When Terry Bush started his career as a professional musician back in 1964, he didn’t expect his musical legacy to involve a television show about a helpful German shepherd.
“I was part of a group called Robbie Lane and the Disciples,” says Bush, who’s now in his early 70s and splits his time between teaching guitar to children in Ajax, Ont., and managing the estate of his father, famed Canadian painter Jack Bush. “We played with Ronnie Hawkins after the Band left. Then we were on a TV show called It’s Happening. That was after we left Ron.”
In 1968, largely by chance, Bush dipped his toe into the world of advertising, writing a jingle for Baby Ruth chocolate bars with his friend Doug Riley. (Riley would go on to work with everyone from Ray Charles to Placido Domingo.)
“He and I had never done it before, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but it was a big hit,” says Bush. “I ended up doing jingles. I left the band and started my own jingle company, Terry Bush Productions. And I did jingles for things like the Eaton Centre opening, Ontario Place, the Commodore 64.”
It was while he was writing jingles that Bush was approached by producer Simon Christopher Dew, who was looking to do a remake of early '60s show The Littlest Hobo for CTV.
“He said ‘I’m redoing The Littlest Hobo, that show that was on in black and white for a couple of years. We’re doing it in Canada and we need a theme song,’” says Bush. “So then I wrote the song, and everybody hated it.”
And with that, Bush assumed his career in theme songs was over. CTV went to New York to hire a jingle writer there, who wrote what Bush calls “a jazz-type theme.” To this day, Bush still doesn’t know what the network executives didn’t like about the song.
“I thought it was bang on,” he says. “You had the whole feeling of the Hobo running down the road, the lyrics were fabulous. They were written by a friend of mine who worked in advertising, named John Crossen, we worked on a lot of things together. I thought he absolutely nailed it.”
As it turned out, the show’s creators were equally unsatisfied with the new theme song, and came back to Bush, asking him if they could re-work his theme.
“We re-recorded a couple of times and it got closer and closer, and eventually they said ‘Well, can we do something different?’” he says. “And they went with a more orchestral arrangement. It was quite country the way I had it. And it turned into the version you know.”
Wisely, Bush fought to keep the songwriting royalties for the song, just in case.
“I tried to keep the publishing royalties, too, but they wouldn’t go for that,” he says.
Bush went back to writing jingles and didn’t give a ton of thought to his song until almost two decades later, when his co-writer, Crossen, told him that the song was being used in a commercial in the U.K.
“It was used in an ad for the National Westminster Bank,” he says. “It was hugely successful and it won awards and it was a really cute, animated ad. So I contacted CTV and said, ‘Hey, you’re using our song.’ And they said, ‘Yes we are, but we own those rights,’ and I said, ‘No, you don’t.’”
Unbeknownst to Bush, “Maybe Tomorrow” had taken on a life of its own in the U.K. Britain had been one of the show’s biggest export markets, and the theme song had become an institution of sorts. It was covered by bubblegum pop group Scooch, as had several other bands. Drinkers sang it in pubs at closing time. There was even a karaoke version. Bush realized that his old TV theme could be worth something.
“I quickly re-recorded the song as a three-minute version and put together a CD and put it online,” he says. “So I made my CD and made a website, and then I started getting these letters, and I’ll tell you, they were just the most touching things.”
Amazingly, the song’s renewed popularity didn’t stop there. In 2011, it was used in another successful British commercial, this time for Dulux Paints. The ad caused a renewed interest in the song, which shot to number one on the country charts for both iTunes and Amazon in the U.K.
“My wife even took pictures off the computer, so I could say ‘There it is, number one,’” he says.
Bush says he’s still amazed at the effect his song has had on people, and that what he loved most about the song’s second run at fame in the U.K. wasn’t the money he made; it was the way people responded to him.
“I was humbled and amazed,” he says. “It was people saying, ‘I love your song’ and ‘Every time I hear it, I cry.’ ‘Oh, I remember it from when I was a kid, and every time I heard it, it gave me hope because it’s just so positive.’ It was one letter after another, all of them just wonderful.”