Peter Gunn (song)

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"Peter Gunn"
Single by Henry Mancini
from the album The Music from Peter Gunn
B-side"The Brothers Go to Mother's"
ReleasedJan 1959[1] (Jan 1959[1])
StudioRadio Recorders, Los Angeles
GenreInstrumental theme music
LabelRCA Victor
Composer(s)Henry Mancini
Producer(s)Simon Rady
Official audio
"Peter Gunn" (1993 Remastered) on YouTube

"Peter Gunn" is the theme music composed by Henry Mancini for the television show of the same name.[2] The song was the opening track on the original soundtrack album, The Music from Peter Gunn, released by RCA Victor in 1959.[3] Mancini won an Emmy Award and two Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Arrangement.[4] In 2005, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[5]

Recording and releases[edit]

In his 1989 autobiography, Did They Mention the Music?, Mancini states:

The Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz. I used guitar and piano in unison, playing what is known in music as an ostinato, which means obstinate. It was sustained throughout the piece, giving it a sinister effect, with some frightened saxophone sounds and some shouting brass. The piece has one chord throughout and a super-simple top line.[4]

In the original recording of the song, the piano riff is played by John Williams, who went on to become an influential film composer. Mancini arranged the first single version of the song for trumpeter Ray Anthony in 1959. Recorded for Capitol Records at Radio Recorders[6] and featuring tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson, it reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, number 12 on the R&B chart,[7] and number 13 in Canada.[8]

Mancini has recorded several different versions of his theme music including "Señor Peter Gunn" on his 1965 album, The Latin Sound of Henry Mancini, and in a new arrangement for the 1967 movie Gunn...Number One!.[9]

Lyrics were added by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and first recorded in 1965 by Sarah Vaughan in an arrangement by Bill Holman on her album Sarah Vaughan Sings the Mancini Songbook.[10] Mancini also recorded a vocal version titled "Bye Bye" that is on his 1967 soundtrack album Gunn...Number One!.[11]

Other charting versions[edit]

In addition to the many different arrangements of the "Peter Gunn" theme recorded by Mancini, the music has also been recorded by numerous other artists. Versions that reached the record charts include:

  • An instrumental version by guitarist Duane Eddy reached number six on the UK Singles Chart on June 25, 1959,[12] number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 14, 1960,[13] and number 30 in Canada November 28, 1960.[14]
  • Deodato released a version of the song in 1976, which reached number 20 on the US dance chart, number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 96 on the R&B chart.[7]
  • Art of Noise released a version of the song featuring Eddy in 1986, which reached number two on the US dance chart, number eight in the UK, number 14 in Canada,[15] and number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was featured on their 1986 album In Visible Silence, and was awarded a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.[16] In Canada, the song spent 20 weeks in the top 100,[17] and was number 84 in the year-end chart.[18]
  • The B-52's adapted Mancini's ostinato or riff and added lyrics for their song "Planet Claire".[19] It is used as the opening track on the group's 1979 self-titled debut album. In AllMusic review, Stewart Mason describes the instrumental opening to the song as "space sounds blend[ing] into a jumpy, speeded-up version of Henry Mancini's 'Peter Gunn' theme mixed with sounds that could have been lifted from one of Joe Meek's 'Telstar' follow-ups, followed by a lengthy wordless vocal and organ section that recalls the theme from Star Trek."[19] Released on an EP, it reached number 24 on Billboard's Disco Hot 100 chart.[20]
  • Pittsburgh-based rock band The Silencers included a pounding guitar-driven cover of the song on their 1980 LP "Rock and Roll Enforcers." It was the opening song of their medley video that premiered on the day that MTV began operation: August 1, 1981. It was the 40th song ever shown on the network (see list of all videos). The video was played in regular rotation on MTV and was voted the #3 most popular video of 1981.

Notable media appearances[edit]

An electronic arrangement of "Peter Gunn" plays throughout the video game Spy Hunter[21] and Spy Hunter II.


  1. ^ "Two Smash Singles From This Album". Billboard. January 1, 1959. p. 32.
  2. ^ Henry Mancini: Sounds and Scores, Northridge Music, Inc. 1973, 1986
  3. ^ RCA Victor LPM/LSP-1956 liner notes
  4. ^ a b Did They Mention the Music?, Henry Mancini with Gene Lees, Contemporary Books, 1989, page 236
  5. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame | Hall of Fame Artists".
  6. ^ Young, Clive (27 April 2021). "Al Schmitt, Legendary Engineer, Passes at 91". Future Plc. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1988). "Ray Anthony; Deodato". Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. pp. 26, 116. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  8. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - February 23, 1959".
  9. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Henry Mancini: 'Peter Gunn' – Review/Appears On". AllMusic. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  10. ^ Liner notes to Mercury Records SR 61009
  11. ^ Liner notes to RCA Victor LPM/LSP-3840
  12. ^ "Duane Eddy – Singles". Official Charts. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ Billboard (November 14, 1960). "Hot 100". Billboard. p. 34. ISSN 0006-2510.
  14. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - November 28, 1960".
  15. ^ "RPM Top Singles – July 12, 1986". July 17, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2016 – via Library and Archives Canada.
  16. ^ "1986 Grammy Winners". Grammy Awards. Retrieved 7 March 2024.
  17. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles – September 20, 1986" (PDF).
  18. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles of '86 – December 27, 1986" (PDF).
  19. ^ a b Mason, Stewart. "The B-52s: 'Planet Claire' – Review". AllMusic. Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  20. ^ "Disco Hot 100". Billboard. Vol. 92, no. 11. March 15, 1980. p. 50. ISSN 0006-2510.
  21. ^ Dave Ellis (October 2, 2012). "Chat with Spy Hunter Game Designer". Like Totally 80s.