‘Gilligan’s Island’ Creator Reflected on Strict Deadline for Song

by Madison Miller

The creator of “Gilligan’s Island,” Sherwood Schwartz, was a lot of things. He was a writer, a producer, and an all-around trailblazing force in the TV industry.

What he wasn’t was a singer, songwriter, lyricist, musician, etc. As it turns out, his quick thinking and musical ear made it so “Gilligan’s Island” could see the light of day.

During an interview with the Writers Guild Foundation from 1996, Schwartz talked about the long process of getting the TV show on the air. He had to meet with executives and vice-presidents, hoping they would like his semi-outlandish idea for a TV show.

Eventually, his agent told him that this show wasn’t going to go anywhere unless he had a theme song to pitch with it. Turns out, his agent gave him less than 24 hours to find a song to use. The “Gilligan’s Island” creator immediately got to work.

“I said where the hell am I going to get a song by tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock. He said, ‘I’m just telling you that you better have one’ and that was the end of our discussion. Well, fortunately, I do have an ear for music. I also have a piano, which I can’t play … I can tap out any tune. So, I just sat down at the piano … if you really want to do something, you have to do it. If forced into a corner, you got to get out of the corner,” Sherwood said during the interview.

That night, he wrote all the lyrics to what would become the opening segment of “Gilligan’s Island.” He revealed that his childhood growing up in New Jersey even inspired him to give the lyrics a bit of a “Calypso lift.”

Sherwood Schwartz Pitches ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Song

He ended up bringing in copies of the lyrics to that important meeting the next day. He was surrounded by vice presidents when he was eventually asked about the song for the show. When he passed the papers out to show he had written something himself, one person stated, “Songs weren’t meant to be passed around, they’re meant to be sung.”

He tried to fight his way out, but his agent kicked him from under the table and told him to sing. At this point, Sherwood jokes about just how bad his singing voice is. He jokingly noted that when he sang at his own bar mitzvah, some people took back their gifts.

Regardless, Sherwood stood up and began to sing. As he put it he was “faced with the fact that if I didn’t sing, there’s no show.” He would sing a couple of lines while also explaining what would be happening on the screen. At the end of his little performance, all eyes turned to the head of programming.

All he said is that the middle lyrics could use a little work. At that moment, the show was sold and would hit screens everywhere soon. Sherwood Schwartz was ecstatic, and even a bit confused.

“I sold a show by singing … life is like a football it takes funny bounces,” he noted. From there, “Gilligan’s Island” was a massive hit that continues to be popular even today in syndication.