When creative director Paul Brown, art director Lucas Nickerson and editor Jeremy Anderson met to discuss the best music that would accompany video for the new ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown “open” they were creating, they knew what they were looking for.
“We wanted something hip, funky, energetic, contemporary, that appeals to a young audience,” said Brown. “But it still had to maintain a classic rock feel that wouldn’t turn off an older NFL audience.”
As the creative team travelled to shoot the specialty video storyboards with the Countdown personalities — historian Chris Berman in a library, Cris Carter working out, a dapper Keyshawn Johnson being measured for a hand-tailored suit, et al, — Brown pored through catalogs of music.
Brown and his team eventually settled on Funk #48, the popular and durable music by guitar legend and songwriter Joe Walsh.
It was released originally in 1969 on the Yer’ Album, the first album by The James Gang.
They turned to ESPN music director Kevin Wilson to license Funk #48.
Wilson approached Walsh, who is an ardent football fan and a friend to Countdown host Chris Berman.
While his friendship with Berman opened the door for an easier negotiation, Walsh’s management leaned towards licensing Funk #49 — an iteration of the Joe Walsh’s Funk series release in 1970 on The James Gang Rides Again album.
“Joe [Walsh] was in studio, so I suggested he should write Funk #50. They loved the idea,” said Wilson.
“We got on phone and spoke for about 30 minutes after sending him a brief and sample video. He was amazingly positive and excited about the project.”
“The creative gods smiled upon us that day,” added Brown.
Walsh is now turning his specially recorded music for the open to Sunday NFL Countdown into a full-fledged song to be titled Funk #50.
The song serves as the audio bed upon which the specialty video of Countdown personalities is laid, forming a short and descriptive audio-visual brief that captures the essence of the three-hour, award-winning program.