I’m rewatching Who’s the Boss, and I got to thinking about the fact that a theme song can influence the success of a show. With Who’s the Boss, you only have to hear the opening strains, and even before you hear the first few words “There’s a time for love and a time for living,” you’re transported back to a time of Tony, Angela, Mona, Jonathan and .. a time when Alyssa Milano was little.
I had an obsession with theme tunes even then. I recorded them all on a 60 minute Safeway cassette. Minutes before the show started I’d run round the house telling everyone to shut up, then I’d stand in front of the TV with my cassette recorder and hit record when the song came on. Often I’d get it wrong or someone would talk, or the dog would bark – and we’d have to repeat the same thing the next week. I ended up with a lot of theme songs and played the tape so much – and recorded so often in little short stretches – that it eventually became warped and unusable. But in those days, that’s where it ended. If I
wanted to know any more about a theme song I’d have to watch the beginning or end credits very intently and more often than not I’d miss the credit I was looking for!
Thank goodness for the dawn of the internet!! A two minute search told me the information I’d wanted all those years ago. Three versions of the theme song were used throughout the series’ run, which were performed by Larry Weiss (1984–86), Steve Wariner (1986–90), and Jonathan Wolff (1990–92).
On googling Larry Weiss, I discovered that not only had he sung the “Who’s The Boss”
theme song, he also wrote and performed the very popular country song “Rhinestone
Cowboy” before Glen Campbell did his version of it.
Both of these songs have impacted my life and it was incredible to discover the
connection between them. Here’s the Larry Weiss original version of Rhinestone Cowboy!
I had to know more, so I fired off an email to Larry and was thrilled to receive a response very fast! I have been very struck by his humility and modesty!
I think Rhinestone Cowboy’s about surviving and overcoming hardship, and having ambition and working hard to reach the top. Would you say this is true? What inspired you to write the song?
I really put two ideas together. The first was about what was going on in my life..I wanted to be a more recognized writer and possibly a singer songwriter which didn’t happen then. The second was my love of the cowboy culture as a kid. The Saturday afternoon movie heroes such as: Tex Ritter (my favorite Country & Western singer), Roy Rodgers, Gene Autrey, John Wayne, Buster Crabb, and so forth. And by the way..my favorite song is ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’.
“THERE’S BEEN A LOAD OF COMPRIMISIN’ ON THE ROAD TO MY HORIZON” – that’s a magic line in a magic song! I think anyone on earth can relate to this. Was this based on something you were or had been going through at the time?
The answer to that was in the second verse, ‘there’ll BE a load of compromising on the road to my horizon’. That philosophy was the reason Glen recorded the song.Sure he recognized the commercial viability of the chorus, but it was the power of those lines that mattered most to him. Actually, I had the whole song written excluding that last line change. It took me some months to arrive at it. Sometimes us writers just download a bunch of stuff, some mental..some spiritual..it’s the spiritual that make the difference.
Let’s face it there’s a bit of a difference in selling textiles (your family business) and performing from your soul. How did you get into the entertainment side of things?
I grew up in a house that played all kinds of wonderful music. From Classical, to show tunes, Blues, Folk, and lots of Jazz. I couldn’t tell one fabric from another and I think my father finally saw the light, and financed my first little demos. I began to hang out on Broadway in Jack Dempsey’s right next to the Brill Building. The late Wes Farrell, was working for Roosevelt Music, and encouraged my writing, and the rest became a slow history of wonderful experiences and growth.
Rhinestone Cowboy was your own single which charted off your debut album “Black and Blue Suite” in 1974. How did you feel about Glen Campbell picking it up a year later?
Back then I had mixed feelings about it. A number of my contemporaries called me and told me that I had the definitive version, but in retrospect how could I possibly complain having one of God’s greatest entertainers wind up singing it, and being branded by it. Some say my name attached to that song seems strange..unless they would have called me the ‘Rhinestone Rabbi’ 🙂
Rhinestone Cowboy’s an internationally recognised song well known to all generations. It broke the mould of country and charted mainstream. Was this something out of the ordinary for a song to be extremely popular both mainstream as well as country?
Not at all. After all, Ray Charles had tremendous success against all odds singing classic
Country songs that went Pop, R&B, and A/C. The only difference I think, is that Glen’s record was very Pop, crossed from Pop into Country. I believe that happened because Glen is a true Southerner (Arkansas), and luckily for me, the phrase learned after
moving to Nashville, had been around since the late 50’s, when the great couture’ designer, Manuel, made up some of the most dazzling rhinestoned outfits for country singers, and later, Rockers as well. So, I kinda fell into it with what I wrote, and what it wound up meaning for people.
How did Rhinestone Cowboy change your life?
I got cards and letters from people I didn’t even know..and royalty checks galore.. !
