You Deserve a Jingle Today! – Part 2: Radio!

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In the first installment of You Deserve a Jingle Today!, we discussed how commercial jingles were developed for radio in the late 1920s.

They flourished through the 70s, but then gradually were replaced by either short sound bites of music or by existing songs by pop stars. But there is another kind of music jingle that I love…maybe even more. It’s the radio station ID jingle. 

Where do radio jingles come from?

The short answer is Dallas, Texas.

Let me elaborate:

The first commercial radio station was KDKA in Pittsburgh, which started in 1920, and is still going strong. Within 3 years there were already 500 licensed radio stations in the US. In 1930 40% of the population had radios. By 1934 that had risen to 60%. In the 30s and 40s, radio was a primary form of entertainment and information for most families. 

Now, let’s talk about Bill Meeks.

Back in 1947 he worked as a musician at Dallas radio station KLIF. (Radio, even local stations, featured a lot of live music back in those days.)

Bill realized that some of their listeners couldn’t identify which station they typically listened to. Bill wrote the station’s first set of jingles to promote their own call letters. The jingles were popular, and so was KLIF. Word spread, and eventually Bill’s jingle production services became more important than his band leading.

In 1951 he created PAMS (Production Advertising Merchandising Services) to produce jingles for radio stations around the country (and around the world). To be sure, radio stations had aired self-promoting jingles for many years before 1947, but Bill was the first to successfully syndicate jingles to multiple stations on a large scale.

Those peppy jingles featured tons of brass, xylophone, slide guitar glissandos, energetic vocals and occasional use of sonovox, a weird way to project a voice through other instruments (kind of like the talk box used by Bon Jovi on Livin’ on a Prayer or by Peter Frampton on his Frampton Comes Alive! album).

PAMS was absolutely the jingle king for radio stations through the 1960s and early 70s.

When Casey Kasem started his American Top 40 show in 1970, his sounders and number announcements were produced by PAMS. But, by the early 70s, a combination of increasing competition and changing trends in jingles saw PAMS fortunes quickly diminishing. 

Here’s a PAMS produced jingle for Radio London. This is from their 9th series of jingles, around 1958. 

Here’s a WING Dayton, Ohio, jingle from PAMS 18th series, around 1961. This features the sonovox front and center. 

A montage of several different stations’ jingles from PAMS series 31, produced in 1966.

Here’s one of PAMS first jingles for American Top 40 in 1970.

In 1974, a former PAMS employee and his wife started a new company in Dallas called JAM Productions.

It quickly grew in popularity and has been the top jingle company since the 1980s. When American Top 40 updated their jingles in the late 70s/early 80s they had JAM produce the replacements. There were other significant jingle companies, too, such as TM Studios, also in Dallas, which still exists today. 

Here’s a couple of (very brief) jingles JAM productions made for American Top 40 around the late 70s/early 80s:

JAM Productions AT40 Jingle with American Top 40 a Capella JAM

AT40 “Number 15” a Capella JAM

We’ll get to some more JAM jingles in a minute. Now I want to spend a little bit of time discussing one of my favorite companies, the Heller Corporation, started by Hugh Heller who had been working in radio on the west coast during the 1960s.

He produced some good jingles in the mid 60s, but he struck gold when he teamed up with musician Dick Hamilton in the late 60s. To my ear, Dick wrote some of the best jingles of all time. He had lyrics with just the right combination of humor and non-sequiturs, and fantastic music writing.

Plus, being based in Los Angeles, Heller and Hamilton were able to use world class musicians like the Wrecking Crew and the Johnny Mann singers for jingles that just sounded slicker and more sophisticated than your average jingles. Some of the songs barely advertised the station…they just created an image or a mood for the city. 

Admittedly, I’m biased, because I grew up hearing the Heller jingles produced by Dick Hamilton in the Indianapolis area on 1070 WIBC. Here are a few favorites:

First an odd, short one from KXLS in Oklahoma from the early 1980s:

My home station growing up was WIBC in Indianapolis. This is perhaps its most iconic and sweet jingle:

The singer is Dick Hamilton’s step-daughter at a pretty young age in the early 1970s. I have a lot of sentimental attachment to this one!

Musically, this may be my favorite jingle ever:

It’s for Shreveport, Louisiana’s KEEL 710 AM. Probably produced in the early 1970s.

Dick Hamilton was a very early owner of the Moog synthesizer, and he’s getting his money’s worth here. I am unashamed to admit that I love this song.

 

Why do I like jingles so much?

The short answer is that they make me happy.

