Name That Tune was a television game show that put two contestants against each other to test their knowledge of songs.
Premiering in the United States in the early 1950s, the show was created and produced by Harry Salter and his wife, Roberta.
"Name That Tune" ran from 1953 to 1959 on NBC and CBS in prime time. The first hosts were Red Benson and later Bill Cullen, but George DeWitt became most identified with the show. DeWitt could sing well, which was vital to the show's success; Benson and Cullen did not possess such talents.
Richard Hayes also emceed a local edition from 1970 to 1971. However, the best-remembered syndicated version aired once a week (expanded to twice a week for its final season) from 1974 to 1981, with host Tom Kennedy. Another version aired weekdays during 1984 and 1985, hosted by Jim Lange; this version was heavily re-run on cable TV for almost a decade. The orchestra was conducted by Bob Alberti (1974-1976), Tommy Oliver (1976-1979, and the entire run of the Lange version), and Stan Worth (1979-1981); a second band, Dan Sawyer and the Sound System, was also featured from 1978 to 1981. These versions were both titled "The $100,000 Name That Tune".
NBC also aired two versions of Name That Tune in the 1970s. The first, hosted by Dennis James, ran from July 29, 1974 until January 3, 1975. NBC tried again from January 3 to June 10, 1977, with Kennedy at the helm. Essentially, both were lower-paying versions of the better-known night-time program. The NBC failures made Name That Tune distinctive for that era in that it represented a syndicated success that did not rely on a well-established concurrent run on a network.
Television producer Ralph Edwards packaged the versions between 1974 and 1981; Sandy Frank, who earlier syndicated the Edwards-packaged episodes, staged the one-season Lange version in the mid-1980s. John Harlan announced the show during the entirety of this period.
The Different Versions
The contestants stand across the stage from a large ship bell and the band starts playing tunes. When a contestant knows the tune s/he runs across the stage to "ring the bell and name that tune!" Four tunes were played every game.
Each tune was worth increasing dollar amounts:
Tune #1 - $5
Tune #2 - $10
Tune #3 - $20
Tune #4 - $40
Note: In the George DeWitt era, there were only three tunes, paying $10, $20, and $30 respectively.
The player with the most money after four tunes wins the game & goes on to the bonus game called "The Golden Medley." In the DeWitt era, when there was a tie (not possible under the first scoring scheme, except at 0-0), both players played as a team.
1970s and 1980s Versions
These two versions allow contestants, usually one male and one female, who were selected from the studio audience, to score points as well as cash and prizes by winning music-related games.
Regularly played sub-games on the show included:
- Ring the Bell - Seen only on the Dennis James version, this was a throwback to the original 1950s series; two bells were suspended from the ceiling, with each contestant about 20 feet away. The first contestant to correctly "ring the bell and name that tune" scored. Five tunes were played, and the player who correctly guessed three (or the most) tunes won the round and 10 points.
- Pick A Tune - Featured early in the first season of the Kennedy version; each tune would feature a list of words which included the words in the tune's title. Players eliminated words so that only the words in the title remained.
- Cassette Roulette - This was played during the first season of Kennedy's version. Eight oversized 8-track tapes were displayed, each containing a category, with a corresponding tune played (the contestants alternated in choosing). Four of the "cassettes" also contained a bonus prize, which would be awarded to the contestant who chose it. Seven tunes were played, and the first player to name four (or the most) tunes won the round and 10 points.
- Money Tree - Featured early in the Kennedy run, this game had both players given their own "tree" with a hundred $1 bills on it. While one player tried to guess a tune (up to three were played), his/her opponent would remove bills as fast as possible from the first player's tree until that player guessed correctly or ran out of time; the player with the most money left on his/her tree at the end of the round won (though it wasn't uncommon to see both trees stripped clean). The game was retired after the second season because Kennedy didn't like its greedy nature, not to mention contestants having a tendency to cut their fingers on the metal edges that held the bills in place.
