Print  RSS 
Oct 11

Ken Deutsch
10/11/2012 10:47:00 PM 

Jingle singers 1970s
'Hit it, girls!' A classic jingle vocal session from the 1970s.

The 1960s were turbulent years in our culture. We had the Beatles, protest rallies, miniskirts, pop art, psychedelic drugs and transistor radios. Coming from those tinny Stone Age personal listening devices was a mixture of sounds as chaotic as the decade. And God looked down and called it Top 40.

Most markets big enough to support a Dairy Queen had two AM rockers battling it out for ratings supremacy. Most of these stations played pretty much the same music and ran the same commercials. They had similar screaming personalities talking over the record intros. What made each station unique was its jingles, those little 20-second big band-style songs that sang the call letters, frequency and perhaps a slogan such as “Radio-A-Go-Go” or a host’s name, “Wolfman Jack!”

I owned a few “name sings” of my own courtesy of several stations where I worked, and believe me, that was one of the very few perks of being a jock at the time.

Each radio jingle was written appropriately for its function. A news intro almost always featured tympani and xylophone. Sports jingles were often scored in a 12/8 time signature, which is the cadence that identifies a march. We’re not talking subtlety here. The jingle had to tell you in just a few seconds what the next feature was. And jingle packages, a group of 20 or so similar cuts purchased as a set, were also specifically tailored for the different formats of the day, mostly Top 40, middle of the road or country.

ID jingles were usually not made by the station itself but by the skilled artisans of the jingle mills — singers, musicians, writers, arrangers, engineers and producers. The best-known suppliers of these musical haikus were surprisingly not found in New York or Los Angeles but rather in two “right to work” areas that weren’t so picky about using only union musicians.

Janie Fricke Trella Hart Gleni Tai Brian Beck Tom Merriman dinner 2008
Jingle veterans (L–R) Janie Fricke, Trella Hart, Gleni Tai and Brian Beck. Yes, Janie is holding my two jingle histories. I took this picture in 2008 at a dinner in Dallas honoring jingle pioneer Tom Merriman, of the 'TM' companies, amongst many.

From Dallas came such industry leaders as PAMS, TM, Gwinsound, Spot and CRC. In Memphis there was the mighty Pepper Tanner which made up for its relative low quality by offering easy-squeezy trade-out deals with stations around the world. For several years, Pepper Tanner, which later was called simply “Tanner,” also had a satellite studio in Dallas to take advantage of the pool of singers to be found there.

These musical novelties could be sung by mixed vocal groups, all-guy or all-girl ensembles; even children. Recording artists such as Barry Manilow, Rita Coolidge and Janie Fricke spent their youth toiling in the jingle fields before hitting it big.

Some of the most popular jingles weren’t sung by a voice at all, but by an electronic device invented in the early ’40s to aid people who had lost the use of their vocal chords: the Sonovox.

But the art of the jingle has been out of favor for years. People of a certain age, like me, fondly remember these little shots of aural energy; younger folks might look askance at the term “radio jingle.” For a refreshing blast from the past or, if you are unfamiliar, a little taste of what these jingles sounded like can be found at Ted Tatman’s JingleSamplers.com. Full disclosure, I contribute greatly to that site and just recently added some more prime, vintage, U.S. Grade A jingle goodness to it.

To hear me and several others ramble on the subject for three minutes, check out this NPR interview.

You can read my Radio World piece on jingle king Tom Merriman here.

For those requiring even more knowledge on the arcane world of jingles, I’ve written a couple books on the subject which can be downloaded cheap from Amazon. Check them out at my website.

Ken Deutsch is a retired jingle producer and historian.

 

Comments

Thank you for your comment. Please note that posts are reviewed for suitability and may not appear until the next business day.

Archive

December 2016 (2)
November 2016 (5)
October 2016 (7)
September 2016 (4)
August 2016 (6)
July 2016 (5)
June 2016 (3)
May 2016 (4)
April 2016 (3)
March 2016 (6)
February 2016 (4)
January 2016 (6)
December 2015 (7)
November 2015 (6)
October 2015 (11)
September 2015 (7)
August 2015 (8)
July 2015 (10)
June 2015 (14)
May 2015 (5)
April 2015 (6)
March 2015 (6)
February 2015 (4)
January 2015 (5)
December 2014 (7)
November 2014 (6)
October 2014 (10)
September 2014 (11)
August 2014 (14)
July 2014 (4)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (5)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (6)
February 2014 (7)
January 2014 (8)
December 2013 (9)
November 2013 (11)
October 2013 (9)
September 2013 (6)
August 2013 (5)
July 2013 (1)
June 2013 (4)
May 2013 (3)
April 2013 (2)
March 2013 (8)
February 2013 (8)
January 2013 (7)
December 2012 (3)
November 2012 (4)
October 2012 (7)
September 2012 (10)
August 2012 (4)
July 2012 (7)
June 2012 (4)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (10)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (6)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (5)
October 2011 (8)
September 2011 (9)
August 2011 (10)
July 2011 (6)
June 2011 (5)
May 2011 (7)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (9)
February 2011 (6)
January 2011 (7)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (3)
October 2010 (6)
September 2010 (10)
August 2010 (8)
July 2010 (7)
June 2010 (5)
May 2010 (5)
April 2010 (11)
March 2010 (7)
February 2010 (5)
January 2010 (4)
December 2009 (2)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (5)
September 2009 (6)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (3)
June 2009 (15)
May 2009 (8)
April 2009 (6)
March 2009 (2)
February 2009 (2)
January 2009 (1)
December 2008 (5)