Friday, June 13, 2014

“Wonder Woman” theme singer interview (1 of 2): John Bähler

In your satin tights
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White, and Blue

For a while now, I’ve been interested in finding and interviewing the singer(s) of the iconic theme to the 1970s Wonder Woman TV show (1975-1979).

Thanks to Pat Evans, I learned the name of the male leadJohn Bählerand thanks to John, I learned of the background singers. One, Marti McCall, has passed away. Another, Carolyn Willis (70 this year and retired), did not respond to repeated requests. But the third, Julia Waters, gave an interview.

First, here is John’s:

How old were you when you sang lead on the theme song for season 1 of
Wonder Woman?

I was in my late 20s, maybe 28?

What else were you doing professionally at the time?

I was a “first call” studio singer and arranger. I was fortunate to have a pretty full schedule even though I was freelance.

Where were you living?

I think I was living in Studio City, California.

John and wife Janet Lennon, mid-1970s

How were you hired?

I knew Charles Fox from other TV themes I had sung for him and I think he called me directly.

Who were the other singers on the song?

Julia Waters-Tillman, Maxine Waters, and I believe Carolyn Willis was the third girl. [NOTE: According to Julia Waters-Tillman, the third was not her sister Maxine but rather Marti McCall, who, as mentioned, has passed away.]

Any funny stories from the recording?

Not really. Yes we had fun because we loved what we did for a living, but I recall being on a huge sound stage at one of the major companies (could have been Warner Bros.) and we were under a time restriction (as all sessions were) so we just got down to business and got the job done.

1970s (John second from right)

What did you think of the song?

I love all Charlie Fox’s compositions. He is the best. The song actually “sang itself,” meaning that it was easy to sing in our part and invited us to use all of the energy we could muster. I think the performance shows that.

What did you think of the show?

Lynda Carter was a terrific Wonder Woman, however I was so busy doing recording sessions (movies, TV shows, and record dates) that I had little time to watch television.

Did you ever meet Lynda Carter, and if so, how was that?

Unfortunately I never me Lynda. Wish I had!

What were you paid?

Union scale with residuals. We always worked for “scale.” It was simply what we did.

with Elvis Presley, circa 1968

Any photos from the recording?

I don’t have any pics from the recording (wish I did).

What are your most cherished/funniest Wonder Woman stories since (a reaction when someone you meet discovers you were the theme song singer, etc.)?

The reaction I get more than any other is a greater respect for me when people find out. It’s sad but true. However, I’ll take all of the respect I can get no matter how it comes!

What are you doing these days?

I’m semi-retired. I’ve been doing portrait photography for the last ten years and am considering retiring from that. I still do backup singing when I can and I still do quite a bit or arranging, both vocal and instrumental.

What do you consider your career highlight to date?

There are too many to pick one; however, one session stands out. I got a call to be at Paramount Studio M for a movie with Elmer Bernstein. When I got to the studio, I was chatting with several of the musicians I knew and when it was time for the session to start, I realized that I didn’t see any other singers there!

I walked into this gigantic sound stage with an orchestra of 50 or 60 and I noticed a small vocal booth set up between the French horn and trombone section. There I was, on my own, inside a small vocal booth with a microphone and a music stand smack dab in the middle of this huge orchestra. Elmer had written a part for me to enhance the trombones and French horn.

When at the end of the session I was reminded that there never had to be a re-take because of me, I really thought I had “made it” as a musician! How thrilling is that! And the really sad thing is…I don’t remember the name of the movie!

late 1960s

Where do you live?

We moved to Branson, Missouri over 20 years ago and we love it.

If you have kids, how many/how old and what do they think of your Wonder Woman role?

We have five children (our oldest is 50 and our youngest is 43), 12 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. I think my kids are proud of me and the various recordings in which I’ve been a part. I sure hope so.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

I was flattered! I’ve found that if you live long enough people will find things about your career and be inquisitive. I’m super proud of that.

Has anyone else ever interviewed about this? If so, when and for what publication?

Not specifically for Wonder Woman.

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

No, I haven’t but I would be happy to if invited.

How do you look back on the experience?

It was one of many like experiences. I look back with pride knowing I did my very best.

Anyone else connected with Wonder Woman you suggest I interview?

Not that I’m aware of.

Anything you’d like to add?

I would like to thank you for caring enough to ask me to do this interview. It’s kinda nice going back in time and remembering how special it was.


Unknown said...

This is outstanding! I am so honored to have been involved with Wonder Woman and Charles Fox! Thanks again for the opportunity to tell our story!

John Bahler

Alex said...

I just learned about this blog and it's fantastic!

Also, Wonder Woman was my favorite TV show and the theme song was the BEST. It's nice to learn who was the voice behind that iconic song!

Unknown said...

I loved the show and it is always a delight to learn more about the people bwhind the scenes, Thank you for posting this interview. More power.

NorCalSwami said...

growing up , this was one of the best catchy theme songs. Great great job on this. John Bahler should be at the conventions. He would be warmly welcomed.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered who the man with the great and energetic voice was that sang the "Wonder Woman" theme song and now I know! Sounded like you were singing for your life!

A.G. Bear said...

I just finished watching an episode of Wonder Woman! I've always loved that tv show. I was just thinking who sings the lyrics for that song? So I Googled and found this interview done with John Bahler that was posted. I'm glad I read it, I learned a lot and got a chance to finally see the artist after all this time. COOL!!! THanks for doing the interview!!!!!:)

A.G. Bear said...

I just finished watching an episode of Wonder Woman! I've always loved that tv show. I was just thinking who sings the lyrics for that song? So I Googled and found this interview done with John Bahler that was posted. I'm glad I read it, I learned a lot and got a chance to finally see the artist after all this time. COOL!!! THanks for doing the interview!!!!!:)

Unknown said...

I am curious, did John contribute vocals to the Wonder Woman slot machines that use the theme song? They are a rerecording but sound very much like him.

Unknown said...

Didn't the lyrics change slightly when the show switched from WW2 era to the 1970's? I'm curious if they recorded different versions originally or had to re-record at a later date.

Robbie in Tokyo said...

Thanks for this! The singing is wonderful. Always loved the theme song to this show, the vocals, instrumentation and of course the catchy lyrics were all 'Wonder' Full! ;)

I was looking up info on it today, since the writer of the lyrics, Norman Gimbel passed away this week.

I love the simplicity of the first season and prefer that most of all, above all the other season intros. That first season contains few or none of the flying audio foley effects or any of that. Just the groovy theme song and the comic book transition to the actors. I like that.

Best part of the intro is when Lynda changes from comic book to real life, runs up and smiles. It's magic. Lyle is great, too. That salute of his is one I copied when I went into the Air Force. Haha.