Henry Mancini – The Music From "Peter Gunn"
Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) "Peter Gunn Theme", composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, the song became an instant hit for Mancini, earning him an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as Monty Norman's theme to the James Bond films is associated with espionage. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to success. Like the main theme of "In the Mood," taken from Wingy Manone's "Tar Paper Stomp" for Glenn Miller's most famous number, the bass line was lifted from someone else's work, a boogie-woogie tune, "Down the Road Apiece," composed by Don Raye for the Will Bradley/Ray McKinley big band. Mancini changed one of the eight notes of the base line for the ostinato in "Peter Gunn Theme." No harmony actually is written into the song, it is a one-chord piece until the coda.
The soundtrack album by Henry Mancini was a smash, reaching #1 in Billboard's Pop LP Charts. Ray Anthony won the singles war, reaching #8 on Billboard's Hot 100 with his 45 of the title theme. Mancini's single made the Variety magazine Top 25 retail chart, selling well in the Boston area.
"The Peter Gunn Theme" has been performed by numerous jazz, blues, and rock artists since, including Jeff Beck, Ray Anthony, Elvis Presley (on the '68 Comeback Special), Duane Eddy, Quincy Jones, The Remo Four, The Blues Brothers, Croon & The Creepers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Bosse-de-Nage, Gary Hoey, Aerosmith, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roy Buchanan, Melvin Taylor, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's McGee, The Swingle Singers, Pulp, They Might Be Giants, Dick Dale & The Del-Tones, Johnny Guitar Seven, The Silencers, and many others. A version by Art of Noise (with guest artist Duane Eddy reprising his original 1959 performance on twang guitar taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1987. Furthermore, the riff has been incorporated into many blues and jazz songs. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter; Saliva recorded a song which used the main theme, with added lyrics, for the 2001 remake. Versions of the theme have appeared in countless films, including The Blues Brothers and Sixteen Candles. The song was used by Monty Python in their sketch, "The Bishop". In 2004 the theme was used in the Disney direct-to-video production, The Lion King 1½. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme.