By Clark Vinton, Admusic Magazine

The office looked normal enough...floor-to-ceiling glass walls accented by dark wood frames, parquet floors and muted green and wine-colored carpeting. I wasn't sure if I had entered a world-renown jingle studio or a lawyer's office! But as we got closer to ground zero (the control room), the sweet blend of singing voices waiting through the air let me know I had entered someplace very special.

Ken R. Incorporated is hidden in a non-descript office building in Toledo, Ohio and remains one of the better kept secrets in the advertising world. For the last 22 years, thousands of jingles created here have influenced the sound radio ads in over 200 markets in the USA and 12 other countries. Car dealers in Cincinnati, restaurants in Reno and jewelry stores in Jasper have all come to Toledo, Ohio for their broadcast image. And is there actually a person called "Ken R." somewhere in this picture?

There is. He is 48-year old Ken R. Deutsch, a former radio DJ and talk host, college drop-put and (according to Ken) one of the worst piano players ever to hit the bar circuit in 1968. While his background includes 10 years of classical training, performing was never his "thing." "If I had to make a living playing gigs l would starve. If I had to make a living singing, I'd be thrown in jail," says Ken, a soft-spoken man known to wear ties only under duress.

But here l was in a studio to witness the recording of three retailer jingles and four radio station ID packages (those short 6-second clips which sing "More Music... Kiss FM" for example) "Where's the band?" I asked. The answer is that the instrumental portion of the jingles is always recorded earlier. The singers on the other side of the glass listen to the music in their headphones and add their vocals in layers, building up an impressive wall of sound as they go.

Under the glow of a pink neon sign reading "Jingles," the red recording light pops on. The first take is tentative as the singers sight-read the music for the first time. The next take is much more solid, but still not quite right. Although I couldn't hear a problem, the singers and Ken did. They are all very, very picky about singing in tune, ending phrases together, and the blend of the voices. Finally a perfect take is recorded. Then the singers re-record the same phrase again on another track to add depth and sparkle to the sound.

The atmosphere in the studio is intensely focused but light-hearted. DJ, one of the three male singers, is quite a cut-up. Lisa, one of the two very pretty female singers, is pensive. She never quite seems satisfied until the singers hear the playback. Then she nods that all is well. Everyone seems to work together, yet with a constant eye on the clock.

I am impressed by the total lack of egos in the room. I've witnessed big recording artists throw fits  -- and ashtrays. These jingle artists aren't like that at all. While they may have discussions about musical points, it's never personal and always cordial. "I really look forward to these sessions," says Ken. "Lisa has been singing with us since 1979. Doug since 1980. Ben is a 14 year veteran. DJ has put in about 9 years and Amy is the newcomer at three years. Our jingles are very well-received and it's all because of these guys."

With only short hourly breaks the singing continues until the last jingle is complete. The vocal group then troops back into the control room for a final playback of the evening's work.

Big smiles all around. People are happy in Jingleland.

Graphic Version of the Original Article

For more information on PAMS jingles, go to the PAMS Website.
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