Jingles are usually outrageously upbeat. And they’re designed to be ear-worms. They have just a few seconds to hook you, so the best jingles are super-concentrated hooks. A lot of them feature amazing vocal work with tight harmonies that probably aren’t appreciated for how much talent they require.

Plus, they are not “cool”…they are ridiculously over the top with enthusiasm, as they try way too hard to ‘sell’ their station to me. Frankly, they sound kind of silly. So I kind of like them ironically.

But they also remind me of days gone by, when terrestrial radio was a much more significant part of people’s lives. 

These station ID jingles aren’t gone. Even talk radio stations use them to some extent. I haven’t even mentioned television IDs, but they have been and continue to be used by TV stations. In the previous installment of You Deserve a Jingle Today!, I talked about how most commercial jingles in the modern era are very short. In some ways, they don’t sound too much different in length and style to tv and radio station ID jingles today. I can’t explain why, but I’m glad music is still used in these small parts of our lives. 

In the 1970s my dad worked for a (now defunct) midwestern fast food chain called Burger Chef. He brought home a couple of 7” records which contained different versions of Burger Chef radio ads. They were prized possessions!

Now I could play records and occasionally play a bona fide Burger Chef commercial in between songs just like a real DJ! You could hardly have gotten me a better gift at that age. 

Nowadays I have another resource: Thousands of radio and TV jingles have been uploaded to YouTube.

A casual hobby of mine for the past 10 years or so has been to download jingles that I personally remember, or others that I just like, parse them into mp3s, and then load them into my iTunes/Apple Music library. (Everybody does this, right?) That way when I play my music library on shuffle, random station IDs frequently find their way in between songs.

My kids assure me that this is bizarre, and of course, I am totally ok with that. 

Mom! Make him stop! Dad’s being weird again!

I know I’m not the only one that appreciates jingles.  

I loved a gag that David Letterman ran with for a short time back in 1986. He ordered a custom set of jingles from Jam Productions and they would punctuate transition points in the show.

It was hilarious.

I would so love to have a set of jingles like that at my job that could be played over our intercom system during shift changes or before briefings. (I’m not sure everyone I work with would love that.)

Let’s sample a few more random jingles, shall we?

Here’s the CBS news radio “sounder” that was used from 1967 through the 80s. It was arguably Dick Hamilton’s most famous composition for Heller’s Jingle company. 

While we’re talking CBS, I really like CBS’s brief little musical signature that they are using right now: 

While we’re talking TV network sounders, how about this musical signature that PBS closed its Children’s shows with during the 1970s and 80s?

WABC was a hugely influential top 40 station in New York back in the day that was a big customer of PAMS jingles. Here’s one from what sound s like the early 1960s. 

Somewhere I found a collection of jingles for a ‘beautiful music’ station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The jingles are totally mellow. Good for curing insomnia. But I love the emphatic announcement at the end: South Dakota!

I recorded this jingle around 1990 while at Purdue University. The jingle sounded a good 20 years old at the time. It was my most listened to music file of the year a couple years ago. 

How’s about a few more Dick Hamilton jingles from the Heller corporation?

First, a brief station ID (that was taken from a much longer jingle) for WDEE in Detroit in the early 1970s. 

Here’s a little jingle from WBAL in Baltimore:

Dick Hamilton produced a series of nice jingles in the early 1970s for WMAL in Washington DC. Here’s a sample:

I’ll finish up with a few more from my beloved childhood WIBC:

First, here’s a sequel to the Lolipops jingle I presented above. I like this one even better, musically.

Here’s a meta jingle. The singers are lamenting that jingles aren’t what they used to be. 

And last, but not least, the WIBC News pre-roll, which I probably heard a thousand times in my childhood. To a young kid it was almost a little scary. But it’s part of my DNA. 

Most of us radio junkies from back in the day have a favorite jingle or two (or fifty).

You should share one!


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Phylum of Alexandria
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November 15, 2022 7:46 am

Should I ever end up in hell, the PAMS jingles are what I would be subjected to for my endless torment. Maybe I can encounter Joe Meek there and convince him to enhance Bill Meeks’ material?

But those Dick Hamilton tunes are great! Just bursting with musical ideas. I’m surprised he wasn’t pressured to make shorter, snappier bits like the Meeks ones. These threaten to take the spotlight from the radio content proper!

This notion of perfectly crafting a few second of music makes me think of Brian Eno’s creation of the music for Microsoft Windows. He described it as making a “tiny little jewel.”

https://themusicnetwork.com/the-odd-story-of-how-brian-eno-composed-the-windows-95-startup-sound/

Virgindog
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November 15, 2022 9:57 am

“It’s a shame what’s happened to radio.” Ain’t that the truth! Love it.

