Little House on the Prairie

‘Little House on the Prairie’: How Michael Landon Borrowed the Theme Song From a Classic TV Western

It turns out that the theme song from Little House on the Prairie came from another classic TV series. And the move was all thanks to lead star Michael Landon.

The tune first debuted in a 1971 episode of Bonanza titled Top Hand—an instalment that Landon starred in as ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright.

In the story, a sinister rancher tries to steal a cattle-driving gig from the Cartwrights’ foreman. And as the show opens, we see a beautiful shot of the herd walking across a river, through a valley, and then into a pen.

All the while, a beautifully emotional score composed by David Rose plays in the background. And it was so memorable that Landon knew it needed to open his wholesome family drama three years later.

Michael Landon, who appeared in all 430 episodes of Bonanza, brought many things from the classic Western to Little House on the Praire, including a long list of guest stars. So asking Rose to write his new theme song was an easy task.

And over the nine-year course of the Ingalls televised adventures, the composer continued to add his work to episodes, which helped created the emotional legacy of Little House on the Prairie, according to Michael Landon: The Career and Artistry of a Television Genius.

The ‘Little House on the Praire’ Theme Song Enjoys a Lasting Legacy

And Michael Landon had a good ear. Because while working on the show, David Rose went on to win a couple of Emmys. Rose won the Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in both 1979 and 1982. But of course, his accolades didn’t begin or end with Little House on the Praire.

He also won one Emmy for a 1971 Bonanza score and another for lending his skills to a TV special called An Evening with Fred Astaire. And he also earned himself five more nominations between 1959 and 1985. David Rose even got two Oscar nods for his scores in the films Wonder Man and The Princess and the Pirate.

However, it was that Little House on the Praire theme song that gave him a place in classic TV history. The theme song has been revisited in earlier shows such as The Jetsons and more modern hits like Family Guy and That ’70s Show. And, of course, it all makes sense. Because from the moment you first watch those famous opening credits, the tune is immortalized in your head for a lifetime.

And if you need proof, go ahead and listen to the piece below.

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