8/07/2013

Weekly Basslines #112: Peter Gunn (Henry Mancini, Ted Nash, Duane Eddy, ELP, Blues Brothers)

Neil from New Jersey requested that, because he found some transcriptions of that tune on the internet and wasn't sure if they were right. First I thought that this would be a really easy task, but then I realised that the different versions of that song all have subtle different arrangements and basslines and so I decided to take a closer look at a few of the famous renditions of "Peter Gunn".

"Peter Gunn" was a TV-Series about a private eye on NBC and later on ABC. Between 1958 and 1961 114! 30-minute long episodes were aired. Hardly anyone can remember the TV series itself but the title theme is still unforgotten. It was composed by Henry Mancini, who also did the famous "Pink Panther Theme" (wich I transcribed two years ago). Mancini won two Grammy-Awards for "Album of the year" (1958 - Music from Peter Gunn) and "Best Arrangement" for the same album.
Here's the original Mancini version:




I found a little comment of Henry Mancini on his composition Peter Gunn on the internet. He said: "the whole thing had basically one chord throughout the whole tune, and a repeating figure on the piano,
played marvelously by John Williams
(yes the one who later did the STAR WARS music). That was the beginning of becoming known, and all of my fame and what I've built up started with that."
In 1959 saxophonist Ted Nash, who was playing in Henry Mancinis Big Band, re-recorded the song and although it stuck pretty much to the original (on which he also played) there are a few subtle changes: the guitar theme gets a little 16th-note embellishment.
Unfortunately I couldn't find a video-link to this version.


One of the really famous renditions of "Peter Gunn" during the sixties was Duane Eddy's adaption.




He changed the guitar theme again and omitted the major third (Ab) of the riff. Also did he play with open strings. To achieve that he tuned his guitar up a semi-tone to F, Bb, Eb, Ab, C, F and also did the bassist (F, Bb, Eb, Ab), which made it easier to play the whole eighth-note pattern even on bass:


In 1979 Emerson, Lake & Palmer did a version of "Peter Gunn" on their live album "In Concert":


They changed the key to E and also did the main riff without the major third (in E that would be G#):


1980 the Peter Gunn Theme was played by the Blues Brothers in their first movie.



Like ELP the key to this version is "E" but the Blues Brothers likewise the Henry Mancini original again incorporated the major third (G#) into the main riff:





I found several more versions of Peter Gunn, but I think it's enough now ;-)
I only want to show you one more rare version of Peter Gunn with lyrics done by Jazzsinger Sarah Vaughan: