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The Best Western TV Themes

Updated on November 30, 2017
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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?

Discover More TV & Film Western Themes

1. The High Chaparral - Broadcast: 1967-1971

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 - Broadcast: 1971-1973

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.

3. Bonanza - Broadcast: 1959-1973

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!

4. Lancer - Broadcast: 1968-1970

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.

5. Rawhide - Broadcast: 1959-1965

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.

The TV Westerns Debate

Did I pick the best Western TV themes?

Yes, you have them right!

Lifedancer: Sugar Foot and Medicine Woman...

Ruthi: Yes, you have a list of the great westerns on TV for sure. Hmmm... how about Wagon Train?

inhousefinancing: High Chaparral was my favorite western composition. I would probably pick Bonanza second as probably the most recognizable to the general population. I think Wild, Wild West would have been my third choice with an honorable mention as well as the Rifleman. Great discussion piece and lens.

DLeighAlexander: You have a great list of some of the all-time best Western music themes ... however, The Big Valley, The Lone Ranger, My Friend Flicka, and Cimarron Strip maybe should be included also. Loved the lense :)

Malu Couttolenc: Yes, Bonanza was my favourite

nestboxes: Yes although I never saw Lancer. Still love Eastwood Films too

justholidays: Indeed, I saw a few of those we watched at home with my parents when I was young. However, one of our favorite Wild West style series was the Monroes... Could it enter your list? Or aren't they related enough?

No, I prefer this Western TV theme:

Calbelle: my opinion differs a little firstly there would be Rawhide followed by Laramie, High Chaparral, Big Valley, Virginian and of course Bonanza being the most recogniseable. All great Westerns though,

Calbelle: Rawhide first, followed by Laramie, High Chaparral, Big Valley, Lancer, lastly The Virginian

Kathy McGraw: no...you left off the Rifleman! That was indeed one of the best! And Bonanza should be at the top although High Chapparel is a good one ;) There's another great one too ....it was a weird one that I am surprised you didn't pick...the Wild Wild West :)

More TV Western Themes & 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.

© 2011 Richard

Were You A Fan of the TV Western? - Your Comments Are Welcomed!

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    • profile image

      john oram 

      3 years ago

      You forgot Maverick, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot/Tenderfoot, Gunslinger, Zorro, Have Gun will Travel, and for kids The Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy.

      Classics.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 

      5 years ago from London

      Agree with jade below....all westerns are wonderful...you didn't mention the amazing 'Deadwood'.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 

      6 years ago

      Yes. Westerns are ALL great.

    • DLeighAlexander profile image

      DLeighAlexander 

      6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 

      7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      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 profile image

      nestboxes 

      7 years ago

      Like Kathy it was part of the Saturday morning ritual for me too.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 

      7 years ago

      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 :)

    • profile image

      aishu19 

      7 years ago

      I don't really watch much Western..but these look like great shows

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 

      7 years ago

      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 profile image

      pacrapacma lm 

      7 years ago

      I watched a little. Every boy used to pretend to be a cowboy years ago. Oh the simple times. Nice job showcasing westerns!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      7 years ago from California

      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 :)

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