- Melody Roulette - This was played in both versions (replacing Cassette Roulette for the second season of Kennedy's). A two-level wheel (originally just a one-level wheel) was spun onstage to determine a cash prize for identifying the tune. Early in the Kennedy run (as well as the daytime show with Dennis James), the wheel contained categories, with the contestants selecting one before each spin and receiving $100 if theirs was landed on. However, the categories were later replaced by money amounts ranging from $20-$1,000 (later $100-$1,000) in the Kennedy version ($50-$500 in the 1977 daytime version). Also, in the early days of the Kennedy run, each player selected a $200 space on the wheel, and if it landed on one of those spaces, the player would win $200 right there, in addition to the tune's value. In 1976, an outer wheel was added, which held a space or spaces marked "Double" and was spun in the opposite direction of the inner; in the '70s version, it also featured a space offering a new car, but it could be won only once (in 1979, this was replaced by a more generic "prize" space, which worked the same way). In the Lange version, the dollar amounts initially ranged from $100-$500, with money being awarded after every tune and the wheel spun again for the next tune. This rule was changed about halfway through the Lange run - the spaces on the wheel were now worth between $250 and $1,000, but the wheel was spun only once and the money was awarded to whomever won the round. Five tunes were played (seven in the first half of the Lange version), and the first player to name three out of the five tunes (or 4 of 7) won 10 points. If this amount had not been reached after all tunes were played, the points were awarded to the player who had named more tunes correctly. In case of a tie, five points were given to each contestant on the Kennedy version, while the Lange version (later) had a final tiebreaker tune played. In the Kennedy version, all contestants - win or lose - got to keep the cash in this round, but only the winner of Melody Roulette got to keep the cash in the Lange version.
- Sing-a-Tune - This was played in the Kennedy version. Contestants wrote down the names of tunes sung by the show's vocalist, a then-unknown Kathie Lee Johnson (later Gifford), who would famously and humorously replace the titles in the lyrics with 'la-la-las'. Five tunes were played; the first to name three tunes or the player whom named the most tunes wins 10 points and a prize package (splitting the points in case of a tie, and they each received the prize package). Kathie Lee left the show around 1978, and was replaced by the team of Monica Burrus (also known as Monica Francine Pege) and Steve March Tormé, the son of legendary crooner Mel Tormé and stepson of The $64,000 Question emcee Hal March.
- Build-a-Tune - This was played only on the short-lived 1977 daytime version; the orchestra would play a tune, starting with minimal instrumentation and more gradually added until it became a typical full orchestral arrangement. Five tunes were played; as usual, the winner received 10 points and a prize package, and a tie saw the points being split, and the 2 players each received the prize package.
- Tune Countdown - This round was used in the pilot episodes for the Lange version, and was the replacement for Sing-a-Tune until it was finally scrapped for Tune Topics. Players simply buzzed in and named tunes for the duration of 20 seconds, with the clock stopping as soon as someone rang in. At the end of 20 seconds, the contestant who had named the most tunes correctly won 10 points and a prize (a variant of this format was used as the final round on Kennedy's version from 1978-81, only the contestants were given 30 seconds).
- Tune Topics - This was the mainstay second round during the Lange version. All of the song titles fit into a given category. Initially, one topic was presented at the beginning of the round – later, five topics were displayed with one of them being chosen by a randomizer. Five tunes were played; the first to name three or the most tunes won 10 points and a prize.
- Bid-a-Note - This was the show's signature game played as the third and final round of the main game in both versions (the next to last round on the Kennedy version from 1978-81 and during the tournament in the Lange version). Here, the host would read a clue to a song, and the players would alternate bidding as to how few notes they needed to identify the song (as in "I can name that tune in three notes"). Bidding ended when one contestant finally challenged the other to "Name That Tune", or when one player bid one note (in one pilot episode of the Lange version, the male contestant actually bid zero notes twice, and then correctly identified the tune both times). After bidding, the pianist's hand would show up on split screen to play the notes, after which the player had to name that tune. If the player was correct, he/she scored the tune, but if the player could not name it, the tune went to his/her opponent. The first player to score three tunes won 20 points (10 in the non-finals of the tournament in the Lange version) and a prize (most often a trip).
The player with the most points at the end of the three rounds proceeded to the "Golden Medley" bonus round. If there was a tie at the end of the game, one last tune was played; the first player to buzz-in and name that tune then went to the Golden Medley.
Golden Medley (All Versions)
The Golden Medley was a bonus round where the day's winner attempted to identify seven tunes in 30 seconds or less.
In the 50s version, all the tunes played here were selected by home viewers. Each correct tune won money for the winning contestant as well as the home viewers. The first correct answer was worth $25 and every subsequent correct answer doubles the money. Naming all seven won $1,600 and gave a home viewer a chance to come to the New York studio where the show was taped at that time, and play along with the studio contestant in a special round called the "Golden Medley Marathon".
