Composer W. G. “Snuffy” Walden: “Bartlet was the one guy that I could always play that theme for.”

W. G. “Snuffy” Walden is one of the most prolific TV composers of all time. You’ve probably heard his music backing Friday Night Lights, or My So-Called Life, or Nashville, or even Roseanne.

But he won his Emmy for the show he might forever be best associated with — The West Wing, which Walden infused from start to finish with orchestral grandeur, especially its deeply memorable theme song. Indeed, Walden’s West Wing music is so beloved that a two-CD version of his score was recently released, 18 years after the show debuted in 1999. (It ended its run in 2006, after seven seasons.)

Academy Of Televison Arts & Sciences Foundation's 33rd Annual College Television Awards - ArrivalsFrederick M. Brown/Getty Images
W. G. “Snuffy” Walden.

Walden neither writes nor reads music, so his journey from creating the folky acoustic score for thirtysomething to being lauded for the stirring Americana of The West Wing is a fascinating one.

But when he joined me for the latest episode of my podcast, I Think You’re Interesting, I was surprised to learn that he wrote the famous West Wing theme with something else entirely in mind, only to find it pulled out and used for the show’s theme song. (Remarkably, it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. A very similar situation occurred with “Angela,” the theme to the ‘70s sitcom Taxi, written by Bob James.)

As Walden explains:

We didn’t have a main title yet. People were writing songs. Randy Newman wrote a song for it. Different people were writing songs for the main title because we weren’t sure what it was going to be.

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