Music Changes In "WKRP In Cincinnati"

A Guide To Music Changes In "WKRP IN CINCINNATI"

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If you've watched "WKRP In Cincinnati" on the Comedy Network in Canada, or on TNN in the United States, or on the commercial videotapes released in 1998, then you may have noticed that some of the music has been changed. You may have also noticed some dialogue changes, as in one episode that now has a nonsense line ("Hold my order, terrible dresser") replacing a quote from Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." This page will try to explain what's happened to the music on "WKRP," and why. Originally, nearly all the music played on the show was real rock music by real artists, both in "WKRP"'s CBS run and in the subsequent syndicated reruns. But in the last few years, a new package of "WKRP" episodes has been distributed, and much of the music has been replaced by generic instrumental music from a music library, or by sound-alike "fake" songs. Also, some of the dialogue has been redubbed by voice impersonators, usually when the actors were speaking over the music, but sometimes to remove references to songs that have been replaced. Since these "redubbed" versions of "WKRP" first appeared, the questions that have most often been asked are:

1) Who did this?
2) Why was the music replaced?
3) How come some stations still show "WKRP" with the original music?
4) Which episodes have had songs replaced?

Well, it's not the station showing WKRP, that's for sure. Back when Nick at Nite was broadcasting "WKRP," there were a lot of internet posts blaming Nick at Nite for changing the music, but in fact Nick at Nite was merely showing the tapes of WKRP they were sent; ditto for the Comedy Network and TNN. The music changes were made by the company that distributes WKRP.

As to *which* company that is, that's a bit complicated. WKRP was produced by MTM Enterprises, but in the mid-'90s MTM was bought out by Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment (which also owned the Family Channel in the U.S.), and then in 1997 International Family Entertainment was bought by 20th Century-Fox. Fox soon shut down the struggling MTM Enterprises. So currently Fox owns the rights to WKRP, and since the "redubbed" versions did not start to appear until the videotape set in 1998, a year after Fox bought MTM, I think it's quite possible that the music changes were made by Fox (other MTM shows, like "St. Elsewhere," also had some music changed around this time). But on the other hand, it's equally possible that the changes were made while MTM was the nominally independent but financially-strapped property of International Family Entertainment. If anyone knows for sure when the music changes were made and by whom, please write and tell me.

The simple answer is: Money. The reason WKRP was shot on videotape (unlike the other MTM sitcoms like "Bob Newhart" and "Mary Tyler Moore," which were on film) was that it was the only way they could afford to use a lot of real rock songs on the show. At the time, ASCAP had a different licensing arrangement for taped shows than for filmed shows; licensing the music for WKRP cost something like half of what it would have cost had it been filmed.

Well, the music licenses expired by the time the show was being prepared for re-distribution in the mid-'90s, and by then ASCAP no longer had a "discount" for videotaped shows. Also by then, the cost of licensing songs had skyrocketed across the board. So it would have been prohibitively expensive for the distributor to re-license all the songs used on the show. They certainly could have done a better job of replacing the songs they couldn't pay for, but it was inevitable that some of the songs would be gone due to rising costs, and that's all there is to it.

Strangely enough, sometimes music has been replaced even when it was generic music to begin with! Generic music was occasionally used on the show, mainly for fake commercials, but since the new distributors probably no longer knew exactly where some of that generic music came from (and since even stuff from a music library has to be paid for), they frequently replaced it with generic music from their own music library. This of course is not as bad as replacing real music, but I'll note it when it happens.

Some local TV stations still show "WKRP" episodes with most of the music intact (but with two minutes cut from every episode). The version of "WKRP" that these stations are showing is the old syndication package, prepared in the '80s when a lot of the music licenses were still intact and licensing the music was cheaper anyway. This package apparently still can be shown by stations that already have it, but it's not actually being sold anymore and is gradually going out of circulation. When channels order "WKRP" for the first time, they're sent the new package with the "redubbed" music.

One thing to be noted is that the syndicated episodes were not completely free from music substitutions. In the syndicated version of "Pilot, part 2," for example, two of the three songs played by Johnny were different from the ones he played in the CBS airing, though the "main" song--Bob Segar's "That Old Time Rock N' Roll"--was intact. Still, the old syndication versions, while sometimes brutally cut, had more of the original music than we're ever likely to hear in WKRP reruns again, so if someone's showing those versions in your area, I'd suggest taping them while you can.