The Golden Medley Marathon
In the Golden Medley Marathon, the winning home viewer and the winning studio contestant worked as a team. They had 30 seconds to name five tunes, and doing so won $5,000 each. They come back for up to four more weeks, meaning that five successful Golden Medley Marathons won them each $25,000.
1970s & 1980s Versions
In these versions, prizes were awarded for each correctly identified song. If the contestant gave an incorrect answer at any time during this round, the game ended immediately. However, the player could pass on a tune by buzzing in and saying "pass". If time remained on the clock after all tunes were played, the contestant could attempt the passed tune(s) again. Naming all seven tunes in 30 seconds won the entire prize package, plus the chance to return to the show in a later episode (or episodes) in an attempt to win the $100,000 grand prize.
In the 1970s NBC daily version, the Golden Medley consisted of six tunes; each one was worth $200 cash, and naming all six in 30 seconds was worth $2,000 cash. Whether or not a contestant won the Golden Medley, that contestant returned the next day; five-time winners received a car and retired undefeated. At the end of the show's run, it was changed to five tunes per day, and only four wins needed for the car, but a contestant had to win the Golden Medley in order to return the next day.
In the 1970s weekly version, each tune was worth $500 in prizes (usually, a contestant who got six won a car), and any contestant who named all seven tunes won $15,000 ($10,000 on the 1977 daytime version) in cash and prizes. Starting in 1976, a $15,000 winner would return at the end of the next week's show and try to identify one more "Mystery Tune" for a $100,000 cash prize (paid in ten annual installments of $10,000).
The $100,000 Mystery Tune
The contestant entered into a Gold Room backstage. A security guard named Jeff Addis opened a safe to reveal a wheel with manila envelopes on it. After the contestant selected an envelope, Addis then escorted the contestant onstage into an isolation booth (which was wired so that he/she could only hear Tom and the piano). Then Addis opened the selected envelope, handed "The $100,000 Pianist" (depending on the version, either Michel Mencien
or Joe Harnell
) the sheet music for the song, and handed Tom a sealed business-size envelope. The pianist then played the song while a 30-second timer counted down; once the timer reached 10 seconds, the piano player stopped, and the contestant in the booth had to guess the song's exact
title before the timer expired; only the contestant's first answer was accepted. After the contestant exited the booth, Tom then opened the envelope and read the background information and copyright for the song. An audio recording of the contestant's guess was played, and Tom announced the song's title. If the contestant guessed correctly, he/she won $10,000 a year for a decade; this was also a feature of the short-lived 1977 NBC daytime version and played exactly the same, only the payoff was a lump sum of $25,000. The tunes were usually songs featuring music that contestants and viewers are familiar with, but whose titles were either unknown or not easily discernible (for example, one of the songs was "Fugue for Tinhorns" from Guys and Dolls
, but the contestant answered "Can Do", which was part of the lyrics).
Two contestants won $100,000 in 1976, and three in 1977, including one that had been told at first that his answer was incorrect (he said, "If You Will Marry Me", and the answer Tom had was, "The Bus Stop Song"), only to be brought back when the show's musicologists discovered that a song called "If You Will Marry Me" existed with the same music. (Two of the tunes were Someday My Prince Will Come from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Entry (or Entrance) of the Gladiators, the song most people associate with the circus).
The $100,000 Tournaments
In 1977, eleven of the twelve Golden Medley winners who did not win $100,000 returned for a three-week tournament
(the twelfth was taking a 52-day Mediterranean cruise, which was one of the Golden Medley prizes, at the time). In the first two weeks, there were five or six players; it was played like a normal game, except that in Melody Roulette
, only the first two players to answer two tunes continued, and the Golden Medley
was turned into a competitive game called Golden Medley Showdown
(the clock stopped when either player buzzed in or five seconds elapsed) worth 20 points, while Sing a Tune
and Bid a Note
each scored 10 points. The two winners came back on the third week, playing Melody Roulette
, Sing a Tune
, and Bid a Note
for 10 points each, and Golden Medley Showdown
for 30, to determine the $100,000 winner. Unlike the mystery tune prize, this $100,000 was in cash and prizes. Runners-up won $2,500.
