This article originally appeared in the Pulse of Broadcasting in 1986

Ben Freedman passed away in January, 2013 but up until the final days of his life he was dedicated to world of jingles.

Between 1980 and 1996 I worked with him producing re-sings of PAMS jingles until the rights were retained by Jonathan Wolfert, president of JAM Creative Productions. You can read that whole story here.

This article is being republished with the caveat that much of what Mr. Freedman said in this piece may not have been accurate. It is best to read this as "Ben's version of the truth."

Ken Deutsch
August 5, 2016

"PAMS" Jingles -- Then and Now

Ben Freedman with his wife, Noreen

Q: If you were in radio prior to 1972, chances are the jingles you played on your radio station came from PAMS. When a new PAMS package was released, stations fought and scrapped to snap up exclusive rights for their market like starving dogs for a scrap of sirloin. PAMS truly was the king of jingles -- and now PAMS is back -- the old jingles and some brand new ones. Ben Freedman says he has rights to the name and the tracks along with the reverence for the quality and tradition of the company. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of PAMS in Dallas. Texas, in 1946, we talk with the inheritor. Ben, historically, how did PAMS come about?

A: In 1946 it was a combined effort of Bill Meeks and Gordon McLendon to do a jingle package for KLlF, Dallas. Gordon, who owned KLIF, knew Bill Meeks and his sister who used to do a live country program on the station singing country songs, and somehow Bill and Gordon got the idea of singing some jingles about the call letters of the radio station and this had never been done before. The idea was so exciting that Bill exited the radio performing business to start up PAMS.

Q: And the name of the company. There used to be so many rumors about who "PAM" was and so forth, but the letters stood for something, didn't they?

A: Yes. The name PAMS stood for Production And Merchandising Services. Since then, we've modified that to mean Production And Marketing Services, which has a little more contemporary feel to it.

Q: So the first PAMS jingles were for KLIF?

A: Yes, PAMS Series One was targeted for KLIF using the singers that were performing on live radio -- radio in those days had acts in and out of the station all day and the first jingles were recorded in the KLIF studios on a wire recorder.

Q: I don't know how many readers even know what we're talking about here but preceding tape recording was "wire recording." Radio, in those days, used these machines -- most of them made by Webcor (Webster-Chicago, lnc.) -- grey machines in a maroon case on which a spool of wire, much like fishing line, would wind off through a bobbing record/playback head served much as tape does today to record and play back sound, and feed through to a large grey take-up-reel on the right of the head. The head bobbed up and down to distribute the wire evenly on the reels so it wouldn't snag or tangle, but it generally tangled anyhow. So, Ben, the jingles for Series One were recorded on wire then dubbed to disc or what?

A: Exactly, mastered on wire and played from disc.

Q: Do you still have Series One-and is it still on wire or what?

A: Oh, we have it, sure. And it's transcribed onto a tape. Then in the early 1950s they went to a three-track format on half-inch tape somewhere in that period -- late 40s/ early 50s. Those tapes we have, too, which we've mixed down to standard two-track. But there's very little demand for series one through series 13. We've done some, mostly for WLNG out on Long Island in Sag Harbor which bought almost 400 PAMS jingles so they really had to get into those early series.

Q: With any phenomenal success comes rumors and there was a rumor that used to circulate that series one through five were destroyed by fire or something and were lost forever. So that's not true?

A: It may be partially true, I don't know. All I do know on that score is that we have a number of the tracks. There are still a number of the tapes that we bought from the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service) auction that have yet to be mixed down.

Q: PAMS was the standard of excellence for many, many years-yet they went out of business. Can we talk about that -- and how you came into possession of the tapes -- and the trademark?

A: What happened is PAMS was going like goose grease all the way through the mid 1970s. When they went under it wasn't necessarily because of lack of sales. It was just, as far as I can see, a mismanagement problem. They had some financial stretching going on and Bill Meeks was unable to make his Federal Withholding tax payments and because he couldn't make the payments the I.R.S. came in and put a lock and chain on his door and it ended up that the net worth of PAMS was not as much as PAMS owed the I.R.S. After all, the company was made up mostly of tapes and goodwill, not a lot of fixed assets, so they impounded all the master tapes along with the equipment and desks.

Q: A lot of people claim they were the ones to acquire those tapes, though, after that closure.

A: The rumor was that Toby Arnold had somehow acquired these tapes before the auction and that the auction actually didn't have anything to do with the masters -- or the PAMS rights -- and people thought Toby was going to go ahead and start PAMS. That was late 1979/early 1980. Well. it turned out that my associate, Ken R. Deutsch, and I were turned onto the real truth of the matter by Mike Neff, Program Director of WGY.

Q: Mike Neff was always a PAMS fan -- in fact, in the 1970s he used to make composite tapes of hundreds of PAMS jingles strung together from stations all over the world and swap them with other jingle collectors like Ron Harris.

