Jingle Fever

You deserve a break today You're so near and far away Get up and get away To McDonald's

Dan Alexander says he is one of the most famous unknown people in the world. Bill Flores says he can't go anywhere in the country without hearing his songs on the radio. Singer Ginny Redington has earned over $100,000 for her songs and she never sees her tapes in the stores. And no matter how hard he tries not to, Clark Womack always goes home singing. They lead the Jingle Life.

In almost 20 years Womack has sung every letter in the alphabet at least 10 million times. He might warble 50 different melodies on a good eight-hour jingle day. "When I go hom, I even snore Jingles," says Womack.

Otday jingles are the melody of American capitalism. Virtually every nationally marketed product has a jingle to go with it. One half of top-40 radio programming is a jingle, and almost 60 percent of all television commercials have a catchy melody. Jingles are big business. To the tune of $15 million a year america's up to its ears in jingles.

"I'll bet you've heard more hours of my music than any other writer in the world," says Steve Karmen, author of "Don't you wish everyone used Dail?" "I love New York," "When You Say Bud, you've said it all" and "At Beneficial (toot, toot), you're good for more." Marmen points out, "You couldn't get away from us if you tried."

"We're everywhere. It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on," says a general manager of a jingles factory.

If you were to take all the tape used for the production of jingles in one year, you could stretch it around the world seven times and have some left over. If you were to listen nonstop to all the jingles recorded for radio and television last year, it would take about 100,000 minutes.

Once Upon a Rhyme

Muuuuu - seeeeek ray-dee-oh, WABC!"

"When someone asks what I do, I just sigh," says Jonathan Wolfert, who is 27 and president of JAM Creative Productions of Dallas. "Most people think that the secretary and the deejays take their coffee breaks and sing these things."

Dallas is the world's largest producer of syndicated radio ID jingles and syndicated commercial jingles; with eight different companies producing more than 10,000 jingles a year, several hundred more than runners-up Memphis and New York.

In 1947 Dallas radio station owner Gordon McClendon asked the music director of his house band, Bill Meeks, to write a "catchy tune about our station." Meeks responded, "No worn out movies to watch, picture tubes to fail" and the radio ID jingle was born. Though commercial jingles had been flourishing since listeners here were asked "Have you tried Wheaties?" by General Mills and told Pepsi "Hit the spot" in 19388 singing about your own radio station became necessary in 1947 because of television. Now jingles have progressed from expendable accoutrements to lavish productions.

The days of moon-and-June lyrics and accompanying violin solo have passed. Jingles are now using Joseph E. Levine resources - 75 musicians in $200,000 studios with 2j-track tapings; a "Star Wars" vocabulary - "energy blocks," "controlled" and "activated flow," "powerful, suspenseful start to dark medium tempo rock, with huge button ending," and Francis Ford Coppola budgets-$50,000 for an exclusive set of tunes, $500 for syndicated packages and exceptional deals like the one where owners of five radio stations reportedly paid over $100,000 for their jingles.

"What's the use of having music that sounds good and then spoiling it with a rotten-sounding commercial?" says Jerry Atchley, general manager for TM productions.

The William B. Tanner Company of Memphis promises a "jingle for every occasion." With over 3,000 jingles, their library offers over 100 commercial categories ("We've got the chainsaws that do it all"), more than 120 image ideas ("We really stand out with outstanding value"), 100 holiday and special event jingles, 430-plus fanfares, 440 musical backgrounds, nearly 300 singing one-liners and more than 1,100 sound effects (from sonar pings to Indian war dances). All with a message that sells and sticks.

Radio stations with jingles have a 25 percent larger market share than stations without jingles.

Or take the case of Church's fried chicken. After three months of playing their new jingle on radio and television, sales jumped 67 percent.

Prices for jingles also have become sophisticated. In most cases a radio ID jingle like "muuuu-seeeek ray-dee-oh, XBC!) is a syndicated melody which different stations in one of the 600 radio markets use by inserting their call letters in the pre-recorded tune.

It takes about 32 hours of production and recording to produce a pilot syndicated package of jingles, and prices vary from $500 to $2,500 depending on a station's location and the size of its market. Occasionally, however, a station like KABC in Los Angeles, which has a format considerably different from other stations in their market, will spend up to $50,000 for an exclusive set of jingles. Fairbanks Broadcasting, owners of five radio stations, pay over $100,000 for thei jingles.

