It was "Maverick" that made Garner a star, and once he was, he got out of his contract so he could try other kinds of roles. Despite moving on to a variety of roles in romantic comedies and action films, he ended up typecast as…James Garner. When he returned to television, he basically played the same glib, pacifist as he did on "Maverick," a guy who didn't like to fight…but was good at it. He also didn't like to hire lawyers, but was good at it. He sued to get 14 million bucks in back royalties on "Rockford Files."
Although he played good ol' boys and Western heroes, Garner was a lifelong Democrat and a big fan of weed…once claiming that he toked up most every day. Yes, there was a lot to like about James Garner…one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. And he even autographed a photo for me years ago.
His two most popular TV shows had very famous theme songs. "Maverick" was a typically catchy Warner Bros. hack job with fairly awful lyrics…though not any worse than the embarrassing ones for other WB shows such as "Sugarfoot" ("once you get his dander up…") or "Lawman," which proclaimed, "The lawman came with the sun. There was a job to be done." The dopey "Maverick" lyrics included the badly rhymed "Riverboat ring your bell, Fare thee well Annabelle." Only New Yorkers could get something out of the line "Living on Jacks and Queens," if they mis-heard it as "Living in Jackson (Heights), Queens."
As for Johnny Gregory (born Gregori, and still with us at 89), he was a versatile orchestra leader who imitated the 101 Strings (for his "Cascading Strings" albums), and sometimes called himself Chaquito (for Latin-tinged lounge music, but also for sassy TV theme cover albums). His version of "Maverick" was on an early (late 50's, obviously) album of Western TV themes.
It's memorable for being fairly idiotic. For some reason, his choir of dopes don't actually sing all the lyrics…but two guys who don't remotely sound like James Garner or Jack Kelly, turn up to intrude with such pearls as "Hello Bart." "Hello Bret."
Later as John Gregory, he was still specializing in TV theme albums when "Rockford Files" came along, and again, he contributes an interestingly mediocre cover of it. What made "Rockford Files" such a memorable theme song? The weird combination of a synthesizer and a harmonica. Apparently with access to neither, Gregory tries to substitute, without success. But that's the fun of "cover versions." Maybe.
Fare thee well, James Garner.
Maverick Johnny Gregory
Rockford Files John Gregory