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5 TV theme songs that were one-hit wonders

While these musicians may not be household names, their songs live on the air (in Cincinnati and beyond) forever.

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When talking about one-hit wonders, sometimes feelings get hurt. Labeling a musician a one-hit wonder is no indictment of his or her talent — it is merely a fact of the charts. Jan Hammer cut a lot of cool jazz fusion albums in his career, but the keyboardist is best known for his chart topping "Miami Vice Theme." (Though, the follow-up, "Crockett's Theme," was also a hit.) 

In the '50s and '60s, it was commonplace for original television theme songs to dominate the charts. Ray Anthony's "Dragnet" was a pioneer, followed by ditties like "Peter Gunn" and "Secret Agent Man." The popularity of TV themes — coupled with the fact that studios were not itching to spend a ton of money on big name pop stars — led to fleeting successes over the decades. On the other hand, Mike Post, hardly a household name, was a goldmine, composing numerous themes that landed in Billboard. In today's TV world, a new series is more likely to just license an old Who song.

We flipped through television history's record bin for five smash theme songs that define one-hit wonder. Hard as it is to believe, "I'll Be There For You" was not the biggest hit for the Rembrandts, who scored a higher chart placing with their "Just the Way It Is, Baby."

1

Cyndi Grecco "Making Our Dreams Come True"

No. 25 in Billboard 100, 1976


The Private Stock record label was a specialist in one-hit wonders and TV tie-ins. David "Hutch" Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame cut a single, and Vicki Lawrence made a handful of 45s. Grecco's catchy opening to Laverne & Shirley led to an album, and another theme song to the sitcom Blansky's Beauties, but unfortunately nothing else, well, made it.

2

The Mash "Suicide Is Painless"

No.1 on UK Charts, 1980 


Your eyes are not deceiving you. Oscar and Grammy-winning composer Johnny Mandel scored the M*A*S*H theme, but the track was credited to "The Mash" in some markets. The marketing worked, as the sad and gorgeous folk song belatedly topped the charts in England. Fun fact: Robert Altman's 14-year-old son wrote the lyrics.

3

Joey Scarbury "Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)"

No. 2 in Billboard 100, 1981


Scarbury was a struggling musician working as a backup singer and an occasional flop solo outing. Ace composer Mike Post (he really is everywhere) wrangled the smooth voiced singer for this superhero show. "Believe It or Not" spent a monster 18 weeks in the Top 40, and even ranked number one on the worldwide charts. Post and Scarbury would team up again for the theme to Hardcastle and McCorkmick.

4

Steve Carlisle "WKRP in Cincinnati"

No. 65 in Billboard 100, 1981


"I'm living on the air in Cincinnati." Ah, what a great theme. With its bubbly bass and buttery backup singers, "WKRP" was the perfect late-'70s radio sound for a show about a radio station in the late 1970s. Rumor had it that Richard Sanders ("Les Nessman") sang the tune, but the truth is in the album cover right here.

5

Gary Portnoy "Where Everybody Knows Your Name"

No. 83 in Billboard 100, 1983


Portnoy's feel-good pub sing-along came after two failed attempts at penning a tune for Cheers. Third time's a charm. While the songwriter never bothered the charts as a solo musician, he continued to write themes for television, notably Punky Brewster and Mr. Belvedere. The single version of "Everybody" features some details — keyboards, dryly funny lyrics — that you might have missed before Cheers.

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