The Pizazz Singer

We march to a different drummer,

We live by a different song,

We would like to fill your world with

the volins of summer,

But they won't let us stay that long.

We sing the song between the songs

On Radio U.S.A.

We're the name of souls who fill the holes all over the U.S.A.

Barry Manilow. He writes the songs that make the whole world sing. First he rote and sang for McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box. Now he writes and sings for the Top-40. Broadway shows. TV specials. Sold-out nightclubs and concert halls.

Time was when the kingdom of jingledom was frowned upon by the stars. The people like Manilow, Glen Campbell (Clairol) and Melissa Manchester (Pepsi) began using the Big Mac and others to wangle their way from anonymity to stardom. Waren "Werewolves of London" Zevon once warbled for Gallo wine.

Now the stars see the jingle bucks Paul Anka croons for Kodak, Lou Rawls chants for Budweiser, Memorex has Ella Fitzgerald while Florence Henderson sings for Wesson Oil. Copies of the Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles version of Coca-Cola jingles are collectors's items worth several hundred dollars. Now, more than ever, stars jingle and jingles star.

But more often than not they are the unsung heroes; they hear their songs from coast to coast on television and radio, some of them earning over $150,000 a year, and even their own mothers don't recognize them. "You wouldn't know them from left field," says jingle producer Kevin Gavin, for th jingle singer anonymity is part of the game.

"I don't want fame or recognition on the street," says Bill Flores, a 28-year-old jingle singer. "I just want to sing and be recorded and be paid for it. And being in this business you get to sing almost anything you want."

In 1968 Ginny Reddington was singing with Good and Plenty which had a small hit, "Living in a World of Make Believe." After the group broke up she became a staff writer for Screen Gems, where Mac Davis and Carole King were working. Now Redington's a 32-year-old New York jingle writer with 30 different jingles on the air including Johnson's Baby Powder, Holiday Inn, Schweppes diet ginger ale, and National Airlines.

"Writing jingles is a much more creative, relaxing thing," says Redington. "And the money can be twice as good."

With residuals the Ginny Redingtons make well over $100,000 a year in royalties. There is no residual system for writers. "Stars like Kenny Karen (Pepsi, McDonald's, Buick, Chevy) and Leslie Miller (Toyota, Gillette, Ford) are reportedly i the $500,000-a-year range.

Marv Shaw, who has been a group jingle leader for 15 years, says that jingle singing is not for everybody.

"Some of the most successful commercial singers in the world couldn't make it if they tried. It requires a discipline few people have. A jingle singer has to be able to change notes and styles suddenly. We don't have 3 1/2 minutes to get a message across. It has to be done in a few seconds."

Musicians who've played in large groups and have a good voice usually make the best singers. "They know how to harmonize in a group and work together," says Shaw, who once played in the Dorsey Brothers swing band. "It's really good training for any singer."

Singer Flores says that he listens to the radio and television for commercials. It isn't unusual for a fellow singer to ask him, "Hey did you hear that soap jingle last night on television?" or, "Have you heard the latest Pepsi tune?" Jingle singers sometimes party to different jingles.

And on some occasions, jingle singers have been able to see their creations on the pop charts. "No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In,) and Alka Seltzer melody by the T-Bones, made the top-10 and the Coke jingle, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," became an international hit. And at least one jingle has made Broadway. In the play "equus" the only way the psychotic kid could communicate with his psychiatrist was by singing the Doublemint chewing gum jingle.

Track Time

Why drive all over town

What's the kid to do

We got hot

We got the hots for you.

"Play it back!" yells group leader Bee Barton on the floor of the Memphis studio as a group of engineers peer from behind a NASA-like control board in a glass booth. "We're not getting enough reading on the trumpets. Let's play it again and stack it when the brass come in. We've got to get this track down."

The group of 10 musicians plays the 30-second melody which is part of a syndicated package for sporting-good stores. To the outside listener it sounds like a perfect track, but on hearing the playback, Barton catches a flaw.

"Those flutes are way off," yells Barton, 38, who has written several Clint Eastwood movie scores, including "High Plains Drifter" and "Play Misty for Me." "Now let's do it again and see if you can't come down an octave back there. You're way too high."

Two slat houses away in the block of buildings which is known as "Termite Terrace" at the William B. Tanner Co., blue-jeans-clad jingle writer Garry Wells, with boots propped up on the desk, slams the phone down.

