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WNYC Theme Songs

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You hear WNYC theme songs day after day, but what are they called? Who wrote them? What do they reveal about the shows they introduce? Find out in this one-stop guide, which includes artist information, sound clips, and more.

Danny Stiles' Music Museum
The Brian Lehrer Show
Evening Music with David Garland
Folksong Festival
The Next Big Thing
The No Show
On the Media
The Saturday Show/The Sunday Show
Studio 360
NPR Theme Songs

Danny Stiles' Music Museum
"Cherokee," by the Charlie Barnet Orchestra
Composer: Ray Noble
Date of Composition: 1939
Label: Bluebird
"Sultan of Swing" Danny Stiles has been using the Charlie Barnet Orchestra’s ''Cherokee'' since he launched his venerable and long-running show Big Band Sounds in December 1969 on the now-defunct radio station WEVD. This 1939 classic was also the signature tune of the Barnet Orchestra and it helped catapult the band to the front ranks of the swing era.

About the Charlie Barnet Orchestra
Saxophonist and band leader Charlie Barnet was among the most influential and popular musicians of the 1930s and 40s. Like Benny Goodman, he is credited for hiring many black singers and musicians as early as 1937, a time when other bands were segregated. His use of black performers kept his orchestra out of several hotels and ballrooms and was also likely the reason why he was never selected for any big commercial radio series. His hard-swinging arrangements were influenced by Duke Ellington, and because his arrangers were so well chosen and the music so well played, many of Barnet’s tracks retain a notable originality to this day.
Available at

 The Brian Lehrer Show
"Solid" by Soulive
Composer: Alan Evans
CD: Doin' Something
Label: Blue Note Records
Release Year: 2001
The hard-hitting news and commentary of the Brian Lehrer Show are complemented by the insistent, funk-driven instrumental sounds of Soulive, one of today’s rising young groove-jazz trios. "Solid," which features a Hammond B-3 organ melody over a James Brown-like rhythm section, appears on Doin' Something, Soulive's Blue Note debut and second album overall.

About Soulive
Formed in Vermont in the late 1990s, today, Soulive is Boston-based. Consisting of guitarist Eric Krasno and brothers Neal and Alan Evans on organ and drums, respectively, the band toured with such notables as John Scofield, Maceo Parker, and Los Lobos, before headlining their own shows and releasing the EP Get Down in 1999. Their debut full-length release, Turn it Out, followed the next year. Doin’ Something, featuring John Scofield and veteran trombonist Fred Wesley was issued in March 2001. The band’s overall rhythmic concept recalls such greats as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Medeski, Martin & Wood, yet it's very much a sound of the present-day.
Available at

"Well, You Needn’t," by Thelonius Monk

Thelonius Monk, piano; Charlie Rouse, tenor sax; Larry Gales, bass; Ben Riley, drums;
It Club, Los Angeles, October 31, 1964
CD: Thelonius Monk: The Composer
Label: Columbia Jazz Masterpiece

Thelonious Monk's deliciously quirky melody lines and oblique harmonies are a perfect appetizer for host Ed Levine's weekly dinner party. This fully orchestrated version of "Well, You Needn't" is drawn from a collection featuring previously issued Thelonious Monk recordings made during his six-year (1962-1968) stint with Columbia Records. One hears Monk's musical antagonism aptly displayed in this live quartet performances as he prods the melody into and back out of solos by Rouse and Riley.
Available at

Evening Music with David Garland
Andante from Cassation in G for Orchestra, K. 63
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Date of Composition: 1769
CD: Jean Jacques Kantorow, violin / Orchestra d'Auvergne
Label: Denon 73676

Evening Music spans the entire history of Western classical music, but host David Garland always starts things off on a simple note with the Andante movement from Mozart's Cassation in G, K. 63. "I've been using it for many years now, and while I've considered finding something new for the sake of newness, the Mozart still feels good," says Garland. "It's lovely and uncomplicated, and has a nice, subdued but gently excited quality that's nice as an intro to the evening."

