The Best Western TV Themes
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.
Find Out More About These TV Westerns
- The High Chaparral - Wikipedia
The High Chaparral from Wikipedia.
- Alias Smith and Jones - Wikipedia
Alias Smith and Jones from Wikipedia.
- Bonanza - Wikipedia
Bonanza from Wikipedia.
- Lancer (TV series) - Wikipedia.
Lancer (TV series) from Wikipedia.
- Rawhide (TV series) - Wikipedia
Rawhide (TV series) From Wikipedia.
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.
- 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