Some of this list is based on educated guessing (it's often easy to spot a piece of stock music or a scene where actors' dialogue has been re-recorded), some of it on comparing the "new" music in a scene with the real music in the old syndication version. There may be a few changes I missed, or a few real songs that I mistook for substitutions, but I know I have most of the changes listed here. Episodes are listed here in order of production:

Episode 1. "Pilot"
A Ted Nugent song (the very first rock song Johnny Fever played on
WKRP) is replaced with generic music. (Interestingly, though, the 
Nugent song is intact when this scene is repeated in two other
episodes--"Mama's Review" and "The Creation of Venus." Which proves 
nothing except that the process of licensing music for this package 
seems to have been pretty haphazard.) At least that's Howard 
Hesseman's real voice saying "booger."
  In the tag, the song Venus plays has been replaced.

2. "Pilot, part 2"
All songs have been replaced with generic music.

3. "Preacher"
All the songs Johnny plays have been replaced.

5. "Les On a Ledge"
The song Johnny plays at the beginning has been replaced.
  The generic music for Les's introductory fanfare has been replaced
with different generic music.

7. "Hold-Up"
All songs replaced. Andy, Herb, and "Bob Boogie" have some of their 
lines dubbed over by voice impersonators.

8. "Turkeys Away"
Two songs (the ones Johnny plays just before and just after the 
turkey drop) replaced.

9. "Goodbye Johnny"
All recordings replaced, and Les has a line dubbed over by a voice 
impersonator ("No time for pleasantries, Johnny, we've got an 
emergency here"). The first song Johnny plays (which is repeated at
the end of the episode) was replaced in the '80s syndication version
as well.

10. "Johnny Comes Back"
Two of the songs Doug Winner plays have been replaced, and two of 
Johnny's as well.

11. "Love Returns"
The first song Johnny plays at the beginning of act 2 (originally a Ray
Charles song) has been replaced.

12. "I Want To Keep My Baby"
All but two of the songs in this episode have been replaced, often 
by "soundalike" songs, that is, songs that have lyrics and seek to 
mimic the mood and theme of the songs they're replacing. Example: At 
the end, "Your Smiling Face" is replaced by a song that starts "I 
just can't wait to see the smile on your face." 
  Some footage has been cut to eliminate Johnny's announcements of 
songs that have been replaced.

13. "Fish Story"
One of the hardest-hit. All songs are replaced, and all of Johnny's 
announcements are either dubbed over (so that "That was the Doors" 
becomes "That was the Swords") or cut.

14. "The Contest Nobody Could Win"
A bit of footage is cut at the beginning of the episode, to eliminate
one of the songs Johnny plays. A couple of other songs are replaced
by generic music, but, unusually, Johnny's announcements are not
dubbed over, so Johnny still announces "There's no holding back Eric
Clapton" even though the music he proceeds to play is not Clapton's.
  The song at the end of the episode is replaced by a reprise of the 
WKRP closing theme.

15. "Mama's Review"
Music is replaced in the clip from "Pilot, part 2."

16. "A Date With Jennifer"
In the big scene where Les tries on his wig, the song "Hot Blooded" 
by Foreigner has been replaced by a soundalike entitled "You're Much 
Too Much."

18. "Young Master Carlson"
The theme from the movie "Patton" was originally used as a running
gag throughout this episode; it's been replaced by generic trumpet
music.  [Thanks to Jon Stadter for pointing this one out.]
The song Johnny sings along to in the scene in the booth has been 

20. "A Commercial Break"
The songs at the beginning of act 2 are replaced. Some dialogue 
between Johnny and Bailey is dubbed over during the music, and 
Johnny's subsequent announcement has been changed from "That was the 
Coasters in a classic vein with 'Young Bloods'" to "That was the 
Young Bloods in a classic vein with 'Coasters.'"

25. "Carlson For President"
The music just before Carlson's campaign commercial is replaced with 
a recording of a piano playing very fast in a vaguely '50s style.
  The music that accompanied Carlson's commercial was originally the
theme from "Star Wars"; it's been replaced.
  The generic music that accompanies the beginning and end of the
debate scene is replaced with different generic music; because of
this, some of the host's lines are dubbed over.

26. "For Love Or Money"
At the beginning (when Bailey walks into the booth) "Bad Case of 
Lovin' You" is replaced with what seems like a soundalike (something 
about "I'll bring the blanket and six pack of love"). Bailey's first 
line and Johnny's reply appear to have been dubbed over by voice
  At the beginning of act 2, during the establishing shot of 
Jennifer's apartment building, Venus's voice-over has been redubbed 
and the music replaced.

