When it comes to being iconic, the slappy-bass-and-horns theme to Seinfeld has to rank up there with the opening themes to Star Trek, M*A*S*H* and Sesame Street. Funny how we know so little about it. For example, that’s not a bass guitar.
VICE has the whole story.
Before writing the most iconic theme song in the history of TV sitcoms, Jonathan Wolff was playing in studios during the day and jazz clubs at night as a young professional musician in Los Angeles. But his utility talents in the studio, a hard work ethic, and keen business savvy allowed him to build a TV theme music empire in the heart of Burbank, California. Just a few miles outside of Hollywood and home to the entrainment industry’s biggest studios, Wolff composed theme songs for shows like Will & Grace, Married… With Children, and Who’s The Boss? It was also here, at his Music Consultants Group Inc., that the theme to Seinfeld was born.
Everyone knows Seinfeld’s signature slap bass theme, complete with all sorts of pops, clicks, and other mouth sounds that Wolff made with, you guessed it… his mouth. And most fans know that the theme was actually played on a synth, with all of these sounds recorded and sampled. But something that kind of shocked me, and made complete sense when I sat back and thought about it, was that the theme for each week’s episode was unique. Jerry provided the meat of the song with his opening monologue, and Wolff played a different variation along to it each time. Over nine seasons and a total of 180 episodes, that’s a lot of slappin’ da bass (but actually on a synth), mon!
We caught up with Wolff from his home in Louisville, Kentucky, where he has retired to with his wife and kids. We discussed what’s the deal with Jerry finding Wolff, monopolizing slap bass in TV, ZZ Top, and doing it yourself, among other things.