"Agency people!" yells Wells, a large beefy man with collar-length black hair. "Your get these people out of college who have a Ph.D. in creativity. Studied to be creative. STUDIED TO BE CREATIVE!" he repeats incredulously. "You can't do that!"

As the 49-year old creative director for the William B. Tanner Company, Wells has written over 1,000 jingles, many for national advertisers, but mostly for regional markets. He is asked about a jingle he did for D-Con Exterminating Co.: "Take a rat to lunch. Feed him D.Con . . ."

"Oh yeah, that was weird," says Wells, who once sang professionally. "When the D-Con people came to Memphis they had nothing on their mind. We wracked our brains and couldn't come up with anything either. Finally, in a desperation effort we all went out for lunch. And it hit me" and Wells' eyes open wide, 'Hey, how about take a rat to lunch?'"

Wells says his ideas come only after becoming familiar with the product he's writing about. Demographics, market position, company personality, and public image all are studied before he writes the lyrics, which usually come out of a conference of writers.

Diversity is the key, according to Wells. To demonstrate he plays four different versions of the same "Majic Market" jingle on his reel-to-reel recorder. The first version, for the middle-of-the-road market, sounds discoey, light and mellow, with a smooth brass backup. The second version, for the country market, sounds like a backwater Jerry Reed singing, and ends with a "Y'all here now?" The third jingle, for the rhythm-and-blues stations, is a black, funky tune, with what sounds like the old Supremes. A fourth version is in Spanish. "The whole message is that Majic Market has a tremendous supply of hot foods." says Wells. "We get the idea across with a catachy tune and with the right ethnic slant. After all, you can't reach the black market with Pat Boone."

It takes Wells anywhere from a couple of hours to four days to write the lyrics and compose the music. Although he puts in long hours for jingles, Wells says he would never think of doing anything else.

"This is a fun business, but you've got to be a little crazy to do it. If someone is successful in this business you know they're going to be talented, have a healthy ego, be deomstrative and aggressive."

Does he become endeared to the products he writes about?

"Oh sure I do," he says with a grin. "I eat Church's fried chicken, stay at Holiday Inns, drive Avis Rent-a-cars, eat Jimmy Dean's sausage for breakfast."

"Garry," interrupts an office aide, "There's a guy on the phone from the 'Clean 'N' Easy' face cream company who wants to know about his jingle. What do I tell him?"

Wells pauses for a few seconds, leaning back in his leather chair, then breaks into a chorus: "We put the squeeze on pimples. . ."

Outasight Music

Here's the weather from outer space

As we head to the moon in haste

Clear to partly starry with a meteorite shower

With rings of moondust on the hour.

When the Tanner Company sent a jingle aboard the Apollo 12 moon mission yet another galaxy came under jingledom. As for the future of the jingle industry, sources say that electronic music (like the NBC Evening News jingle) will come more into play. Jingles which are known as "corporates" (like the Burlington Industries tune or the IBM musical signature) are being used frequently these days. These electronics jingles often are used to promote the image of a company, often to counteract some unfavorable publicity they have received.

For the past 20 years Harry Wayne Mcmahon, an international advertising consultant for over 600 clients in 31 different countries, has been ranking the top 100 commercials for a magazine called "Advertising Age." He says the jinglers' future has never looked brighter.

"Back when I started off the rule was if you had nothing to sy, then sing it," says the elderly McMachon, who has around 20,000 commercials in his files. "Since then these jingles have made a strong comeback. Roughly 42 percent of my top 100 are now jingles."

Mcmahon admits that getting his top 100 is not easy. He judges the commercials on their originality, their effectiveness, and their memorability. Although McMahon refuses to disclose this year's top five before the official announcement date of Jan. 308 inside jingle sources say the odds-on-favorites are Budweiser, Dr. Pepper, Handi Wipes, Western Electric, Pepsi Cola, and Coca Cola. CAPTION: Illustration 1, Oh, I'd love to be an Os-car May-er wie-ner, Copyright (c) Oscar Mayer & Co., 1965; Pictures 1, 2, 3, and 4, Jingle singing stars, clockwise from top left: Barry Manilow, Lou Rawls, Glen Campbell and Ella Fitzgerald; Illustration 2, Get Wild - root Cream Oil, Char - lie, It keeps your hair in, Copyright (c) 1947, by Colgate-Palmolive Co.