‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: How Showrunner Created Program’s Theme Song with No Musical Training

by Keeli Parkey
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Possibly one of the most iconic theme songs to any classic sitcom is that of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

You can just hear it in your head, can’t you: “Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And then one day he was shootin’ at some food, and up through the ground come a bubblin crude. Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.”

How that theme came to be is an interesting story in itself. It’s a story the show’s creator, Paul Henning, shared during a 1997 interview with the Television Academy Foundation. Because his show needed a theme, Henning stepped up, and as he put it, “wrote it out of necessity.”

Initially, the team behind “The Beverly Hillbillies” had hired others to create a theme for the sitcom. However, according to Henning, this did not work out.

“The time was coming, was approaching, when we had to do it,” Henning said in 1997. “Al Simon had engaged a pair of well-known songwriters. And they came out to Universal, I remember. (They) did the song for me and I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not what I want.”

Creator of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Said He Wrote Show’s Theme Song ‘Out of Necessity’

Despite having no experience writing music, “The Beverly Hillbillies” creator Paul Henning knew he had to do something.

“So anyway, out of necessity, I just made up some words and music,” he recalled. Having done so, he went to another person for help.

“And sat down at a piano with a very talented lady – she and her husband were both fine musicians,” Hennings recalled. “I sat beside her on the piano bench and I said, ‘Now I can’t write music, but I can sing you what I think this should be and if you’ll write it down we’ll, you know.’ And she said, ‘Fine.’ So, I sang the words and the music and she wrote down the notes.”

With the theme song written, Henning and Peter Botkin, a musical director for the show, discussed the song. It was Botkin who suggested that Jerry Scoggins sing the theme song of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” according to Henning.

“And Perry Botkin said, ‘I know just the guy to sing it.’ So, that’s the way it worked out,” Henning said. “… Jerry Scoggins, I think, had appeared with Gene Autry as a singer of Western songs.”

Interestingly, Scoggins was only singing during the weekends when he was asked to sing the show’s theme song. He was actually working as a stockbroker at the time.

You can watch “The Beverly Hillbillies” creator Paul Henning discuss creating the show’s theme song with the Television Academy Foundation below.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” aired from 1962 until 1971, according to IMDb.com. The cast included Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer Jr.

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