A: Oh, yes. Mike was one of the biggest jingle collectors and the samplers he sent around the country were classic. So one day, Mike mentioned to Ken, my partner, that those tapes had been sitting in a warehouse in Richardson, Texas for about a year and a half and they had a lot of value and should be looked into. Meanwhile, l'd been to Dallas in the summer of 1980 talking with Toby Arnold about his plans for PAMS.

Q: And his plans were?

A: He told me he was going to mix down his tapes -- and he did, indeed, have tapes but not all the big, glorified master jingle tracks that we were looking for. His were mostly commercial tracks.

Q: Mike Neff headed you toward the real tracks -- and you bought them? How did that come about? Did you buy them from the government or who?

A: Well, they were acquired them from the company that bought them at auction. They were bought by a broadcast school called National Career Consultants. Ken Deutsch made three trips and loaded up thousands and thousands of reels of tapes into it and drove away.

Q: Did the school realize what they were selling?

A: They kind of knew what they had but they didn't know what to do with them. It takes somebody who knows jingles and knew the PAMS Library to be able to go through the thousands of tapes and mix down the appropriate tracks, know how to sing over them and then, subsequently, to know how to market them.

Q: Let's go back to the acquiring of the tapes from National Career Consultants for a minute here. I'm not totally clear on that. They had bought the tapes...and the rights with them?

A: They had bought 30,000 reels of tape with the intention of either selling the tapes off to the producers or something like that. In fact, they were set to put an ad in Billboard Magazine to sell the tapes but they just hadn't gotten around to it.

Q: They had gone to the I.R.S. auction?

A: Yes, and they were the only bidder. It was an unpublicized auction, and it took place September 8, 1978.

Q: How much did they pay for the tapes in the auction?

A: That I really can't disclose, but I'll tell you we paid a lot more than they did. I will tell you it was a very low figure -- under $10,000.

Q: You're obviously not just doing this for the money -- you love it.

A: Absolutely, it's a labor of love. The reason Ken Deutsch and I decided to do this thing was because we felt that PAMS was too great to die and there was no other company that carried forth that sparkle and high image PAMS had. Our big challenge was not just to resurrect PAMS; it was to actually make it better than the original, and I certainly have the testimony now from hundreds of stations to whom we've sold both old and contemporary material that we're right up there in the tradition.

Q: Historically, speaking of tradition, PAMS was the first -- or one of the first --companies to offer different logos to stations using the same basic jingle. In other words, one basic jingle had a hole in it and the singers could sing the WLS in Chicago theme which melodically as well as lyrically was different from 77 WABC. At what point did that come into play?

A: Series #14 was the first series to feature the variable logo and that was quite a revolutionary thing PAMS invented, guys like Jodie Lyons were in on the ground floor blazing the trails and the early singers like Frank Bloebaum, Jean Oliver and Jackie Dickson crafted the PAMS sound with Glenni Rutherford with her special sound.

Q: What about Sonovox. Did PAMS invent that and is it a copyright protected PAMS word?

A: The answer is no. The wife of the inventor, Gilbert Wright, brought Sonovox to PAMS. It started with series 18, the KFWB package, the one everybody remembers as the epitome of the sono sound. The package was named "Sono-Sational". We call it "electronic voice" or "sono voice" here or Sonovox, and I don't think there's a trade name on it. The sono units we use are either in Dallas on my friend Ken Justiss' unit or at our studios in England with Barry Charnley who is the managing director of PAMS International. We have a tremendous overseas market -- we've done Radio Luxembourg, Magic 102 and Q102 in Dublin, Radio Denmark, Radio One in Helsinki and so forth.

Q: You still use some of the original "PAMS Gang" as singers, don't you?

A: We've used guys like Jim Clancy with that deep voice, one of the original singers and Dan Alexander who sang right up until his recent retirement and Brian Beck who still sings for me.

Q: A lot of people don't know [PAMS singer Trella Hart] had a record out on Capitol in the early 1970s that never went anywhere. She was the voice on the Swiszle package. What was the biggest selling PAMS package in history?

A: I think that's a toss up but I can tell you that series #18/Sono-Sational and #27/ The Jet Set, were overall the most famous PAMS packages. Next might be #33/The Fun package, #34/ Music Power and #25/The Station With A Happy Difference.

Q: Whose kids were those on The Happy Difference package?

A: A couple of twins. I don't think they were anybody special -- you know, famous family or anything like that, but they were twins.

Q: Let's go over some other packages and their names -- and numbers -- that really brings back memories.

A: There was Series #29/The Go Go Package, Series #31/ The Music Explosion, Series #30/ The In Set or What's Happening Pussycat, Series #15/Living Radio, Series #26/Let's Go, America.