In 1978, the mystery tunes were removed, and the show (which had switched to a disco set and theme) consisted entirely of nine-week "blocks". The first six weeks consisted of two-player games, consisting of Melody Roulette, Bid a Note, and Golden Medley Showdown; the six winners returned for a three-week tournament, played like the 1977 tournament except that as Sing a Tune was no longer played, a second round of Melody Roulette was played after one of the three players was eliminated). After six episodes played in this fashion, the six winners return to play, three at a time, over two episodes. Every ninth episode would be a tournament final; the winner of each tournament won $10,000 a year for the next ten years, while the runner-up won a car. A number of celebrity specials filled out the season.
Bloopers and Outtakes
One time, before the day's Golden Medley, security guard Jeff Addis was entering the combination to the safe, but he couldn't open it. Kennedy asked him why, then told everyone that the security guard forgot the combination, and everyone (including Kennedy and Addis) broke out in laughter.
During the syndicated run, Kennedy and the crew produced a raunchy, not-for-air parody of the show at the end of the season. The fake contestants were played by bandleader Tommy Oliver and model Jerri Fiala, while the show's musicologist Harvey Bacal led the band. Four-letter-words and very risque humor abounded. Almost all of the show's cast and crew (including announcer John Harlan) participated in the frolic with the notable exception of Kathie Lee Johnson. Kept in private collections for years, the tape surfaced in 2007 on an Internet game-show video presentation site.
On the Lange version, each tune was worth at least $250 in prizes. If the player correctly named all 7 tunes in 30 seconds, they also won a trip and the right to compete in a monthly Tournament of Champions. The rules were modified for this version; the non-final games began with three or four of the month's winners competing for two spots in the main game (Melody Roulette
wasn't played until the finals unless only two contestants were competing in the semi finals.), with contestants needing to guess two tunes correctly to move on. Then, Tune Topics
and Bid a Note
were played for 10 points each, and Golden Medley Showdown
for 20. Whoever had more points (or won a single-tune tiebreaker, if needed) advanced to the finals.
The finals was played with all three upfront games with their regular point values, including the Golden Medley Showdown which was worth 40 points.
The winner at the end of the tournament won $10,000 in cash, a new Pontiac Fiero, an emerald and diamond necklace, a Schaefer and Sons grand piano, a Hitachi home entertainment center, a pair of Jules Jurgensen watches, a spa from Polynesian Spas, a Caribbean vacation and one week a year in perpetuity at a timeshare resort in Palm Springs. The runner up, however, went home with a fairly decent consolation prize, which usually was a trip (usually to Hong Kong) worth about $2,000 to $3,000. Occasionally during non-tournament shows, home viewer contests were held; the day's winner picked a name out of a drum, then selected one of the above prizes. A Golden Medley win earned that prize for the home viewer.
The Lange version premiered with a "Super Champions" tournament, featuring fourteen $100,000 winners from the Kennedy version, who competed for a second $100,000. Elena Cervantes claimed the $100,000 top prize.
Name That Video
There was a variation on Name That Tune
that aired on VH-1
called Name That Video
version of the show started on ITV
originally as a slot on the popular entertainment series London Night Out
but because the game was so popular, producers Thames Television
decided to turn Name That Tune
into a half hour weekly series that started in 1983, with Tom O'Connor
as the host. Lionel Blair
took over for O'Connor later on until the series was dropped from the ITV schedules in 1988. Maggie Moon
sang the songs that contestants had to guess. In 1998 the series was revived on Five
with Jools Holland
as the host.
On Saturday 5 May 2007, the show was revived briefly for Vernon Kay's Gameshow Marathon on ITV.
In Germany, a daily version called Hast du Töne? aired on VOX from 1999-2001. Matthias Opdenhövel was the host. Gameplay was somewhat different from the US version, but the final round was the same as the Golden Medley.
In Russia, the daily version called Ugadai melodiu was presented on Pervy kanal from 1995-2000 and was hosted by Valdis Pelsh. The version was presented like the German version. Later the Show was presented as Ugadaika, by Pelsh also, but it wasn't so successful like the first version.
In Brazil, Qual é a Musica has been a hit on SBT for the past two decades. It is hosted by Silvio Santos.
In Italy, Il Musichiere aired on then named "Programma Nazionale" from 1957-1960 on Saturday. The series was suspended after host Mario Riva's death for an accident on stage.
Versions also aired in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Poland, and Spain.
Recently, Romania and Hungary launched versions of the show. Other countries to get versions include Morocco, Portugal, Slovakia, and Turkey.
It is assumed that all syndicated Kennedy-hosted episodes still exist, and the Jim Lange version has been rerun on the USA Network
& CBN/The Family Channel
. However, future reruns or DVD releases are currently unlikely due to certain music clearances.
