Richard is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys all forms of entertainment, including movies, music, and television.
My Five Favourite TV Western Themes
Trying to pick the best Western TV themes is a daunting task, as there are so many excellent ones from which to choose.
Over the years, more than 170 television westerns have been produced, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the peak year for the TV Western in the USA was 1959, with several appearing in the Top 20 most watched shows of the year.
However, the five themes listed here are from those shows I remember watching back in the day, and which resonate with me the most. For me, they are among the best Western TV themes, but I know I have omitted some other good ones. Do you remember these?
1. The High Chaparral
Produced between 1967 and 1971, The High Chaparral invited viewers to share the life and adventures of the Cannon family as it worked and played on its ranch in Arizona during the 1870s.
John, Victoria, Buck, Blue and Manolito were the principal characters trying to survive the dangers of the Wild West, protecting and maintaining their property against those that might want to separate them from it.
The music was written by David Rose, the man behind the Bonanza theme, and remains my favourite among many.
2. Alias Smith and Jones
Alias Smith and Jones was broadcast between 1971 and 1973 and originally starred Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. To be honest, the theme tune takes a back seat to the wonderful opening and narration, which as a teenager, I remember knowing by heart. Sad, I know, but I recall every schoolboy at the time wanting to be either Kid Curry or Hannibal Heyes.
Tragically, Pete Duel was killed by a self inflicted gunshot wound during the run of the show, and his replacement never managed to capture the special magic between the two characters who had a bounty on their heads, but who were genuinely trying to reform their outlaw ways.
Bonanza was one of the longest running Westerns on television.
Who could forget the adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by Ben Cartwright, and an enduring theme tune that could be recited at the drop of a hat?
I have not seen the show in years, but I believe it is still repeated today. I will try to catch it again some time to remind me of more innocent times!
Lancer was quite possibly one of the best of the TV Westerns, and sadly, it is still unavailable on DVD. Often compared to Bonanza, the series was truly a show that stood on its own merits: well written and action-packed.
Possibly the comparisons come from the fact that there are similar characters, with a patriarch and his sons running a ranch and protecting their property on a weekly basis. Do you remember Murdoch Lancer and his sons Scott and Johnny?
This short-lived series also sported one of the best theme tunes, evoking images of action and adventure in the Wild West.
The adventures of a group of cowboys on an ongoing cattle drive and the people whose problems they try to tackle as they encounter them was the basis of the stories on Rawhide. It is the show that introduced Clint Eastwood to the viewing public and which would lead him on his way to becoming the movie star we know today.
Rawhide has one of the few vocal theme tunes to which I enjoyed listening. Recorded originally by Frankie Laine, the song became a hit in its own right in 1958.
More TV Western Themes and Intros—Click on a Title to Play
Other suggestions have been offered to further expand my original choice of five TV Western theme tunes. Below are more favorite Westerns from the golden days of television for your enjoyment. Please click on a title and transport yourself back to a bygone genre of TV production.
- The Rifleman
The Rifleman starring Chuck Connors ran on ABC from 1958 to 1963.
Gunsmoke is an American television Western drama series created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West.
- The Big Valley
Based on the movie The Big Country, here is the introduction to TV's The Big Valley.
- The Virginian
Here, brought to you 'in living color', is the introduction to The Virginian from 1963/4.
From late 50s, early 60s comes this classic Western TV show.
- Wild Wild West
Original Wild Wild West TV show intro and TV theme song, starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as James West and Artemus Gordon.
- Cimarron Strip
This is the opening credit from the 1967-68 TV western Cimarron Strip, starring Stuart Whitman.
- Wagon Train
Airing between 1957 and 1965, Wagon Train initially starred veteran film actor Ward Bond as the wagon master, later replaced upon his death by John McIntire with Robert Horton as the scout. He was subsequently replaced by lookalike Robert Fuller afte
© 2011 Richard
Were You a Fan of the TV Western?—Your Comments Are Welcomed!
john oram on May 09, 2015:
You forgot Maverick, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot/Tenderfoot, Gunslinger, Zorro, Have Gun will Travel, and for kids The Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy.
poppy mercer from London on September 26, 2012:
Agree with jade below....all westerns are wonderful...you didn't mention the amazing 'Deadwood'.
jadehorseshoe on December 25, 2011:
Yes. Westerns are ALL great.
DLeighAlexander on September 14, 2011:
I was and still am a fan of the TV Western. I still watch Bonanza regularly. I have visited the High Chaparral movie set in Old Tucson, Arizona, the Ponderosa at Lake Tahoe Nevada, and Dodge City, Kansas where the LongBranch Saloon still exists. I have also been to Deadwood, South Dakota where Wild Bill Hickock is buried. I grew up on a farm in the Pecos Valley in Fort Sumner, New Mexico near the house where Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid and also close to the cemetery The Kid is buried in. The old west has been a prevalent part of my life.
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on March 27, 2011:
TV westerns were the mainstay of the early days of my TV viewing -- way back in the 1950s. :-)
I remember these well, along with 'Gunsmoke'.
nestboxes on March 26, 2011:
Like Kathy it was part of the Saturday morning ritual for me too.
Malu Couttolenc on March 26, 2011:
My father enjoyed watching westerns, so we watched them with him. There was another western show called The Virginian with Doug McClure, I liked that one too :)
aishu19 on March 26, 2011:
I don't really watch much Western..but these look like great shows
justholidays on March 26, 2011:
My parents were fan of Western movies and series and such series were extremely popular even in Europe. Our favorite tv series was the Monroes but we also watched the Great Chapparal and Bonanza - my mother loved Michael Landon so much that after Bonanza ended, she started to watch the Little House in the Prairie, lol.
pacrapacma lm on March 26, 2011:
I watched a little. Every boy used to pretend to be a cowboy years ago. Oh the simple times. Nice job showcasing westerns!
Kathy McGraw from California on March 25, 2011:
I grew up on Westerns, every Saturday morning! I was really sad when they stopped airing on prime time or Saturdays, so you can imagine my pleasure when I found a channel that airs Bonanza re-runs. Love watching Little Joe and Hoss and their antics. To me it is just as good now as it was when I was little in the 50's ;)
Thanks for the memories :)