About the Mozart Cassation in G, K. 63
Though not a household name among classical genres, the cassation is closely related in style and form to the serenade, an 18th-century form associated with outdoor performances. Both the Cassation in G and its companion piece, the Cassation in B Flat, K100, may have accompanied university graduation ceremonies in Salzburg during the summer of 1769. The scoring of K63 follows the standard instrumentation for the time, with a full string section, a pair of oboes and a pair of horns. This particular recording, by the Orchestra d'Auvergne, is currently out of print. However, several other versions are available, including an excellent budget version by the Salzburg Chamber Orchestra on Naxos.
Available at


Folksong Festival
"Something to Sing About"
Date of Composition: 1963
CD: American Dreamer
Label: Biograph BLP 12067
Winnipeg-born singer, songwriter, and host of Folksong Festival Oscar Brand wrote this rousing song about Canada’s natural beauty in 1963 for a television special. It was later adapted as the theme song to the Canadian CTV network, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and for the Canadian pavilion at Expo '67. The Toronto Globe and Mail once even editorialized that it should be the national anthem (it couldn’t be, however, because it wasn’t "French" enough). Brand then took the song across the border as part of the million-selling album American Dreamer.

"I re-wrote ‘Something to Sing About’ as an American anthem and recorded it on my CD American Dreamer," says Brand. "It is now the theme song of my radio show. I close all my concerts with it. I should add, to no one's great pleasure, that during the 57 years I've been on WNYC I've had only three other themes: ‘Wandering,’ ‘Ten Thousand Years Ago,’ and ‘New York Gals.’"

About Oscar Brand
Folksinger, broadcaster, and writer Oscar Brand hosts Folksong Festival, the longest running program with a single host in the history of radio. Over the course of his 60-plus career he has released nearly 100 albums, has roamed the country with Woody Guthrie, shared the stage with Leadbelly, and promoted folk of all kinds like Pete Seeger. Like many of Oscar Brand’s albums, American Dreamer blends topical songs and progressive politics. "For years folksingers, balladeers, and other popular song writers have discussed the failings of the establishment rationally, passionately, but always musically," he writes on the back cover.

Leonard Lopate Show
The billboard music is "Here I Am" by Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams
The outro theme is "Step Lightly" by Blue Mitchell & Pepper Adams

The Next Big Thing
The Next Big Thing Theme
Composer: Roy Nathanson
Date of Composition: 2002
CD: Not commercially available

The Next Big Thing, the weekly radio magazine hosted by Dean Olsher, opens with a bluesy big band tune set against a collage of street sounds, historic radio clips, and man-on-the-street interviews. The theme was composed for the show by Roy Nathanson, founder of the New York-based avant-jazz band Jazz Passengers, and former saxophonist of the Lounge Lizards.

Olsher first encountered Nathanson at a performance of his music-theater piece Fire at Keaton's Bar and Grill (featuring Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry) at Arts at St. Ann's in Brooklyn. He subsequently approached the composer about writing a theme. More recently, The Next Big Thing commissioned Nathanson's "Cradle Dreams" a saxophone quartet that makes its debut in February 2003 on the show.

Musically, The Next Big Thing theme has a lively, buoyant quality, with swinging tenor saxophones and a jazzy flute counter-melody. Also heard is a pre-World War II WNYC station ID ("a city where more than 7 million people live in peace and enjoy the benefits of democracy") and a variety of street sounds recorded by the Next Big Thing staff.
View photos from the Recording Session

About Roy Nathanson
Roy Nathanson's saxophone has been instrumental in the creation of the Downtown sound, first as a Lounge Lizard, then as a Jazz Passenger, and all the while as an improviser, actor, and writer. The Jazz Passengers became Debbie Harry's band after Blondie split up. His latest recording is Fire at Keaton's Bar and Grill, on the Six Degrees label. In 2001 Nathanson composed music for the WNYC radio play You're The Fool.

The No Show
"How Long Blues" by Jimmy Yancey, piano solo
Composer: Estelle "Mama" Yancey
CDs: Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1939-1940);
Chicago Piano, Vol. 1
Atlantic / Document
Steve Post's weekly showcase is framed by two arrangements of the classic "How Long Blues," performed by Chicago "stride" pianist Jimmy Yancey: a slow version to open the hour and an uptempo version to conclude. "There is also a version with Estelle ‘Mama’ Yancey on vocals," notes Frank Millspaugh, producer of the No Show. "I love it, but Steve doesn't, so we don't use it. (Except once when we cued it by error!)"

