‘Little House on the Prairie’: How Michael Landon Pulled the Theme Song from a ‘Bonanza’ Episode

by Jennifer Shea

The “Little House on the Prairie” theme song may have sounded just a tiny bit familiar to fans of “Bonanza.” That’s because it was borrowed from “Bonanza.”

Composer David Rose Wrote for ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and ‘Bonanza’

“Little House on the Prairie” star Michael Landon was not just an actor on the set of the show. He was also responsible for major creative decisions like casting, and he brought over the series composer from “Bonanza” to “Little House on the Prairie,” according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet.

Composer David Rose wrote many of “Bonanza”’s most memorable songs. That included the music for the “Top Hand” episode of “Bonanza.” 

It was Landon who noticed the melody of that song. He then asked to use it for the theme song of “Little House on the Prairie,” per Showbiz Cheat Sheet. 

Rose would go on to become the “Little House on the Prairie” composer. He won two Emmy Awards for his work on the show. And the show’s theme song became seared into the memories of “Little House” fans, most of whom were unaware of its origins on “Bonanza.”

Rose’s Successful Career

Rose made it to Hollywood in 1938. Once there, he formed the David Rose Orchestra for the Mutual Broadcast System, according to Allmusic.com. He went on to work for MGM Studios as a musical director.

During World War II, Rose joined the military and served as a composer and conductor for the U.S. Army and Air Force’s musical “Winged Victory.” After the war, Rose appeared on Red Skelton’s radio show and television program.

He would ultimately compose the theme music to over 20 TV shows from the 1950s through the 1970s, winning multiple Emmy Awards along the way – including for “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie.”