‘Cheers’: This Major Pop Star Inspired the Song ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name’

Cheers wouldn’t be the same without “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” one of the most famous examples of television theme music. In the same vein, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” wouldn’t be the same without a certain pop star. Why? A melancholy song by a famous singer inspired Gary Portnoy while writing the Cheers theme. Here’s a look at the vision the Cheers producers had for the song.

The cast of Cheers at the bar
The cast of Cheers | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Why the ‘Cheers’ producers couldn’t use the song they wanted for the show

According to Yahoo! Entertainment, Portnoy wrote a song called “People Like Us” for a musical called Preppies. The producers behind Cheers wanted Portnoy to rewrite the song so it could be the Cheers theme. However, Portnoy did not have the rights to the song so he had to write a new song. The Cheers producers had a specific vision for the new song. 

“They wanted something that evoked a smoky bar at 2 in the morning. So right off the bat, I’m thinking Frank Sinatra’s ‘One More for the Road.'” The song Portnoy is referring to is Sinatra’s “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Sinatra released multiple versions of the track in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Considering 1950s nostalgia was huge in the 1980s, it was smart to base the theme for a 1980s sitcom like Cheers on a 1950s song.

“One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”

The Cheers theme doesn’t sound much like “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” The former has some spark to it whereas “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is about as sullen as a pop song can be. However, Portnoy acknowledges that “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” starts out sounding downtrodden before lifting your spirits during its chorus. 

The odd circumstances under which Gary Portnoy recorded the song

The Cheers producers weren’t sure who should sing the song. “There was some debate as to whether I should sing it or whether they should try to get somebody famous, because there was nobody famous in the cast,” Portnoy recalled.

The Cheers theme

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Ultimately, the producers had Portnoy sing the song under unusual circumstances. “They just said, ‘Go in and do what you do, and try to recapture the sound on the demo’… they wanted us to keep that intimate, ‘bar at 2 in the morning’ kind of sound.” Portnoy recalled. “There were only four of us on this huge stage. It was kind of like standing on a football field.”

How the world reacted to ‘Everybody Wants to Know Your Name’

So did Portnoy’s artistic decisions pay off? “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” peaked at No. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on the chart for four weeks. Considering television themes rarely become pop hits, this was a huge achievement. “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” became Portnoy’s only song to reach the chart at all, making him the rare one-hit wonder whose one hit was a television theme. “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” became a classic television song — and it wouldn’t be the same without Sinatra.