The unmistakable introduction, to Car 54, was the work of John Strauss, who wrote the music, and the theme song's lyrics were written by series creator, writer, and director Nat Hiken (was there no end to that man's talent!). 

NBC provided the backing singers for the classic ditty.  Rumours abound that the final, high-pitched, rendition of Car 54 Where Are You? was actor Jimmy Little, although this can in no way be proved!

The lyrics, by Nat, captured New York in all its frenzied geography. But they would never have been as enduringly etched in the public memory — had they not been set to John Strauss’ jaunty march-time crackerjack of a tune.  Melodically, the opening bars of Johns' theme song recalled the start of the second movement of Mozart’s G major Piano Trio (K. 564). As the song ended, the title question hanged in the air in plaintive treble.

In 1995, Strauss recalled that Nat Hiken, "came to me with words, and more or less of an idea of what he wanted. We actually worked together on the tune, to an extent. I knew that he wanted something simple and tuneful, so we worked on it untl we got it in the shape that he liked."


There's a holdup in the Bronx,

Brooklyn's broken out in fights;

There's a traffic jam in Harlem.

That's backed up to Jackson Heights;

There's a scout troop short a child,

Khrushchev's due at Idlewild!

Car 54, Where Are You?

The lyric "Khrushchev's due at Idlewild" referred to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev arriving in September 1960 at New York International Airport. It was named Idlewild at that time, now known as JFK. He was to attend the United Nations General Assembly (in 1963, after the end of this show's production and after the assassination of President Kennedy, the airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport).
  1. John Strauss
    John Strauss
There is also a mondegreen of the theme lyrics. One line has been misheard as "Khrushchev's nude and I go wild,"  (A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It most commonly is applied to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song.)​

Download the tune: Any problems regarding copyright please let me know ASAP.

Regular series tune (602kb)
Original full version  (596kb)