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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.

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

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”:

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