1981. Songwriter Gary Portnoy had just been fired as a staff writer from a major music publisher. His friend Judy Hart Angelo happened to meet a Broadway producer at dinner one night who needed a score written for a new musical he was producing. They decided to team up. Gary had never written for the theater, Judy had never written a song.
Somehow a tape of one of their demo songs found its way to Hollywood and the Charles Brothers. They thought it would be perfect for the theme of the new show they were developing, CHEERS.
But that’s not the song you know.
When the Broadway producer found out one of his songs was to be a TV theme he had a fit and legally blocked Paramount from using it. Crushed, Gary and Judy wrote new songs for CHEERS. But none of them connected the way the old one did.
Finally, after four or five rejected tunes they submitted “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” and that one struck a chord.
But even that’s not the song you know.
The original opening lyrics were changed to give it a more universal appeal. These are those original opening lines:
Singing the blues when the Red Sox lose
It’s a crisis in your life
On the run ‘cause all your girlfriends
Want to be your wife
And the laundry ticket’s in the wash
Once the song was written and approved there came the issue of who was going to sing it? Gary had sung the demo. There were those who wanted a big name and others who liked Gary’s rendition. With less than a month to go before the premiere it was decided that Gary would sing it and the arrangement would be simple just like the demo. Surprisingly, the Charles Brothers did not attend the recording session. We were all in the room writing one day when Glen Charles casually mentioned that they were doing the theme on one of the scoring stages. But their faith in Gary was rewarded.
The Portnoy-Angelo theme for CHEERS is one of the most memorable in TV history. Several weeks after the premiere Gary went back into the studio to record a full-length version of the song that actually made the pop charts.
Here’s that expanded version. To my knowledge it only aired on the show once, during the 200th episode.