An upbeat version of the Dragnet theme song became a hit record
It was the first TV theme to become a Top 10 hit.
Image: Everett Collection
If you were to remember a classic television theme song that made the top ten on the Billboard charts, the Dragnet theme probably wouldn’t come to mind first. Or second. Or even third. Nevertheless, it’s true!
In 1953, a version of the song recorded by Ray Anthony and his orchestra peaked at No. 3 on the charts. It was the first television theme song in history to make the Top 10.
It was an upbeat, jazzy interpretation of the dramatic melody. Listeners loved the new rendition. It was available in 45 and 78 RPM records and sold over half a million copies in the United States.
Walter Schumann wrote the original tune for the radio version of Dragnet. When the show moved to television, it brought the iconic music with it. The theme was also used in the 1967 Dragnet TV show and remixed by Art of Noise for the 1987 Dragnet movie.
The success of Ray Anthony’s pop cover created controversy. Part of the score for the 1946 film The Killers, composed by Miklós Rózsa, sounded remarkably similar to the famous “dum-de-dum-dum” that Schumann came up with. Both composers and the music publishers involved reached a settlement to split royalties generated from the "main title" portion of the Dragnet theme.
Listen to Ray Anthony's Dragnet below.