At a very similar time (mid 70s) John Ritter was answering a question about how he would like to be remembered, by saying he would like to be remembered as someone who tweaked the golden thread of humanity. You are somebody who has definitely done this and in potentially a very unassuming way. Your songs and lyrics have touched generations and nations. I think particularly the country genre is something that touches people. Would you say this is something you wanted to do intentionally or always had in you?
Yes I would. Inspirational is something that comes through to me, because I need it as much as the next person might.
I’ve seen that Nat King Cole and Barry Manilow have also worked with your songs. What a great experience! Does working with other artists and not exclusively limiting your work to yourself expand your reach and your message to the world?
I did not meet Nat ‘King’ Cole, but was so honored to have him sing one of my songs so
early in my writing career. Barry is one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever met. And
’Lay Me Down (Roll Me Out To Sea)’ is one of his all time favorite songs. It’s a rather sad/
dark song, at least the way I intended it. It was in my first album, ‘Black & Blue Suite’.
The first time he performed it was at the Universal Amphitheater in L.A. I was in the
audience of probably 20,000, and before singing it, he mentioned that, ‘he hoped I was feeling better since I wrote it’..I reminded him about that when I saw him here in Nashville a few years ago..he remembered the moment too.
Brand New Life
I think that Who’s The Boss’ theme song had a large deal to do with the success of the show. The song is catchy, uplifting (again about someone being able to make a new start for himself and achieve greater things) and we all knew it instantly. How did the opportunity come about to do that?
A buddy of mine, Errol Sober, who I’ve written with and rides both sides of the desk, creative and business, was an agent at the time, and suggested to the show’s producer that I sing the theme. When they decided to change the singer, there a bit of flack about it from the public. My Mom sent me a piece of the Newark Star Ledger showing some fan complaining about it. Cute..huh?
Did the success of the show affect your career in any way?
Unless it’s a very recognizable singer, and a theme that steps out to become a hit, no one really knows who sings a TV theme. No one except you!
You were part of a team that got it right. I always used to wonder if it was Tony Danza
singing the song. This is another instance where you have touched the golden thread by being involved with a show that so many love and remember. Please describe the
experience of being involved in the show and doing the song. !
I was thrilled to be a part of it in my own small way..but my participation was merely overdubbing a track in the studio..did not meet the cast..until years later when I met Tony Danza.
You’re quoted on your website as saying “Art has no age. It’s ready, when it’s ready.” I LOVE that. It kind of makes me feel that unfinished manuscript I have sitting somewhere on this computer could still be born one day. It actually kind of takes the stress off that we tend to put on ourselves trying to get things done. Is that why you waited a while between your two albums – just to give yourself time to get it right?
I haven’t really given myself a chance to develop a performing career..I was busy living life..raising a family..getting a movie done..working on a musical (“Rhinestone Cowboy The Musical’), and developing the Rhinestone Cowboy brand in other ways, i.e a hotel franchise. But I felt it was time to do a continuation, and I feel more confident vocally
so I’ve taken the plunge. The album has been out a few years, but it’s finally starting to get some attention both here and abroad. I hope to have a tour of sorts next year.
I actually have a Christmas single out in the UK getting some play, called ‘Christmas Without You’. (available HERE in iTunes)
You relocated to Nashville in 1992 and it took a while to become a successful decision. But something drove you to keep going and you produced “Cuts and Scratches”. Please walk me through that album.
I was burnt out on L.A. If you ever heard Glen’s last single on Capitol Records,
‘Hollywood Smiles’, you would have heard my point of view. I haven’t had much
success as a writer in Nashville..yet, so I decided to make another album. It’s quite
personal and deep if you check out the lyrics..a few of the songs in it will be part of
my song score for the musical. I’m also pulling a few songs from my first album. My
youngest brother Mitchell calls me ‘the recycler’..I hoping that I am..
You speak of battling through the depths of depression at that time. I’m a fellow sufferer and have been to hell and back myself – did you find that the new album helped with this?
Depression is something you’ve learned and a lesson you have re-learn to overcome
it..if success would be the only cure for it, I’d have to be successful all the time..am
not at that level professionally…yet. So I work it from the inside out one day at a time..try to catch the reasons I might fall victim to it and ‘change the channel’ whenever possible. The most valuable commodity one has in life …is time..all the money in the world can’t buy it back..
I’ve heard about a Rhinestone Cowboy Musical – please tell us more about this?
I can’t discuss the story line, because I’ve been living with it for some time and see no
reason to give it away..but I will say that it’s inspirational..colorful..poignant..and
identifiable..the the reason I wrote the song.
What’s in the pipeline for you now?
Getting my projects done. And..they are on the way!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL FROM THE ‘RHINESTONE RABBI’..LARRY WEISS
Find out more and follow Larry’s activities on his very informative website here