Peter Gunn

Henry Mancini

Song Review by Ken Dryden

The "Peter Gunn" theme to the early-'60s television series of the same name was one of several hits for composer Henry Mancini. Although it is frequently described as being jazzy, it actually utilizes elements of rock & roll, including the electric guitar and piano playing an ostinato line in unison, while the piece has only one chord throughout. The shouting brass and wailing saxophones add to the suspense. Although it was suggested by RCA Victor that a soundtrack be issued by one of their artists, jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers, Rogers graciously told Mancini that he had no connection to the music and that the composer ought to be the one to record it. RCA Victor managed to bungle Mancini's first record as a leader in several ways. Not only did they press just a small number of albums, which quickly sold out, they failed to release "Peter Gunn" as a single until after Ray Anthony already had a hit with it. But Mancini's Peter Gunn soundtrack ended up staying on the Billboard charts for over two years, selling in excess of one million copies. The song also has had lasting appeal, with hit recordings by rock groups such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer (in the 1970s) and the Art of Noise (1980s), as well as interpretations by Dave Grusin, King Curtis, Deodato, and Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops. But it is Henry Mancini's recording that makes the most lasting impression.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
More Music from "Peter Gunn" 1959 BMG International 2:06
The Music from Peter Gunn [Original TV Soundtrack] 1959 Hallmark Music & Entertainment 2:06
The Concert Sound of Henry Mancini 1964 Cloud 9 Records
Gunn...Number One! 1967 RCA
This Is Henry Mancini 1970 Wounded Bird 2:06
Film Music by Mancini 1973 RCA
Pure Gold 1975 RCA 2:04
Symphonic Soul 1975 RCA 4:37
40 Greatest 1976 Arcade Music
Collection 1984 Pair 2:06
All-Time Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1988 RCA 2:06
Sounds of Big Band, Vol. 1-2 1989
Various Artists
USA Records 2:21
Music from the Films of Blake Edwards (Film Composers' Series, Vol. 4) 1991 RCA
Spy Magazine Presents: Spy Music, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
The Rare Mancini: A Tribute to Henry Mancini 1994 Laserlight 2:05
Mission Impossible: Cult TV Themes 1996
Various Artists
Silva America 2:51
The Best of Henry Mancini [BMG/Camden] 1997 Camden 2:07
Have a Buddha Ful Day 1999
Various Artists
Buddha Records
Henry Mancini Greatest Hits 2000 RCA 0:00
The Best of Henry Mancini [Paradise] 2001 Paradise Music 2:07
The Best of Henry Mancini [BMG] 2002 BMG 2:07
Platinum & Gold Collection 2003 BMG Heritage / RCA 2:05
Midnight, Moonlight & Magic: The Very Best of Henry Mancini 2004 BMG Heritage / RCA 2:07
Original Album Classics 2008 RCA Victor 2:07
Super Hits 2009 Sony Music Distribution / Sony CMG
Peter Gunn HiFi Hits 2012 Hifi Hits
The Classic Soundtrack Collection: 1958 - 1963 2018 Enlightenment Series 2:07
Icons Sony Music 2:08
Jazz on Film: Crime Jazz
Various Artists
Moochin' About 2:05
The Collection
Various Artists
Audio Fidelity 2:08