EARLY JINGLE COLLECTING
By Ken Deutsch
"The station with personality, WLS in Chicago" (1961)
These were a few of the slogans immortalized by primarily AM
stations in the 1960s and 70s, the go-go years of the musical
station identification jingle. Many were recorded acapella (no
background accompaniment), but far more featured big band-style
orchestrations typical of the 40s and 50s when key jingle writers
like Tom Merriman, Euel Box, Jodie Lyons,
Marv Shaw and Bob Piper and were in their formative
years. The purpose of these short "songs between the songs" was to
make radio call letters more memorable, and to give each station an
image beyond its music and personalities. The concept was simple:
the easier the call letters were to recall, the bigger the ratings.
Other jingle addicts of the era included Ron Harris, Ken Justiss and Ken Levine (making me the third "Ken" in the group). My first written correspondence with Mr. Wolfert came when I was a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and he was attending Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York. It was February, 1971. Jon had ensconced himself at WNTC (640 AM) and I was torturing several listeners daily over WCBN (650 AM) at my university. While we were separated geographically by about 500 miles, we had a couple of things in common: neither of us was great on the air yet we both knew that radio stations were where jingles resided. Usually they were hidden in a bottom desk drawer in the program director's office until he tired of them, at which time he might just toss the master tape into the trash. Sacrilege!
Jon began his first letter to me in the same manner he began almost every piece of correspondence over the next 45 years: "Sorry for taking so long to answer you." Jon operated then, and still operates today, on his own schedule, known as Wolfert Standard Time (WST).
Each of us had been collecting jingles for several years, but we began to trade "dubs" (copies) which were mailed through the pokey postal service on reels of magnetic recording tape. Digital audio was still about 20 years in the future. Keep in mind that each time someone duplicated an analog jingle package, it picked up a little more hiss and general grunge. After about the third transfer down the line, it became pretty difficult to listen to. Our goal was to obtain the best quality station packages and if possible get "demo reels" in the mail from our favorite producer, PAMS. Demo reels, usually in 5" cardboard boxes, were sent to stations (and enterprising collectors) to preview jingle packages currently for sale. Sometimes these boxes featured colorful original art, sometimes just the name of the producer and the name of the jingle package unceremoniously stamped on the front.
Other companies that attracted our attention included Gwinsound, TM,
CRC (all from Dallas), Hugh Heller Corp (Los Angeles), and Pepper
Tanner (Memphis). Little did we know that within about seven months,
young Jon Wolfert would get a job in the dubbing room at PAMS. We
shall return to that topic in a future blog.
I am guessing here, but I believe that the jingle sampler as we know it today began as a narrated "listening dub" which we would send to our friends to illustrate not necessarily entire jingle packages, but portions thereof, primarily to show off what we had obtained. Gradually these listening dubs became more elaborate, with longer jingle segments and other production elements.
If anyone was responsible for developing the concept of a jingle sampler it was Jon Wolfert. If anyone was responsible for introducing humor into these compilations, it was Ron Harris, a recovering disc jockey and later TM production guy and even later a big-time LA producer. RH's wacky sensibility permeated everything he touched. Styling himself as the "splice wizard," Harris, president of the imaginary RH Audio, was certainly adept with a razor blade and grease pencil, our tools of the trade at that time.
Ken Justiss, especially after arriving at TM in June, 1973, provided us with some fabulous collector's items in his samplers, described in his own personal style. His voice reminded me of Paul Harvey, but with a more amusing sense of wordplay. Ken became one of the key production and management people at TM during the 1970s before moving on to FirstCom and later a career in real estate. Ken also knows quite a bit about Sonovox, and you can find his work at www.SonoDallas.com.
I have added a few of my own jingle samplers to the Internet, and they can be found elsewhere on this site. While I don't have the experience in jingle production that Jon Wolfert has, the goofy sense of humor of Ron Harris, or the behind-the-scenes insight of Ken Justiss, I do have a considerable PAMS library and enjoy sharing it with as many collectors as possible.
Copyright Ken Deutsch, 2016. All rights reserved.
|For more information on PAMS jingles, go to the PAMS Website.|
|Contact the Curator|