Q: What was the first package WABC, New York bought?

A: WABC did not go into PAMS jingles until they got into a composite of series #26 through #29 so they were sort of late arrivers as far as PAMS goes, around 1964.

Q: Hey, we could start the whole thing up now asking whether Rick Sklar or Mike Joseph bought the first PAMS package, but I won't. Obviously Mike had long since left anyhow.

A: And Rick Sklar bought the first PAMS package, moving the station over to PAMS when he took over. And there's an interesting story here. Series #26 was cut with the Dallas singers on the demo using WABC call letters and when WABC went to put it on the air the Union demanded a recut in New York City and both packages were recut there to satisfy the requirements of the Union.

Q: Speaking of New York, you have redone the "Contempo" sig out of Series #18 three times, right? That's the famous jingle Ingram did WABC's legal ID over.

A: Yes, it was relicensed to WNBC and then I relicensed that cut to Z100 and Scott Shannon bought it and it was part of that promo with the old airchecks -- and we did it for him, again, out in New York City. That cut is the most famous and the most purchased cut in the world.

Q: Did you ever think of selling some potpourris of vintage PAMS Jingles to collectors just for home use?

A: We do that -- we have a series called "PAMS collectors" tapes" we have cassettes plus we have reel-to-reel tapes available on all the PAMS series #1 -#49 -- the original demos in order. The cassettes run around $9.00 each and there are 10 different cassettes we offer. We have a whole catalogue.

Q:: As the Monkees record says -- they had their comeback this year too -- "That was Then, This is Now." What are you now doing that's new?

A: We are more than just the original PAMS jingles by far. We've recorded about 300 new tracks since 1981 -- 15 different packages. We use the PAMS quality, the very best of the Dallas singers and both the original harmonies and new, contemporary harmonies for our new packages and our new packages have that PAMS sparkle. . . packages like "Firstfire" which is narrated by Charlie Van Dyke and our First Class package on classic hits WDRC-FM in Hartford, WTRY in Albany. And we've just wrapped a major package for WWKB in Buffalo which l think will be very widely sold. We're in all formats.

Q: 4141 Office Parkway in Dallas was PAMS' most famous location. What was their plant like?

A: It was a cement block building when I went there in 1966. They had two sound rooms -- studio A and studio B and a production room, studio C. It was pretty well equipped for the time -- fancy equalizers, sonovox. But it wasn't the studio that made PAMS, it was the concepts. The writing, the musical styles, better harmonies in a brighter, happier, smiling attack. That's the PAMS philosophy then -- and now.

Q: Who were the singers that made up the original seven-voice PAMS Gang?

A: Jackie Dickson/ Lead Singer, Libba Weeks, Carol Piper, Billy Ainsworth, Charlie Thompson, Marv Shaw and Jim Clancy Those were the heyday singers who did all the WLS and WABC material, for example.

Q: How were the jingles written?

A: It was a combination effort with people like Brian Beck and Bob Piper along with a lot of freelancers. No one person did a whole package. They'd give out so many cuts to each writer and they'd compile a package from the cream of the crop and that gave it a creative distinction. I still do the same thing here.

Q: Quick other history. What about CRC -- Commercial Recording Company?

A: That was founded by Tom Merriman and Tommy Gwin and they were the real competitors of PAMS in the late 1950s. CRC was dissolved in the early 1960s and Tommy Gwin started his own company, Gwinsound, which is now part of PAMS and we have those beds and Tommy is now retired and runs a hotel in Angel Fire, New Mexico and we have the marketing rights to all his tracks too. And Tom Merriman went over to start TM. Other early jingles were from Anita Kerr and Johnny Mann -- Mann did the original WMCA "Ya Ya" jingles and the Drake jingles and the KFWB jingles until they switched to buying from PAMS in 1961/62.

Q: Do you make money at this?

A: I sure do. I have established 300-400 excellent running accounts and we are incredibly popular -- and again, though we've talked a lot about the history, I want to emphasize that we are a serious competitor and, I think, the best in current product on the market today.

Q: How do you want to fit into PAMS historically? As the savior of PAMS? The guy who made PAMS greater? The guy who made PAMS so great the world forgot PAMS ever existed before Ben Freedman?

A: I think the most important thing is that my love for jingles means that I want to make sure PAMS lives on in the memories of everyone. I'm not so much concerned about Ben Freedman's workings with the past. I considered myself the number one jingle collector in the 1960s, and now I consider myself to be the number one jingle producer. While some think of PAMS in past tense, I deal with it every day and I think of PAMS as the hottest thing of the future. We're not the biggest in the business but we do over 3,500 station IDs a year now and while I'm not sure l even want to overtake JAM as the number one jingle company, but I want to stay right up there.

Related: Ben Freedman WLVL Interview and The World Of Jingle University


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