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.

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.

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


35 Comments

  • 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.

    • Freey Willy says:

      Dear sir, and everybody else out there who dislikes the alternate version, I absolutely love the alternate version song! Sure it lacks the guitar but those strings and staccato Brass are brilliant David Rose . I love It ! Freey Willy

  • 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 different..so 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.

    • Freey Willy says:

      Dear Dan , I understand what that original theme meant to us all but the alternate theme is classic David Rose and the Brass intensity is something I enjoy cause I sat first chair trumpet in marching and stage band in the finest highschool band in the country back in ’77. It is very diff to hit those notes and staccato that fast ! I also played guitar and that riff was so simple anyone could play it.

  • 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.

    • ELIZABETH BOGGS says:

      THERE WERE MANY MORE LOCATION SCENES, MORE TOWNS VISITED, MORE SCENERIES TO PARTAKE IN, MORE STORYLINES WITH FOCUS ON NEWER PLOT LINES. THERE WERE SHOWS THAT LOOKED LIKE THEY WERE FILMED IN BIG BEAR, ‘PRAIRIE’ SETTINGS, CATTLE HERDS, AND DIFFERENT STORYLINES. IT WAS EVOLVING.

  • 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?

  • ELIZABETH M. BOGGS says:

    YES. I LIKE IT. IT’S FRESH, USHERING IN NEW CHANGES, PLOT LINES, CONTEMPORARY AND REFRESHING. AFTER A WHILE, THE OLD THEME SEEMED TIRED AND KIND OF HOKEY. THE NEW THEME SEEMED FAR-REACHING AND HAD A SWEEP ALL ITS OWN. YOU CAN SEE THE NEWER EPISODES ON INSPIRATION. “SADDLE UP WEEKENDS”. I DON’T REALLY GO FOR CHANGES LIKE THIS, BUT I REALLY LIKE THIS ONE. SOMETIMES I FIND MYSELF WHISTLING IT! GOOD CHANGE!

    • Freey Willy says:

      Thank You very much . I agree . The more I hear that theme the more inspired I get! David Rose not only wrote great music but he also married little ” Dorothy” .

  • John Smith says:

    I prefer the original theme song, nostalgia is what we are after anyway, right!

  • Terry says:

    I like the old Bonanza theme song,but I also am partial to the alternate theme song. It is probably known to some as Ponderosa. I recognized it as the “Little House On The Prarie” theme song. Does not surprise me as the last years of Bonanza were mostly written by Michael Landon as were Li5tow House on The Prarie.I might be a little biased as I am related to Laura Ingalls Wilder via the Wilder side.

  • Marilyn says:

    Old thread but you should all watch season 2 (Amazon Prime has it now). It has yet another theme song

  • Chris says:

    This theme just played tonight on INSP. Season 12 episode 1. I also remember it played during after school reruns during the 1970’s but I can’t remember what year. I had originally thought that it was the original theme song because shortly after hearing this theme song for several episodes, the episode portraying silver finally being discovered in the region (I distinctly remember the miner who discovered it was actually looking for old but kept complaining all he could find was “this danged blue stuff!”

    The next distinct memory I have of that is that the very next episode that played the following day featured the theme song we are all so very familliar with. At the time, I did recalled only seeing “Ponderosa” on the burning map at the winning of the show, so I thought that was the name of the show. When the show following the discovery of silver in Virginia City aired with the more famous theme song, I thought the show had been renamed due to the silver strike being featured, along with a new theme song (which I now know was actually the orginal theme song).

    It’s fascinating to me how reruns and rewriting of history can actually mess up our perceptions and memory of actual history!

    • Chris says:

      Please excuse the numerous typos above. Stupid spell correctors get it wrong all the time. I hope you can all interpret it properly.

      • Chris says:

        By the way, this is worth mentioning for context. I was born in 1960 and we didn’t have a television in our house until this show was already in reruns. As if to add insult to injury, and a crap ton of irony, our TV’s, when we finally got one, were all black and white!

        For those of you who are too young to know why that’s ironic: Bonanza was the first TV show to air in living color. I never saw it in color until the 1980’s!!! When I bought my own first 19 inch color Phillips Magnavox! And I’ve never bought any other brand since!

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