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Night Lights Classic Jazz

A Profound Gas: Peter Gunn

Peter Gunn was a hit TV crime show with jazz at its center, with Craig Stevens as the stylish, jazz-loving private detective title character.

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  • Peter Gunn TV show

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    Photo: DVD cover art.

    "Peter Gunn" aired on NBC and ABC for three seasons, between 1958 and 1961.

  • Henry Mancini Peter Gunn

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    Photo: Album cover art.

    The success of his score for "Peter Gunn" gave composer Henry Mancini his first big breakthrough in the TV and film business.

  • Shelly Manne Plays Peter Gunn

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    Photo: Album cover art.

    In addition to recording small-group jazz versions of the music from "Peter Gunn," drummer Shelly Manne sometimes appeared on the show itself.

  • Joe Wilder Peter Gunn

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    Photo: Album cover art.

    Trumpeter Joe Wilder also recorded an album of the music from "Peter Gunn."

Peter Gunn was a hit TV crime show with jazz at its center that ran from 1958 to 1961, with Craig Stevens (described as “a poor man’s Cary Grant”) as the stylish, jazz-loving private detective title character, and often directed by Blake Edwards, who would go on to make The Pink Panther several years later.

Gunn paid frequent visits to a jazz bar called Mother’s and dated a jazz singer (played by Lola Albright); West Coast jazz musicians such as Shelly Manne and Shorty Rogers sometimes appeared on the show.

For composer Henry Mancini, who wrote the ubiquitous theme and the rest of the show’s background music, Peter Gunn was a career breakthrough; Mancini had just been laid off from Universal Studios when a chance visit to the studio lot to get a haircut led to the job. Mancini went on to record two best-sellng albums of music from Peter Gunn and to win two Grammys as well.

We’ll hear music from both Mancini albums, in addition to Peter Gunn interpretations from Shelly Manne and Joe Wilder and dialogue from the show itself.

Watch Shorty Rogers and Lola Albright performing “How High the Moon” at the jazz bar Mother’s in “Peter Gunn”:

Music Heard On This Episode

Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)
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Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)

Notes: Opening theme.

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Bright and Breezy
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)
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Peter Gunn
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)
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Dreamsville
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)
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Fallout
Shelly Manne — Play Peter Gunn (Contemporary, 1959)
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Sorta Blue
Shelly Manne — Play Peter Gunn (Contemporary, 1959)
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How High the Moon
Shorty Rogers/Lola Albright — Peter Gunn
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A Profound Gass
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)

Notes: Break music.

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Soft Sounds
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)
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Goofin' at the Coffeehouse
Henry Mancini — More Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1959)
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Not From Dixie
Joe Wilder — The Pretty Sound/Jazz From Peter Gunn (Collectables, 1959)
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Brothers Go to Mothers
Joe Wilder — The Pretty Sound/Jazz From Peter Gunn (Collectables, 1959)
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The Floater
Henry Mancini — Music From Peter Gunn (RCA, 1958)
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Night Lights
Gerry Mulligan — Night Lights (Polygram, 1963)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/james.cimarusti James Cimarusti

    Excellent program. I wish more Jazz stations would play Mancini due to his use of great Jazz players. (BTW,The first PG track above is actually “BRIEF and Breezy” and the trombonist on the SR/LA track is Dick Nash, another great Jazz soloist used by Mancini).

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