Hawaii Five-O (TV theme)

Album: Hawaii Five-O (1969)
Charted: 4
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Songfacts®:

  • The Ventures recorded the instrumental theme for the long-running police procedural drama (1968-1980) about detectives Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) and Dan "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur) who worked the Hawaiian islands beat. It was composed by Morton Stevens, who started out as an arranger/conductor for Sammy Davis Jr. and became director of music for CBS on the West Coast. Aside from Hawaii Five-O, he also composed music for popular dramas like Police Woman and Gunsmoke.
  • The series and its theme song were resurrected for the 2010 reboot of the show, starring Alex O'Loughlin as McGarrett and Scott Caan as Williams. The Ventures recorded a fresh take of the song for the new series, but the show's music director rejected it in favor of a synthesized version.

    That didn't fly with the public, so he returned to the Ventures... sort of. The group's co-founder Don Wilson explained on The Bob Rivers Show: "After they got bad press on the synthesizer version, they copied our version just right down to the tee. So we're not playing it on there... [we're] getting ripped off."
  • The Australian rock band Radio Birdman recorded a song called "Aloha Steve And Danno" in 1977 that incorporated the Hawaii Five-O theme in the middle instrumental break and referenced the show in the lyric. Morton Stevens was given half the songwriting credit, by mutual agreement.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. and Don Ho each performed vocal versions of the theme - Davis with "You Can Count on Me" and Ho with the ballad "You Can Come with Me."
  • This song also became a hit on the UK dance floors as the late-'60s Mod scene gave way to Northern Soul. Dubbed "a genre built from failures," the music and dance movement embraced lesser-known black American Soul artists who copied the early Motown sound, but eventually included any uptempo numbers with heavy beats.
  • This was the last song with the word "Hawaii" in it to make the Hot 100. America had a fascination with Hawaiian culture in the '50s and '60s that was reflected in movies, TV shows and music. By the '70s, the populace of the lower 48 seemed less enamored - Joni Mitchell even wrote about the commercialization of the island in her song "Big Yellow Taxi."

    In the decade preceding Hawaii Five-O, there were five charting hits that mention the state, four of which were instrumentals:

    "Blue Hawaii" by Billy Vaughn (#37, 1959)
    "Hawaiian War Chant" by Billy Vaughn (#89, 1959)
    "Hawaii Tattoo" by The Waikikis (#33, 1965)
    "Hawaii Honeymoon" by The Waikikis (#91, 1965)

    The lone vocal hit was "The Hawaiian Wedding Song (Ke Kali Nei Au)" by Andy Williams (#11, 1959).
  • The subtle percussive accent in the mix that sounds like a rattle is the vibraslap, an instrument that was invented just a year earlier and featured prominently in the hit "Green Tambourine" by The Lemon Pipers. Consisting of a wooden ball attached to a hollow box of metal pins, it was made to approximate the sound of a jawbone, a teeth-rattling instrument made from the dried jawbone of an animal, often a donkey or horse.

Comments: 3

  • Chris Birdman from Perth WaThe Ventures covered the theme from Hawaii-50, and had a hit. True fans know the original is the best version, and even that was updated during the TV show's run from 1968-80.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {03-13-2018}...
    Nokie Edwards, founding member and guitarist (originally bass) with the Ventures died Monday (March 12th, 2018) at the age of 82 from an infection suffered after hip surgery in December...
    Born in Lahoma, Oklahoma, his family moved to the Pacific Northwest where he played briefly with Buck Owens in Tacoma, Washington in 1958. He joined with Bob Bogle, Don Wilson and Don Babbitt to form the Ventures that same year. The group scored eight top 40 hits from 1960 to 1969, including “Walk- Don’t Run” (#2 in 1960 and #8 in a different version in 1964), “Hawaii Five-O” (#4 in 1969) and “Pefidia” (#15 in 1960). In 1969, Nokie embarked on a solo career, though he returned to the group briefly in 1973 and continued to tour with them on occasion until 2012. He appeared in the TV series 'Deadwood' on HBO in the mid-2000’s and was inducted, along with the Ventures, into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame in 2008.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny"Book 'em, Danno!"
    On September 20th 1968, the 60-minute police drama, 'Hawaii Five-O' debut on the CBS-TV network...
    The series ran for twelve seasons with a grand total of 279 original episodes...
    The show won two Primetime Emmy Awards; both for 'Best Music Composition - Series'...
    On March 2nd, 1969, six months after the series premiered, "Hawaii Five-O" by the Ventures entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #100; and on May 4th, 1969 it peaked at #4 {for 1 week} and spent 14 weeks in the Top 100...
    The record was the quartet's 3rd and last Top 10 hit; the first two were "Walk - Don't Run" {peaked at #2 for 1 week on October 29th, 1960} and "Walk - Don't Run '64" {reached #8 for 2 weeks on August 16th, 1964}
    The week that "Walk - Don't Run" was at #2 on the Top 100, the #1 record for that week was "It's Now or Never" by Elvis Presley...
    Drummer Mel Taylor, from 1963 to 1996, passed away on August 11th, 1996 at the age of 62 {Leon Taylor, his son, replaced him as the Ventures' drummer}...
    May Mr. Taylor R.I.P.
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