On September 19, 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted on CBS. And it’s impossible to think of it without smiling and humming a little “Love Is All Around.” That ditty became 56 seconds of TV theme song history and the deal of a lifetime for songwriter Sonny Curtis who wrote and performed it.
Curtis, who also penned such classics as “I Fought the Law” and was a member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, told the Austin Chronicle:
“I had just bought a house in L.A. and I was at home, just sitting around pickin’ one morning. This friend of mine, Doug Gilmore, who worked for the Williams & Price agency, called me and said, ‘They’re doing a sitcom with Mary Tyler Moore and they want a theme song. Would you be interested?’ I said, ‘Ah, man, sure.’ That was about 11 a.m.
“At noon, during his lunch break, he dropped off a four-page format that described the show. It wasn’t a script, just a description. I’ve always thought that was kinda lucky, because they didn’t give me a lot of information. It just said, ‘A girl from the Midwest moves to Minneapolis.’ She got jilted I believe. ‘Gets a job at a newsroom, gets an apartment she has a hard time affording.’ You know, that kinda stuff.
“So I sat down and started thinkin’ about what to write. By about 2 p.m. I had one verse. I called [Gilmore] and said, ‘Who do I sing this to?’ He sent me over to Studio City—not far from my house— to the CBS soundstage to see [the show’s creator] James L. Brooks.
“There was this huge room that had no furniture in it. We met in that room, and he was rather cold to me. He said, ‘I’ll listen to what you’ve got, but we’re not near this stage yet of choosing a theme song.’ So I said, ‘Well … okay.’
“He had a couple of iron chairs sent in. I sat down and sang him the song, the one verse—which is all that’s on the show. (After I got the deal, I wrote another verse, lengthened it just in case for a record.) There was a phone sitting on the floor, and he got on the wire and called somebody and said, ‘Come down and listen to this.’
“Before I left, I had sung it about 10 times and the whole room was filled with people lined up all around the walls. Then he sent out for a cassette recorder. He said, ‘I want to take this song with me to Minneapolis.’ They were going up that weekend to do the show’s titles. He said, ‘I want this song with me.’
“By that point, I felt pretty good about it. And it was a one-day deal from start to finish.”
Thanks for one of our life’s happiest soundtracks, Sonny!
Category: Behind The Song