28. "Bad Risk"
Songs replaced with generic music.

29. "Put Up Or Shut Up"
The song Herb sang as he exits the lobby in the teaser has been 
removed. They've also redubbed the line he says to Bailey as he 
leaves; it was originally "Hi, Bailey," but whoever was in charge
of the dubbing must have mis-heard it, because now Herb says (in a
voice that's all-too-clearly not his own) "Hi, babe." (Actually, I
kind of like that new line.)

30. "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered"
The song that accompanied the last scene of act 1 (with Andy pushing 
things off his desk) has been replaced. Bailey's line in this scene
("Nothing") has been dubbed over by a voice impersonator.

31. "Patter of Little Feet"
The "soft and sweet" song played at the end of the show was originally
"Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from the movie GIGI (notice that Venus
is holding the cover of the GIGI soundtrack album). However, at some
point in the middle of the original syndication run, and in all reruns since,
that song is replaced by "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters 
(which doesn't fit the scene nearly as well) and the dialogue is dubbed over. 
Why this change was made is beyond me; it can't be a money issue, since the 
Carpenters would presumably be more expensive to license than a song 
by Lerner and Loewe.

32. "God Talks To Johnny"
All songs replaced and all dialogue dubbed over during the replaced 

34. "Mike Fright"
Songs in the teaser and act 1 are replaced. A bit of footage is cut 
from the teaser (the shot where Johnny announces the previous song as 
being "The Sports with 'Who Listens To the Radio`"). The song Johnny
is playing when he first hears that people are dumping their garbage
(underscoring the scene where he and Venus are discussing football
odds) was first replaced in the '80s syndication version.
  The generic music in the commercials has been replaced by different
generic music.

36. "A Family Affair"
All songs replaced in the teaser and act 1. Some footage cut from the 
teaser to eliminate Johnny's announcement of one of the replaced 

37. "Jennifer's Home For Christmas"
Whatever Christmas-related song Johnny was originally playing at
the very beginning has been replaced with a piano playing "Jingle 

38. "Sparky"
The song Venus plays before Sparky's show is replaced; Venus's 
announcement is dubbed over (Originally "Yes, Brother Marlon, we are
the Survivors," it's been changed to "Yes, that was Brother Marlin 
and the Surf Riders").

39. "The Americanization of Ivan"
Music changes: Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" replaced. 
Dialogue changes: Every time Ivan quotes a line from the song "Tiny 
Dancer," it's replaced. At one point he calls Bailey "blue jean 
baby"; this has been changed to something that sounds like "Bejing
baby." Ivan's line "Hold me closer, tiny dancer" is replaced 
twice; the first time (to Bailey) it becomes "Hold me closer, [mumble 
mumble]," the second time (to Les) it becomes "Hold my order, terrible

41. "The Doctor's Daughter"
One song in the tag (the one playing at the very beginning of the 
scene, right before Johnny switches over to "The Long Run" by the 
Eagles) has been replaced, and Laurie's voice-over may have been 
redubbed during the replaced music. Otherwise, this episode's
music is surprisingly intact (Frankie Lymon, Bo Diddley, the Eagles),
and from this point on in the series the distributors appear to have
left in somewhat more real music than before.

42. "Venus Rising"
Two songs replaced in act 1 (one as Bailey leaves the DJ booth, the 
other played by the WREQ machine). Dialogue dubbed over during the 
replaced music.
  In the tag, the music is replaced with stock jazz music, but the
dialogue remains intact.

43. "In Concert"
The first few seconds of the teaser are cut (to eliminate the song by
the Pretenders that Johnny proceeds to announce), and the song
Johnny plays immediately after is replaced.

46. "Most Improved Station"
The song Johnny sings along to with the headphones is intact,
but when we briefly hear the music coming out of the headphones,
it sounds like stock music. Best guess would be that the
distributor licensed the song but not the recording. 

47. "The Airplane Show"
One instrumental song (playing in the first scene in the booth with 
Johnny, Venus, and Bailey) may be a substitution; I'm not sure.

49. "Real Families"
The generic music that served as the "Real Families" theme is replaced
with different generic music. The announcer's voice is redubbed during the
replaced music (which is unfortunate, since the original announcer was
Johnny Olsen from "The Price Is Right").
  This episode seems to have most of its real music intact, but one 
piece of music (playing as Bailey mentions Herb's "dancing ducks 
promotion") sounds like it might be stock music.