In 1986, a coin-operated arcade game based on the show was released by Bally Sente, created by Owen Rubin. The player's task was to guess the tune being played from among four choices. It also featured a two-player mode. While playable, some gamers consider the machine's difficulty to be high due to the technical limits of the very basic synthesized music the machine was capable of.
In 2003, a wireless phone version of the game appeared on major U.S. cellular providers. The game follows the traditional format, with MIDI interpretations of popular and classic music played in short clips. The player then has several seconds to correctly identify the tune. Prizes such as free ringtones were available, a first in the mobile industry. The game is often mentioned as a pioneer in the emerging wireless entertainment industry.
- In 1957 juvenile actor Eddie Hodges and Marine Corps pilot John Glenn teamed up to win $25,000 in the Golden Medley Marathon. Hodges went on to appear in The Music Man, while Glenn became even more famous as an astronaut and senator from Ohio. It was later discovered that Hodges had been offered the role in The Music Man prior to having been selected as a contestant, and that he was passively given the answers by having sessions with the production staff during which songs were sung to him that later were used in the Golden Medley. It has never been established whether Glenn was also prepared.
- Another memorable contestant from the DeWitt era was teenage singer Leslie Uggams, later a regular on Sing Along With Mitch. She also had her own short-lived variety show on CBS in 1969.
- In 1958 Carol Douglas, (Doctor's Orders), was a contestant and winner on the show. She was only 10 years of age at the time (at the time, game show contestants were not legally required to be 18 years of age or older).
- One of the first $100,000 winners on the Lange version was the charismatic Tommy Simmons, an older gentleman who usually wore a glittering gold jacket when he competed. He also appeared on Name That Tune's "sister" show, Face the Music, as well as Match Game '76.
- Lange-era contestant Alfred Bogdalioff (nicknamed "Sweet Alfred") was noted for heckling female opponent Diana Davis (another former Face the Music contestant, then known as Diana Edelman) during the game. This was most obvious during Bid-A-Note, when he said sarcastic things like "I'm shakin'!" and "I'm really impressed." (in response to an opening bid). He also used goofy (and at least one potentially offensive) hand gestures towards Davis. Bogdalioff beat Davis 3-2 in Bid-A-Note and won the game, but failed to win the Golden Medley.
- Anne Erickson, another Lange-era contestant correctly named the tune "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" during Melody Roulette - seconds before she fell down herself.
- Al Lowe, creator of the Leisure Suit Larry series of computer games, appeared as a Lange-era contestant, as did comic-book artist Michael Saenz (Shatter).
- Another Lange-era $100,000 winner (and yet another Face the Music alumnus), Michael Lagmay, set a record during the Golden Medley Showdown-- he answered 16 tunes correctly over opponent Hap Trout's four. Also notable was that the scoreboard operators ran into technical difficulty when he got seven tunes correct, for reasons unknown. This elicited much laughter from the audience, particularly when they cycled through all the available display characters to make a "1" appear, including a dollar sign.
Revivals/appearances in other media
- A revival was planned in 1990 set up by Orion Entertainment. It did not sell to many stations and was attempted again in late 1990 as a midseason replacement hosted by Peter Allen and syndicated by Sandy Frank Entertainment, but that also did not come to fruition (though its format was later reused for the 1994 CD-I game hosted by Bob Goen).
- A 1997 episode of the sitcom Cybill, appropriately titled "Name That Tune", featured the title character becoming the vocalist on a new version of the show; Tom Kennedy guest-starred as himself.
- In late 2001, following his success producing the US version of Weakest Link, Phil Gurin of The Gurin Co. acquired the US rights to Name That Tune, intending to revive the show. The new version produced by Gurin never made it to the air, and the rights returned to Sandy Frank Entertainment.
- In 2002 the game was played on an episode of The Today Show in which Tom Kennedy dropped by, as part of their Game Show Legends Week; it pitted Katie Couric and Ann Curry against Matt Lauer and Al Roker
- In 2006, it was announced that CBS was developing a new primetime version of the show, with Donny Osmond as host. The pilot included a new bonus round called the "million dollar minute", in which contestants would try to earn a grand prize of a million dollars by naming 15 songs in sixty seconds. The pilot was taped in December 2006. According to Variety, CBS decided against airing the show and relinquished the rights in late 2007. MTV Networks then promptly picked up the rights to the show.