Ronnie Hazlehurst

Master of the TV theme tune


Ronald Hazlehurst, composer: born Duckinfield, Cheshire 13 March 1928; twice married (two sons); died St Peter Port, Guernsey 1 October 2007.

A distinctive and appropriate theme tune is a crucial component of a successful television series. It reflects the nature of the programme and if it is a comedy, the music itself should cause an anticipatory smile, as well as alerting viewers in another room that their programme is starting. Ronnie Hazlehurst was a master of this, writing, arranging and conducting the music for many of the BBC's biggest successes including The Two Ronnies, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Yes Minister and Last of the Summer Wine.

Hazlehurst was born in Duckinfield, Cheshire, in 1928. His father was a railway worker and his mother a piano teacher. Although Ronnie went to a grammar school, he left when he was 14 and became an office clerk in a cotton mill. Despite working long hours for £1 a week, he found time to play the cornet with George Chambers' band and, when offered £4 a week, became a professional musician. The band made regular broadcasts on the BBC Light Programme, but Hazlehurst left when Chambers refused to give him a raise.

During the 1950s, Hazlehurst was a freelance musician around Manchester, before the bandleader Woolf Phillips employed him as his deputy at the Pigalle nightclub in London. He also began working with Peter Knight, head of music for Granada TV, but when Knight left Granada a year later, Hazlehurst's own position came to an end. To make ends meet, he worked on a record stall in Watford market.

Hazlehurst was then appointed a BBC staff arranger, making his first significant contribution on The Likely Lads in 1964. He wrote the music for the TV play Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton (1965) and the series It's a Knockout (1966). In 1968, he became head of music for Light Entertainment.

Hazlehurst was particularly skilled at writing theme music, always trying to get the music to fit the title. For example, the theme rises and falls at appropriate moments in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin (1976) and he used the sound of a cash register in the melody for Are You Being Served? (1972).

Sometimes, when a production was over budget, the music had to be made for the minimum cost. An ingenious example of Hazlehurst's skill was the use of two piccolos to relate the title of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973) in Morse code, but he had to fight to get the second piccolo.

The music invariably indicated the comedy to follow, but a glorious exception is his theme for Last of the Summer Wine (1973), which reflected the tranquillity of the Yorkshire Pennines and the gentle pace of the stories. Hazlehurst composed and conducted the incidental music for over 50 episodes of the sitcom. He also wrote the majestic melody for To the Manor Born (1979) and in 1980, used Big Ben's chimes as the inspiration for Yes Minister, where his theme music was accompanied by Gerald Scarfe's acidic caricatures.

Hazlehurst also wrote the themes for The Two Ronnies (1971), the first series of Only Fools and Horses (1981) and the generation-gap comedy Three Up, Two Down (1989). He wrote the music for the inane quiz series Blankety Blank (1979), which was hosted first by Terry Wogan and then Les Dawson, and also came up with the signature tune for Wogan's talk show. He was a man with a good northern sense of humour and he loved Spitting Image mocking him as the man with a four-second attention span. In truth, Hazlehurst was devoted to the music of Delius.

Hazlehurst wrote the introductory music for the BBC's coverage of the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and he arranged and conducted Clare Torry's performance of Dolly Parton's "Love Is Like a Butterfly" for Butterflies in 1978. He performed a similar service for Paul Nicholas who sang the theme song for the comedy in which he starred, Just Good Friends (1983).

Hazlehurst was often involved with the Eurovision Song Contest and was the musical director when it was hosted by the UK in 1974, 1977 and 1982; he conducted the British entry on several other occasions, notably for Michael Ball's "One Step Out of Time" in 1992.

Spencer Leigh

Ronnie Hazlehurst will be remembered by those musicians fortunate enough to have worked with him as much for his professionalism and mastery of his craft as for his generosity and personal modesty, writes Terry Johns.

A student of mine at the Royal Academy in 1976 showed great interest in the now famous "rise and fall" theme for the Reginald Perrin series. Knowing that I was the horn player who had recorded it for the BBC, he asked me to write out the melody for him and to give him some tips for negotiating its wide intervals.

When I told Ronnie about this, he was genuinely and modestly surprised that there could be such interest in his music in academic circles.He was a man almost devoid of personal pride or arrogance and always embarrassed by praise. A week or two later, my student was astonished to receive a beautifully written manuscript of the melody with piano accompaniment, inscribed by the composer with a message of encouragement for the future. Ronnie was always supportive to young musicians and he never forgot his own early struggles, or his friends.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant / Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Welsh Speaking Learning Support Assistant

£70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Welsh Speaking Learning Support Assis...

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker