Following Monday’s sad news of the untimely passing of producer/director, John Howard Davies, it started me thinking more about some of the individuals that have been a part of all of our British comedy lives for decades that we aren’t even aware of. We all know the talents of John Inman, Mollie Sugden, Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Felicity Kendal, Geoffrey Palmer, Judi Dench, Patricia Routledge, etc. They are our friends that we hang out with every week.
In most cases, however, there are countless individuals involved in our favorite comedies whose names we only know from the credits that roll by way too fast. But, their life’s work has been, and still is, very much a part of everyone’s comedy television viewing routine.
Ronnie Hazlehurst is one such name that you may or may not know, but you definitely will know his work. Ronnie was a composer and conductor who, having joined the BBC in 1961, became its Light Entertainment Musical Director.
As BBC Light Entertainment Musical Director, he composed the themes tunes of many British sitcoms and shows of the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Are You Being Served?, Yes Minister, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Last of the Summer Wine, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, To the Manor Born and Three Up, Two Down. He also arranged the themes for Butterflies, Sorry! and Only Fools and Horses. In addition, he wrote the theme tunes for the sketch show The Two Ronnies, the game shows Blankety Blank, Odd One Out and Bruce Forsyth’s The Generation Game.
The cool thing is that his theme tunes often included elements designed to fit the programs, such as a cash till in Are You Being Served?, rises and falls in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, a title-referencing theme for Last of the Summer Wine, and Big Ben chimes for Yes Minister. For Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Hazlehurst used Morse code to spell out the program’s title. During his BBC career he also composed the music for the opening of the BBC’s coverage of the 1976 Olympics.
Unfortunately, Hazlehurst passed away in 2007. Like John Howard Davies, Hazlehurst may no longer be with us, but his brilliant work will forever bring a smile to every British comedy fan each time you hear the cash till or Big Ben during your favorite program opening theme.