Sonny Curtis Opens Up About Writing ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Theme

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

When you hear that theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the name Sonny Curtis might not come up but it should. He wrote it.

Yep, that “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” lyric was all Curtis.

Well, do we have more information from the songwriter? You bet we do, Outsiders.

Sonny Curtis recently was a guest on CBS’ Sunday Morning.

“It was just this young girl that gets jilted in this small community and she moves to the big city of Minneapolis,” Curtis said. “Gets a job at a news station, and that was about it.”

‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Got Its Theme Song Thanks To Curtis’ Work

Meanwhile, back in 1970, he was living in Los Angeles and happened to get a call from a friend about a new sitcom being produced for Moore.

It would turn into The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

He wrote the theme song based on a four-page description of the show.

“I honed in on the part that she was renting an apartment,” Curtis said. “She’d had a hard time before and wrote, ‘How will you make it on your own.'”

Consequently, in a matter of hours, Curtis was called to CBS Studios in Los Angeles to play his song for producer James L. Brooks.

And the rest, well, is classic TV theme song history. The Mary Tyler Moore Show would make its mark with stars like Moore, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Betty White, Ted Knight, Valerie Harper, and Cloris Leachman.

Here’s the entire interview with Sonny Curtis, including his paths crossing with rock music legends Buddy Holly and a young Elvis Presley.

Sitcom Would Find Its Way Onto CBS Primetime Schedule Starting in 1970

Thanks to Curtis, The Mary Tyler Moore Show hit the CBS primetime lineup on Sept. 19, 1970.

This sitcom would just keep track of Mary Richards and her life in Minneapolis. You know, like, meeting Lou Grant (who hated “spunk), Rhoda, Ted Baxter, Murray, Sue Ann Nivens “The Happy Homemaker,” and many others.

According to IMDb, the series originally ran from 1970-77. That is 168 episodes of chuckles (use, we mean the clown), laughs, and unforgettable moments.

See, you kind of remember that “Chuckles the Clown” episode, right?

Poor Mary cannot keep from laughing at old Chuckles’ funeral. When a local TV legend like Chuckles the Clown dies, well, you might want to show some dignity.

Forget that! We all crack up at the line “a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.”

Go out and look for Chuckles Bites the Dust. It first hit CBS’ airwaves on Oct. 25, 1975.