These themes are all based on Lalo Schifrin's score from the 1968 movie 'Cool Hand Luke.' Al Primo, the new news director of WABC-TV New York in June of 1968, secured the rights to the music for his new news program. On November 11, 1968, WABC launched the music and Eyewitness News format.

As the format grew popular, the theme spread across the country to the other ABC-owned and operated (O&O) stations: KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago, WXYZ Detroit, KGO San Francisco, and KTRK Houston. (WPVI in Philadelphia is the exception. They used, and still use, the Action News format and theme music).

The Eyewitness News format and Cool Hand Luke theme weren't limited to ABC stations. For example, KOMU NBC8 in Columbia, MO used the theme and format for its newscast through the mid-1980s.

The cuts from the original movie score served as the main theme for most ABC O&Os until 1983, when the management of WLS-TV commissioned Frank Gari Productions to produce an updated and expanded version. This new package was introduced to the ABC O&Os during 1983-84, and in 1985 entered syndication to other stations.

However, KABC opted to use the original movie scores at 5 and 6, while using completely different synthesized themes composed by Frank Becker at 4 and 11. KGO dropped the Cool Hand Luke music for a time in 1987, but it returned in January of 1988.

Also of interest...WLS stopped using Cool Hand Luke from 1980 - 83, opting for the 'On Your Side' package to accompany its image campaign. They were actually resurrecting Cool Hand Luke when they commissioned the updated package. That move, and a restructuring of the news department were key to WLS' takover of the number one spot in the market during the mid '80s, a spot long held by WBBM.

The updated Cool Hand Luke melody became one of the most widely used news themes in the country. However, by 1994 most of the major markets had replaced the music. Rumor has it Lalo Schifrin demanded royalties that priced it out of the local news music market. An exception...the Nine network in Australia still uses Cool Hand Luke derivations for its newscasts.

I urge you to download these classic themes. Chances are, you'll recognize the telegraphic rhythm and melody. Thanks to the News Music Museum for the historical information and music cuts.


In order to hear these files, you MUST have the RealPlayer version G2 or later installed on your computer. If you don't have it, download it FREE from www.real.com.
A HUGE thanks to Pipeline News Factory for providing these timeless themes and the history behind them.

Eyewitness News '70s
The original Eyewitness News theme from 1969-84

Eyewitness News '70s
Another cut of the original Eyewitness News theme

Eyewitness News '70s
A rare cut of the original theme

Eyewitness News '70s
A cycling tease cut of the original music

Eyewitness News '80s
The main updated theme from 1983, featuring a new thematic bridge not present in the original Cool Hand Luke themes.

Eyewitness News '80s
A mixdown of the above main theme.

In Stereo Where AvailableEyewitness News '80s
The mixdown of the main theme in stereo (for those w/ fast computers).

Eyewitness News '80s
Opening cut used on KTRK, WLS, WABC, and others.

Eyewitness News '80s
Opening cut...with a string vamp.

Eyewitness News '80s
Opening cut...with an urgent telegraph vamp.

Eyewitness News '80s
This is a direct update of the elements in the original Cool Hand Luke theme. Used on WABC from 1984-85.

Eyewitness News '80s
Action-packed promo theme.

Eyewitness News '80s
Repetive string vamp used as a bumper to commercials.

Eyewitness News '80s
My favorite cut...this is a preshow bed used on KTRK and KGO, among others.

Eyewitness News '80s
This is a very stately, business-like bumper. Only place I've heard it was on a 1984 WABC newscast.

Eyewitness News '80s
This is the most familiar cut of the package...the regular preshow bumper.

Eyewitness News '80s
This is a stripped down bumper, featuring the telegraph rhythm and a synthesizer playing the main melody.

Eyewitness News '80s
A fast-paced cut with the telegraph rhythm, synthesizers, and a horn lead. Usually used on early morning newscasts.

Eyewitness News '80s
Used to end The 11 O'Clock Eyewitness News on WABC from 1984-85, and used on early morning shows on other stations in later years.

Eyewitness News '80s
Used for morning shows during the '80s.

Eyewitness News '80s
High energy promo cut also used as a movie open.

Eyewitness News '80s
Sports theme with a growling guitar at the beginning.

WABC Eyewitness News (1991)
The 1984 theme completely synthesized for the 1990s.

WABC Eyewitness News (1991)
The open, completely synthesized.

KABC Eyewitness News (1991)
Until 1991, KABC was still using the original 1968 Cool Hand Luke score. When they changed, they opted to stick with the same arrangement, but fully synthesized. This was used as both an open and close.

KABC/WABC Eyewitness News (1991)
This bumper was used on both KABC and WABC.

Eyewitness News Texas
A version with the same beat and rhythm as most Eyewitness themes, but a different melody custom-made for KTRK-TV Houston.

WABC Eyewitness News (1980)
This is a neat theme used by WABC to close The 6 O'Clock Eyewitness News from 1980-84. It is NOT based on the Cool Hand Luke music. It's actually a cut from ABC's 1979 promo package, 'Still the One.'


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