Emmy-Winning Composer Earl Rose to Score Doc About Johnny Carson (Exclusive)

Johnny Carson-The Tonight Show-1982
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Pianist and composer is tasked with writing original music for two-hour documentary “American Masters -- Johnny Carson: King of Late Night.”

Emmy-winning composer and pianist Earl Rose is writing the original score for the documentary American Masters -- Johnny Carson: King of Late Night.

The two-hour documentary is written, directed and co-produced by two-time Emmy winner Peter Jones and scheduled to debut May 14 on PBS. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Carson taking over The Tonight Show from Jack Paar and the 20th anniversary of his retirement.

Rose’s knowledge of The Tonight Show began when, as a college student, he began working as an NBC page assigned to the program in the late 1960s.

He went on to be a part-time assistant music conductor, directly working for 20 years on and off for the show both in NYC and later in Los Angeles with bandleader Doc Severinsen.

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Rose has now returned to write his original soundtrack for the Carson years on The Tonight Show.

“Instead of a unique part-time gig, I got the ultimate full-time one … the entire score for this wonderfully rich documentary,” said Rose.

Narrated by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, King of Late Night features 45 original interviews with Carson’s friends, family and colleagues including second wife Joanne, Severinsen, The Tonight Show staff and other names including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin and Carl Reiner.

Jones and Rose most recently worked on the Peabody Award-winning PBS documentary Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times and TCM's Emmy-winning Stardust: The Bette Davis Story.

Rose’s résumé also boasts performing his own original music on Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve and music written for TV shows including Pan Am, Bored to Death, Sex and the City, ER, The West Wing and several daytime soaps.

He was also guest pianist with Elvis Costello, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

King of Late Night is a co-production of Peter Jones Productions and Thirteen’s American Masters for WNET. Susan Lacy created the American Masters series and is its executive producer.