An iconic American composer, Earle H. Hagen authored the scores for countless feature films, but placed his greatest emphasis on prime-time television programs, and racked up a larger number of composition credits in that venue than almost any of his contemporaries. Born in Chicago in 1919, Hagen moved with his family during boyhood to Southern California -- where his dad worked as a plumber -- and enrolled in Hollywood High. Hagen unveiled a prodigious musical ability from an early age -- one so advanced, in fact, that it inspired him to drop out of high school at age 16 and tour with the big bands of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and others, playing the trombone and baritone. Later, Hagen toured and played with the Ray Noble band (a period that witnessed him authoring the standard "Harlem Nocturne"), though shortly after he met his wife, one of her statements inadvertently encouraged him to drop playing and place his sole emphasis on composing and orchestrating.
Hagen then took a full-time assignment as an arranger for 20th Century Fox, specializing in musicals such as With a Song in My Heart (1952) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), but (as indicated) found his strongest and most defining niche on the small screen, where he projected a remarkable ability to hone in on the central themes and mood at the heart of almost any series program. He penned the scores for series that have since become American institutions, such as Make Room for Daddy, That Girl, I Spy, and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Hagen is most commonly associated, however, with his authorship of the folksy Andy Griffith Show theme, played atop black-and-white credit footage of Andy Griffith and Ronny Howard on a fishing trip; in fact, Hagen was the one actually whistling the tune. Courtesy of Daddy and That Girl producers Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard, Hagen also snagged the assignment of composing the theme for The Dick Van Dyke Show, with the famous riff that accompanied Van Dyke stumbling over and then sidestepping the ottoman in his living room.