The History of the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song
Despite airing for only three seasons, from September 1964 to April 1967, Gilligan’s Island is a sitcom that has become permanently embedded in the American cultural landscape. Because of this, the Gilligan’s Island theme song has become one of the most popular television theme songs of all time.
The song is frequently referenced in the maritime tourism industry to this day, due to the repeated lyric “three hour tour”, and many passengers finding it hilarious to make these comments to the crew upon boarding the vessel.
“The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” was composed by George Wyle in collaboration with the show’s producer, Sherwood Schwartz, who contributed the lyrics.
As you probably know, it’s a catchy singalong jingle that introduces the plot and each of the characters’ respective roles on the island, on and after that fateful day aboard the S.S. Minnow.
Three Different Gilligan’s Island Theme Songs
Interestingly, there were three different versions of the Gilligan’s Island theme song used throughout the show’s short run. The one you’re likely familiar with is the final version of the song, which was performed by The Eligibles and used for the final two seasons.
The Eligibles Version (Seasons 2 and 3)
However, there was another version of the song, performed by a group called The Wellingtons. This version was used only in the first season of the show, and it features a slightly different arrangement and melody, plus a difference of lyrics.
At the end of the song, when naming all the characters, you’ll notice that instead of naming the professor (Russell Johnson) and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), they simply sing, “And all the rest!”.
It was reportedly changed at the request of Bob Denver, also known as Gilligan himself, who told the studio that he wanted them to take his name out if they would not include theirs.
The Wellingtons Version (Season 1)
Finally, in the original pilot episode, which was recorded in 1963 but did not actually air until 1992, there was yet a third version of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. The pilot episode featured a song called “Castaways”, composed by John Williams.
Williams later gained fame for his work on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and E.T., and today is seen as a legendary film score composer. The pilot’s theme song was ultimately replaced by “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” when the show was picked up for a full season.
John Williams Version (Pilot)
Despite the fame and later work of John Williams, I’d say it was probably a good choice to use a different song for the actual show, as the style isn’t as much of a fit in the pilot theme.
Although, even the epic theme song that made it into the final production couldn’t save Gilligan’s Island from being canceled after three seasons.
Check out below a video of Gilligan’s Island producer Sherwood Schwartz (rather dryly) discussing the creation of the show’s theme song:
Legacy of the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song
While the show itself may have been short-lived, the Gilligan’s Island theme song has remained culturally significant, with references both in popular culture and every day aboard touring vessels in the maritime industry all across America.
Contributing to this legacy is the fact that there have been several spinoffs, TV movies, and of course, re-runs of the show in its entirety that spanned for decades.
Most notably was the fact that it aired on TBS from 1986 to 2003, a time when many more Americans were able to see it than could have possibly had a chance to see it in the 1960s. This led to a familiarity with the song among several generations who hold memories of the show close to their hearts.
Gilligans Island Theme Song in Other TV & Film
There have been many references to Gilligan’s Island and its theme song in other TV shows and movies o over the years.
In season 4 of Beavis and Butthead, the two imbecile protagonists find themselves “stranded” on a desert island in the middle of a shopping mall, while the song’s theme plays each time a card is displayed to show how long they’ve been stranded:
In a 1993 episode of the Animaniacs, a parody version of the song and the shows intro is portrayed as part of the plot:
The popular 1995 film Jumanji also features the Gilligan’s Island theme song during a scene when Alan is depicted shaving in the bathroom:
There have been several other uses of the Gilligan’s Island theme song in popular culture over the yearsin including an episode of Golden Girls, and more.
Gilligan’s Island Theme Song Covers
There have also been a few covers released of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, including one by the rock band Bowling for Soup (known for “1985”) on their 2005 album Bowling For Soup Goes To The Movies, and more, which you can check out below.
Bowling For Soup – “Gilligan’s Island Theme” (2005)
Tommee Profitt – Gilligan’s Island (Dark Epic Cover) feast. Nicole Serrano
Wasteland 3 Soundtrack – Gilligan’s Island Theme Song Cover
And now, as one final silly note to close things off, we have a mashup of the Gilligan’s Island theme song with the classic Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven”, as composed by Puddles Pity Party.