Alternate Theme to NBC’s Bonanza

I can’t claim to be an expert on Bonanza, although I’ve certainly enjoyed a fair share of episodes over the years, so I don’t know all that much about this “alternate” version of the Bonanza theme song. I have found only one reference to it, in a September 1970 article in The Los Angeles Times:

A new Bonanza theme music will be introduced when the western returns for its 12th season on NBC, Sept. 13. David Rose wrote and arranged the new theme, which is soon to be available in a stereo album.
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I apologize for the quality but it was originally recorded back in the early 1970s using a reel-to-reel player, transferred to a cassette tape decades later and then digitized. Perhaps a better version can be found on the stereo album mentioned above. I doubt this has been seen on television since the end of the 1971-1972 season (Bonanza‘s 13th) when it was replaced by the original theme, according to Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa. The show would run for only half of its 14th season before being canceled.

If anyone out there has additional information on this theme song, please let me know.

“Inside TV.” Los Angeles Times. 3 Sep. 1970: G24.


  • Bret Maverick says:

    No offense intended, but you can see this alternate openinga and them, with better sound. all over YouTube.

  • Troy Turner says:

    Could this have been the theme to “Ponderosa”-the repackaged syndicated Bonanza reruns while the original was still airing? Either way, I swear I’ve heard that before, but not with Bonanza

  • Joe Kienlen says:

    I THINK (but I’m not 100% sure) that when they stop using the classic theme and the “burning map” opening in the season before the last, this is what it was changed to. Viewers complained though, so for the last season the classic theme and “burning map” opening were put back.

  • Justin says:

    The burning map visual never disappeared — they kept it through the use of the title theme discussed here. The theme was used for two seasons (12th and 13th) before being replaced by the original tune for the final season, but there’s no evidence that this was due to viewer response.

    • Art G says:

      I know it has been a year since the last post on this subject, but BINGO, I’m glad I found it. Loved Bonanza and I knew there was another theme music and even though it was maybe bolder sounding, it never matched the original.

      • Debbie says:

        The new bonanza song is just bloody awful .
        I watch and love the show but it not bonanza anymore!
        I will not watch it.

  • Gord R says:

    I just watch an episode on MeTV, S12, Ep9, 8 Nov. 1970, “The Love Child” and it used that alternate opening theme version. I was quiet surprised as I didn’t know they changed the theme song and this alternate version does not have the appeal or feel as the original.

  • Alisande says:

    They use this theme on the MeTV reruns.

  • Nate G. says:

    I’m watching an episode right now on MTV and that’s what prompted me to Google this information about the alternate theme..
    It’s heart warming and a nice melody…

    • kgs says:

      same thoughts!! watch re-runs on MeTV and of course have noticed the theme music was that;s why I ‘googled’ this info…the show was very successful–over 14 seasons!!

  • Dan D says:

    I just saw an episode with this changed theme song…. And I’m with you all now too.
    Not “Bonanza-esqe” at all.

  • Sherie Selga says:

    IIn response to Troy Turner’s comment in October of 2912…I think, but am not sure that where you may have heard the “new” Bonanza there song was on “little House on the Prairie. At least that’s what I hear in my head whenever I hear the new theme song. Maybe Michael Landon really liked it and wanted to use it for his show. Just a guess.

    • Sherie Selga says:

      In correction to my prior comment on Troy Turner’s comment …I meant 2012 not 2912. lol.

    • Jeffrey Batten says:

      I actually like “The Big Bonanza”, the titale of this alt. theme. DAvid Rose composed it. I think part of the reason they reverted back to the original theme for season 14 was due to the death of Dan Blocker. Also, I was watching one of the episodes and the background music ( it was during a roundup) was the music that was later used as the theme for Little House, also David Rose.

  • Sherie Selga says:

    Just saw a reference to my suspensions regarding this theme being used for Little House on the Prairie… They used it as the closing theme at the end of each show…so I guess I heard it right in my head…it’s been bugging me for weeks.

  • Joe says:

    this theme is used for the “lost” episodes of BONANZA (episodes from 1966-73 that weren’t included when the reruns went into syndication-they’re currently being seen on ME TV)

  • Dave says:

    There was also some versions of the music used in a few episodes, that actually was the exact same theme as Little House. But the alternate theme also sounded very close. It may have been the same composer used on both shows. Not only did they chnage the theme for those years, but they changed the show as well. The story-lines became much more personal interest, and a lot less about the traditional wild west theme. Sappy stories with swelling violins in every scene. The wide sweeping locations were gone, replaced by mainly interior stage or local film ranch shoots. Even the opening credits were boring. No horses or anything. It was not their best period in the show. Viewers obviously didn’t like it either, because they went back to the traditional style after that.

  • Paul says:

    I has always assumed that the copyright on the original theme had expired. On a side note, am I the only one that seems to remember a Chevrolet logo being used as a brand burning through a map as well?

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