A thing we quite like around here is odd connections. Doing two equally famous and incredibly different things gets you more recognition than doing a bunch of vaguely similar things. There’s also the ever-popular “if they did nothing else” merit, where one specific aspect of someone’s career would itself be worthy of note even if they hadn’t done anything else. Fred Steiner may not be a name many of you know, but he is solidly at the conjunction of those two points. He has done two things, and both of them are things that would be worthy of discussion even if those two things were all he’d ever done.
Before we get to them, let’s also discuss another popular idea around here—that there are some jobs worthy of note that don’t get mentioned a lot even though they absolutely shape the pop culture landscape as we know it. So before getting into those two things you definitely know, let’s take a minute to discuss stock music, which Fred Steiner wrote in spades. This is a place where his work—as with his work as an orchestrator—is almost certainly incomplete on IMDb, but he’s listed there for both works by Coleman Francis and The Twilight Zone, and the nature of stock music is that it’s possible those used literally the same music.
But okay, enough stalling. Let’s mention his two compositions that odds are pretty good you can hear in your head. In 1957, he wrote a little tune called “Park Avenue Beat.” Because, he said, he pictured Perry Mason as being a flamboyant, film-noir type, and his tune fit the character as he envisioned Perry. The theme would be rerecorded for the made-for-TV movies and used as long as Raymond Burr portrayed the characters. Which means my actual children can hum this one, having watched a lot of the show with me.
The other, slightly different, show does not appear to have a specific name to its theme. However, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (or however you choose to write the name) does have an iconic theme. He’s listed as a composer for the series, but as established, this is a place where my regular sources are sadly incomplete. Did he also do the themes for Dudley and Mr. Peabody and so forth? The best I can do you is a solid maybe. Going into “Soundtrack” lists him as credited with the Dudley Do-Right theme, because they used it in various movies, but other than that, we’re kind of grasping at straws, here. It’s deeply frustrating, especially given our stated goal of discussing the more obscure people—really, Fred Steiner hits a lot of our goals, doesn’t he?
He also, relevant to the people whose living we’re celebrating at this moment, wrote the music for more episodes of Star Trek than anyone else. If he did any for Deep Space 9, the Trek we’re actually covering right now, you couldn’t prove it by me, as established. Hard to figure all this out, as I’ve said. But he lived long enough, at least, and could have. If it were me, I would’ve seen if I could get him to write at least a little for the Tribble episode, even though he didn’t write the music for the original “Trouble With Tribbles.” Just to do a little continuity, admittedly something that episode makes it quite clear Star Trek has never been the best at.