50. "Hotel Oceanview"
In the teaser, the song Herb is singing as he enters the lobby has 
been dubbed over.
  In the tag, the song that underscores the scene has been removed
rather than replaced, so there is no longer any music in this scene.
This makes it pretty strange when Jennifer goes over to the speaker,
which is now playing nothing, and turns down the volume on a song that
isn't there anymore.

52. "Bah, Humbug"
The song playing over the closing credits was originally a vocal 
version of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride"; it's been replaced with 
an instrumental version of the non-copyrighted "We Wish You a 
Merry Christmas."

53. "A Mile In My Shoes"
One song replaced (at the beginning of act 1). This song was also
replaced in the '80s syndication version.

54. "Baby, It's Cold Inside"
One song replaced (the one Johnny plays right before Mama Carlson 
orders him to play Gershwin). Mama Carlson, Herb and Johnny have 
lines dubbed over.

55. "The Painting"
There are two different "redubbed" versions of this scene. In some 
versions, the song playing in the scene in Andy's office is replaced 
with instrumental music. In other versions, the scene is left without
any music at all.

57. "Frog Story"
A song by the Kinks (act 1) is replaced with generic music. Johnny's 
announcement during the music has been changed to "These are the 
*Kings*, from was back in '64."

59. "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide, part 2"
In the '80s syndication version and all subsequent versions, the song 
playing in the lobby when Andy first enters has been replaced with 
generic disco music. The music stays at the same volume even after 
Jennifer turns down the volume on the speaker, and the subsequent 
conversation is practically drowned out by the music.
  The recording of "Ready Teddy" near the end ("nobody said you can't 
pick good music") has been replaced by a '50s-style generic piano

60. "Venus and the Man"
The song Venus plays in the teaser, by Candi Staton, has been replaced
and Venus's announcement has been changed to something like "Andi 

61. "Ask Jennifer"
This isn't actually a music change (there is no music in this 
episode), but the voice of Joan, the woman who calls Jennifer about
her philandering husband and is eventually beaten up by him, has been
re-recorded by a different actress. Compared to the quiet, meek voice
that was originally used, the new voice is stronger and more 
confident-sounding, almost inappropriately so. I have no idea why
this change was made; my best guess would be that MTM might
have lost the tapes of the original voice actress.

62. "I Am Woman"
The music that accompanies Venus's on-air announcement ("All you 
dudes who dig deco, start dialing") has been replaced, and Venus's
announcement re-recorded by a voice impersonator.

63. "Secrets of Dayton Heights"
The songs playing on Harvey's radio in the barbershop have been
replaced.  Harvey is dubbed over when he says "Hi" to Les.

65. "A Simple Little Wedding"
One song (in the striptease scene) seems to have been replaced with 
instrumental music.

66. "Nothing To Fear But..."
The song played at the very beginning (the one Johnny mis-identifies 
as "Dominique-nique" from THE SINGING NUN) has been replaced with
instrumental music.

67. "Till Debt Do Us Part"
The song playing at the very beginning has been replaced.

68. "Clean Up Radio Everywhere"
Mr. Carlson's video baseball game originally played "Take Me Out To
the Ballgame."  The song has been replaced.

73. "Straight From the Heart"
One song (underscoring a scene in the booth with Bailey, Johnny, and
Venus) may be a substitution.

75. "Three Days of The Condo"
The "Gone With the Wind" theme is dubbed over with generic music
whenever it's played instrumentally, though it's intact when Venus
and Johnny sing it.

80. "Pills"
The song played by the "guy on tape from Los Angeles" has been 
replaced. Johnny and Bailey's dialogue is dubbed over during the 
replaced music.

84. "Fire"
At the beginning of act 2, Johnny originally sang a line to the tune
of "Over the Rainbow"; it's been dubbed over with a different tune.

89. "To Err Is Human"
Act 1 now starts a few seconds late in order to eliminate the first
song Johnny plays. The second song Johnny plays is replaced
with instrumental music, but Johnny's announcement of the
group remains intact.

90. "Up and Down the Dial"
The first song playing in the first scene in the booth (underscoring
a scene with Herb, Johnny and Venus) seems to have been
replaced with instrumental music.


You might notice that the changes seem to become less and less as the series goes on, so that most of the music is intact in the fourth season, whereas most of the first season's music has been replaced.

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