A Thread of William Tell

This is a bit different, but it’s my blog, so I get to do it. I’ll get back to usual topics next time.

This all started because one of the small gifts I bought myself for Christmas was a collection of old western TV shows from the 50’s and early 60’s. I was never a big western fan, even when westerns were a staple on TV as I grew up, but it was cheap, and there was enough that looked interesting to draw me in. Of the five DVDs, one is nothing but episodes of the Lone Ranger starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. I remember watching some of these on Saturday mornings in third (or fourth) run. They were based on an earlier radio show of the same name. The theme, as you probably know, is the William Tell Overture…

In fact, a couple of generations know the William Tell Overture as the Lone Ranger theme.

This led an early 60’s (think Mad Men) advertising executive to use the well known theme for a well known cigarette television campaign…

Yes boys and girls, there used to be cigarette ads on TV. The next item in this thread of William Tell Overture use is the genius radio comedian and sometime ad creator Stan Freberg, who was faced with doing a commercial for a new product, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls (they’re still around, although the brand name has changed). Always a satirist, he took the next step…

If you’re not familiar with Freberg’s work, now’s the time to look him up. YouTube is a good place to start, but they put out a CD and video set of pretty much “the complete Freberg” a few years back, or you can start more slowly with some of the CDs or MP3 downloads.

1975 comes and the new show on television is “NBC’s Saturday Night” (You can look it up. Believe it or not there was another show on called Saturday Night Live and believe it or not it starred Howard Cosell doing his best (or worst) impression of Ed Sullivan). The writers and cast had grown up on the Lone Ranger, the Lark commercial and Stan Freberg, and so that first season, came up with this…

And so we end our tour of television history and the Lone Ranger theme I mean William Tell Overture.



Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

3 responses to “A Thread of William Tell

  1. Pat O'Neill

    Definition of an intellectual: A person who can listen to the William Tell Overture and NOT think of the Lone Ranger. (Actually, the segment that is always used is the part called “The Storm”…the actual overture is much longer.)

    Sadly, the voice heard on that LR opening passed away just a few weeks ago. Fred Foy was the last announcer for the radio show and did the TV opening as well. He was also Dick Cavett’s announcer on his ABC late-night show and once did the LR opening live on that show.

  2. rkolker

    The “soft section” of the William Tell was often used in cartoons as “sun is rising” music. It’s also featured in Spike Jones’ version, before all hell breaks loose and a horse race breaks out.

    The use of popular music in television continues. Of course, all the CSI shows use classic rock as themes, and commercials grab from the 60’s and 70’s all the time. Not much classical though.

  3. Cat

    That was hilarious! I showed it to Paul & Nate. Thanks for providing some laughs!

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