight packages. In 1976, Whalers announcers Bill Rasmussen and Bob Neumeier put together an album with sound clips from the season's highlights, and used what would become "The Brass Bonanza" on the album as a musical bridge. The song came from a library they purchased from a local company called D&K Sound, which got it from Sam Fox Publishing.
George Ducharme, who worked in marketing for the team, heard the album and loved the song. It was instantly identifiable, as Ducharme said, "Three notes and everybody knows what is." When he started using it in the Hartford Civic Center during games, it quickly caught on with the fans, and had the added benefit of annoying the opposing teams, as an obnoxious '70s horn theme isn't what you want to hear after giving up a goal.
Did you know that the theme music for Monday Night Football came from a music library? While big-budget productions can create custom tunes for their projects, many of the songs found on these libraries get the job done. Royalty payments can get a little sticky, however. The owner of D&K Sound, which sold the library to The Whalers, explains: "I'd charge $75 a 'needle-drop' to use for commercials and such. And when we made the 45 (the songs were distributed on 45 rpm records), we had to pay 2-3 cents a copy to the library. We got a few legal letters from Fox about using it in an arena. I told them there's not millions in this and the Whalers will drop the song before paying. That was the end of it."
Jacques Ysaye, who wrote the song, added: "I'm happy to know this number has a great popularity in your country, but I never received a cent for these performances."
ESPN is located in Bristol, Connecticut, which is near Hartford. When Craig Kilborn worked there, he was introduced to the Brass Bonanza, and played it when he hosted The Late Late Show
. In 2001, he even convinced Carmen Electra to do a special dance to the song