What Weird Reason Did ABC Have for Baretta Having an Instrumental Theme Song Originally?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Sammy Davis Jr. did not do the theme song for Baretta at first for a slightly out of the ordinary reason.

The TV series Baretta debuted in 1975 on ABC (check out this previous installment of TV Legends Revealed for some more information about the origins of Baretta)…

The series, which starred Robert Blake as the titular detective, became a popular series and a well-received show from a critical audience, too (Blake was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series).

However, when it debuted, the network was a bit unsure about just how successful the series would be.

As a result, the theme song for the series is fairly well-known for being sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.

The song, “Keep Your Eyes On The Sparrow,” is even on Sammy Davis Jr.’s greatest hits album!

However, initially, the song was an instrumental!

Why?

The network wouldn’t authorize the costs involved in hiring someone as famous as Davis to sing the song if they were just going to cancel the show after a few episodes.

Once it was clear that the show was going to make it, THEN they allowed the show to hire Davis to sing lyrics to the theme!

Pretty funny way of cutting costs.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

4 Responses to “What Weird Reason Did ABC Have for Baretta Having an Instrumental Theme Song Originally?”

  1. Sorry, I just need a little clarification here… it was a pre-existing Sam Davis Jr song that they used an instrumental version of and later used the SDJ version not a theme song that they had written for the show they SDJ later recorded for them?

  2. The song was written as an instrumental but they then had lyrics written and were going to get Davis to sing the song, but ABC didn’t want to pay for a new song, so it was not until the second season (when the show was a hit) that they let them do the new version.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. Makes me think of the time that Roddenberry wrote lyrics for the Star Trek theme to claim half the royalties. (That’s not a myth, right?)

  4. Yeah, the Roddenberry story is legit.

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