‘Gilligan’s Island’: Story Behind the Island Theme Song

by Matthew Wilson

Unlike some shows, “Gilligan’s Island” theme song had to perform double duty. The tune had to be catchy while conveying the show’s backstory.

Over the course of the show’s theme, the show covered castaway’s fateful trip on the boat and their eventual wreckage on a remote island. The theme song also introduced audiences to each of the show’s main characters. And it managed to be catchy and stick in audiences’ heads to boot.

Back when “Gilligan’s Island” first aired, TV was a different beast than it is nowadays. Most shows didn’t expect audiences to watch the episodes in chronological order or to even tune in every week. Each episode of “Gilligan’s Island” had to stand on its own two feet amid a tide of other programmings. The show didn’t exactly have the simplest premise compared to some of its other sitcom brethren.

The Wellingtons, a folk act, performed the song for the show initially. Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz wrote the lyrics to “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island.” And composer George Wyle developed the music to the tune. The recording of the theme had very much a shoe-string budget. But it ended up being a hit with audiences.

For Season Two, the show reworked the theme song. For the recording, they invited a soundalike group the Eligibles to record the track.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Rivalry

Of course, the theme song was a source of conflict between the actors who played Mary Anne and Ginger. Mary Anne’s actor Dawn Wells and also the character of the Professor wasn’t included in the original theme. They were grouped under the title “and the rest” because of Ginger’s actor Tina Louise’s contract.

Louise demanded fifth billing when she signed up for the show.

“Ginger was cast first. Hence, ‘and the rest!’ That’s the number one question. Why ‘and the rest’? Her agent negotiated that she would be in fifth position billing and nobody after her. So by the time the Professor and Mary Ann got cast, our agents’ hands were tied,” Wells told Archive of American Television.

For the second season, the show’s creators finally changed the contract to include both Mary Anne and the Professor. This required the show to re-record the theme song. But Well’s insisted she wasn’t bitter about the initial exclusion.