About Jimmy Yancey
Jimmy Yancey was one of the seminal boogie-woogie pianists of the 20th century. Yancey was less technically flashy and more introspective than his peers, but he was an expressive, earthy player with a flexible left hand that introduced an air of unpredictability into his bass lines. Yancey was active in and around Chicago playing house parties and clubs from 1915, yet he remained unrecorded until May 1939, when he recorded "The Fives" and "Jimmy's Stuff" for a small label. Soon thereafter, he became the first boogie-woogie pianist to record an album of solos, for RCA Victor. Although Yancey attained a measure of fame for his music late in life, he never quit his day job, as a groundskeeper at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox.
Available at
Available at

On the Media
"Disposable Genius," by Ben Allison
Performed by Medicine Wheel:
Michael Blake - saxophone
Ron Horton - trumpet
Frank Kimbrough - piano
Tomas Ulrich - cello
Daniel Freedman - drums
Ben Allison – bass

CD: Peace Pipe
Label: Palmetto Records
The theme to On the Media evokes the signature melodies of classic network news themes (e.g. the N-B-C tune). But unlike the reassuring, dulcet tones of the famed station IDs, here the multiple pitch centers and asymmetrical phrases produce an off-kilter effect that, according to senior producer Arun Rath "manages to be both soothing and jarring at the same time, hopefully resonant with the wave of media that we're drowned in daily."

"Disposable Genius," was selected as the theme to On the Media during the show’s re-launch two years ago. "Ben Allison is a friend of Brooke Gladstone through her husband the journalist Fred Kaplan," says Rath. "Ben ran a couple of tunes he’d been working on by us, and we settled on the second one. We worked on it with him a little and then had a great recording session that was also very collaborative."

Ben Allison says the song addresses the very nature of hype in modern culture. "This version is a reworking of the original I wrote some years back for a Jazz Composers Collective concert," says Allison. "The title refers to a young musician hyped by record labels as the next big thing, who is then suddenly dropped after not living up to expectations."

Similarly, On the Media co-host Brooke Gladstone notes that the song captures the uneven nature of the media world. "That the song is called 'Disposable Genius' strikes me as the very essence of what the media can be, at its best. It doesn’t last, but when it’s good, it’s damn good."
More About Ben Allison
Liner Notes to Peace Pipe
Available at

Jonathan Schwartz: The Saturday Show / The Sunday Show
Theme: ?
Composer: ?

CD: Not commercially available
Jonathan Schwartz's eclectic weekend mix of American Popular Standards is often rich in information, but one thing that will always remain a mystery is the identity of its opening theme. "The identity of the opening theme, which has been employed for this purpose for over 30 years, has never been revealed either on or off the air," says Jonathan Schwartz. "I can say, however, that is from a private tape and has never been commercially issued."

So, as the adage has it, "radio deals in dreams," and we're left to use our imagination as to the identity of this wonderful theme.


Studio 360
Studio 360 Theme
Composer: David Van Tieghem
CD: Not commercially available

David Van Tiegham Web site
For a smart, edgy introduction to its weekly mix of arts and cultural features, the producers at Studio 360 approached the New York-based percussionist and composer David Van Tieghem. Van Tieghem supplied two short themes built on pulsating, electronic percussion sounds and ambient keyboard melodies.

About David Van Tiegham
David Van Tieghem has been an active presence on the New York music scene for nearly two decades. As a free-lance drummer/percussionist, he has worked with a who's-who of Downtown artists, including Steve Reich & Musicians, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, the Manhattan Percussion Ensemble,Talking Heads, Robert Fripp, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Merce Cunningham, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, among others. He also composed the soundtracks for numerous films, Broadway and off-Broadway musicals, dance performances, and more. Van Tieghem has performed as part of several New Sounds Live concerts at the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

NPR Theme Songs: takes a look at the theme to All Things Considered has changed dramatically over the past 3 decades. Look back and listen through the years:

BJ Leiderman is the noted composer of the theme music heard on NPR's Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Car Talk and Wait Wait..Don't Tell Me! His themes are among the most instantly recognizable sounds in all of public radio. Read More

Looking for a song you heard between stories on an NPR program? This is known as "music button" and to hear it again and find artist, title and CD information, check the All Songs Considered music buttons page.