Diegetic Discographies: Crime Jazz

Have you ever heard a character perform a song in a movie or on TV and thought, “I want to hear that song again, but this time I want to hear it on on my fancy home stereo system, or maybe in my car as I drive to work in the morning?”

Or perhaps you’ve heard a character perform and wished you could find other recordings by the same (fictional) artist?

Audiences have sought out recordings of music they first heard in movies and on TV for pretty much as long as movies could talk. And studios and labels have always been happy to oblige — not least in those cases where the music was performed onscreen by fictional characters in the movies and shows.

The Diegetic Discographies series tracks real-world releases of music by fictional artists from particular eras or select corners of the diegetic (or “source”) music universe. In this entry, we look at music performed by characters from 1950s and ’60s TV crime shows. If you’ve been searching for recordings by Peter Gunn‘s Edie Hart or Hawaiian Eye‘s “Cricket” Blake to play in the car during your morning commute, read on!


Peggy King: “Any Questions?” (1955)
Columbia Records

In a February 1955 episode of the seminal police procedural, Jack Webb  as Sgt. Joe Friday interviews a possible witness to a murder: Betty Martin, a singer working in a nightclub, played by Peggy King. Before she can talk, Martin says, she needs to go onstage and sing a number. The song is “Any Questions?,” King’s new single in the real world, the publishing for which happens to be owned by Webb.

Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

Lola Albright: Dreamsville (1959)
Columbia Records

While Dreamsville is not presented as an album by Edie Hart, the nightclub singer played by Lola Albright in Peter Gunn, it offers vocal arrangements of music Henry Mancini wrote for the series and subsequently orchestrated for Dreamsville — one of the few times he worked with a singer outside of a movie soundtrack. We’ll call the LP a quasi-official entry in the discography.

Lola Albright: The Jazz Singer on the ‘Peter Gunn’ TV Series (2017)
Fresh Sound Records

This latter-day release collects Albright’s two albums from the 1950s — Lola Wants You (1957) and Dreamsville (1959) — but the real attraction is the addition of performances taken from the series, complete with the original dialog.

Bourbon Street Beat (1959-1960)

‘The Baron’ Plays Bourbon Street Beat (1959)
Warner Bros. Records

The title of the soundtrack album to the 1959 series Bourbon Street Beat suggests it is performed by the character called the Baron, the piano player and bandleader in the New Orleans nightclub where the show’s detectives are based. (It doesn’t appear that Eddie Cole — Nat King Cole’s brother — who portrayed the Baron in the series and was himself an accomplished musician, plays on the album.) I’m not entirely certain which songs from the release are source cues and which are score. I’ll update this entry once I track down and watch the show.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas: 15 Great Christmas Favorites Sung By Warner Bros. Stars (1959)
Warner Bros. Records

By late 1959, the fledgling Warner Bros. Records had only two hits to its name: an album and a single from the popular detective series 77 Sunset Strip. So it only made sense that the label would return to the TV show well for a Christmas release. We Wish You a Merry Christmas offered spirited renditions of holiday songs by twelve actors from the studio’s many detective series and Westerns — including one by Eddie Cole (“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”). The actors aren’t necessarily performing in character so we’ll also call this release a quasi-official entry in the discography.

Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963)

We Wish You A Merry Christmas: 15 Great Christmas Favorites Sung By Warner Bros. Stars (1959)
Warner Bros. Records

The Warner Bros. Christmas album includes performances by no fewer than three actors from the 77 Sunset Strip spinoff Hawaiian Eye, two of whom — Connie Stevens and Poncie Ponce — portrayed singers on the show. Stevens sings “Away in a Manger” on the album; Ponce sings the Hawaii-inspired Christmas song “Mele Kalikimaka.”

Hawaiian Eye (Original Music and Stars from Warner Bros. Hit Television Show) [1960]
Warner Bros. Records

The original soundtrack album from Hawaiian Eye offers performances by the same three of the show’s stars, with Stevens and Ponce, at least, presumably in character.

Connie Stevens: As ‘Cricket’ In The Warner Bros. Series ‘Hawaiian Eye’ (1960)
Warner Bros. Records

Peter Gunn had Mother’s, Bourbon Street Beat had New Orleans nightclub the Absinthe House, and Hawaiian Eye had the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village Hotel. Every episode of Eye offered a musical interlude with Connie Stevens as “Cricket” Blake performing a song. As the title and the cover art suggest, As Cricket… could be something of a concept album: a recording of the character’s act in the Shell Bar.

Poncie Ponce: Poncie Ponce Sings; also released as Kim Of Hawaiian Eye Sings (both 1962)
Warner Bros. Records

The character of Kim was a singing, ukulele-playing cab driver who helped the series’ detectives solve crimes across the island. Released relatively late in the series’ run, this album has Kim singing a dozen pupule (“crazy”) songs: songs like “My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua Hawaii,” “The Pidgin English Hula” and more.


Arthur Lyman: “Katsumi Love Theme” (1958) and “Return to Paradise” (1960)
Hi-Fi Records

In February 1962, vibraphonist and exotica pioneer Arthur Lyman joined Hawaiian Eye both as music supervisor and as a cast member performing as himself in the Shell Bar. (Lyman and his group regularly headlined the real-world Shell Bar in the real-world Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel.) The songs he played on the show included new arrangements of at least two songs he had previously recorded and released: “Katsumi Love Theme” from the album Taboo (1958) and “Return to Paradise” from Taboo 2 (1960).

Staccato (1959-1960)

Elmer Bernstein: Staccato (1959)
Capitol Records

Johnny Staccato is a private detective very much in the Peter Gun mold. But instead of hanging out in an L.A. jazz club, he frequents a club in New York’s Greenwich Village. And instead of being only a fan of the music, he’s a performer — a pianist who often plays in the club. The Staccato soundtrack album includes (I believe) four songs performed onscreen in the series: “Poi and Juice,” “The Jazz at Waldo’s,” One Before Closing” and “MacDougal Street Special.”

Surfside 6 (1960-1962)

Margarita Sierra: “Cha Cha Twist” (1961)
Warner Bros. Records

Like Hawaiian Eye and Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside 6 had a central location where its characters could gather and listen to music, in this case a club called the Boom Boom Room. Unlike the two earlier series, though, it didn’t produce an LP attributed to the character who performed in the spot — Cha Cha O’Brien, played by Spanish actress Margarita Sierra. Warner Bros. Records did release this single, recorded by Sierra at the height of the Twist dance craze and introduced by her character in an episode of Surfside 6.