Most of the call sign jingles end on an ascending melody line, which sets up the downbeat of the next song they play. It’s almost like the bass drop in EDM, and it’s kinda brilliant.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 15, 2022 10:33 am

Going back to the alternative rock station I listened to as a teen, the station plugs sound more like Pierre Schaeffer’s sound collages than jingles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7dcR8Lvfm0

mt58
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mt58
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November 15, 2022 11:25 am

Well done, Link!

For some stations in the 70s and 80s, the classic jingle IDs seemed to be a relic of the past. Instead of an old-fashioned tight-harmonizing chorus, the station would create a home-brewed bumper. Many of these were very imaginative, and like Link’s examples, are also fun to revisit.

Whenever a bit like this one would air, no one in my old neighborhood would ever touch the dial. It was an anti-jingle, but it got the job done, in that it kept us tuned in to hear what was next.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n1HwFXiik4

dutchg8r
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November 15, 2022 5:09 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Ack!! Absolutely, here comes Rudolph!

cappiethedog
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November 16, 2022 12:58 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

That reminds me of Charlie Brown specials. And Dolly Madison donut commercials.

lovethisconcept
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November 15, 2022 2:31 pm

I really don’t have a lot to say about jingles, although I have heard many of these. What really caught my attention in this article was that your dad worked for Burger Chef. Now those, I remember. Had a BC in our very small town. It was big news when they added the Works Bar where you could add your own toppings to your burger. A guy that I was dating at the time introduced me to French fries dipped in tartar sauce. He’s long gone, but I still dip my fries in tartar sauce when I get the chance.

dutchg8r
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November 15, 2022 5:03 pm

This was fascinating Link, thank you for all that info! I loved learning about this kind of stuff.

And of course, Mr Johnny Fever’s home station was one of the first ones I ever learned – I was obsessed with watching WKRP in Cincinnati as wee BabyDutch.

I totally forgot when Letterman would run these back in the day, loved having that reminder.

This jingle is the one that sticks in my head as prominently as George Michael’s birthdate……..

“KYW, newsradio, TenSixtyyyyyyy, live, from Independence Mall”

I don’t know if they still do, I doubt it, but all my years growing up with this station on 24/7 in the kitchen I always remember they had a teletype machine ticker noise going in the background. I liked that; sounded so official.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ngTfdzVr0

Aaron3000
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November 15, 2022 9:42 pm

This 1989 aircheck from I-100 in Daytona Beach features a couple of my favorite jingles. First at 0:10 is a music bed that I heard underneath weather forecasts at several different stations. Then at 2:27 is a quick jingle that I actually heard again (with different calls of course) just a couple years ago on a classic hits station in Ocean City, MD.

https://youtu.be/4godpATbWSY

Aaron3000
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November 15, 2022 9:55 pm

And here’s a top-of-the-hour sweeper from Kiss 105 in Gainesville. Apparently this was in 2013, but it’s the exact same jingle they were using back in 1987 when I first started listening to them in high school (and I’d be willing to bet it dates back to when they first flipped to Top 40 in 1981).

https://youtu.be/nmo8urybP_M

Last edited 19 days ago by Aaron3000
Aaron3000
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November 15, 2022 10:22 pm

Ok, one more (see what you started Link)… Here’s an awesome montage of about 10-15 years worth of Q105 (Tampa) jingles, which are mostly (if not all) from JAM.

https://youtu.be/neCG4F2uHsE

cappiethedog
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November 16, 2022 12:57 am

The PBS ID, wow; what a blast from the past. I see Kermit.

Sesame Street on HBO sounds just plain wrong. If Big Bird wanted to, he could curse like a sailor, every time somebody tells him that the Snufalufagus is just a figment of his imagination. It belongs on PBS.

I love the Muppets. It was a sad, sad, sad day when Jim Henson passed away. What a tragic loss for children’s television programming.

Paul Williams was robbed.

cappiethedog
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November 17, 2022 2:25 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

A film like The Dark Crystal was such an ambitious undertaking since Jim Henson didn’t have access to CGI. I only saw it once. I don’t want to ruin my memory of it. It took a long time for Hayao Miyazaki to utilize 3D animation. If Henson was alive, I think he would have gone the hybrid route. A frog riding a bicycle in 2022, big deal. But a frog riding a bicycle in 1979, you have to figure out how they achieved this special effect. It looks believable because it’s “on-camera”. That’s my one criticism about Stranger Things. The CGI prevents it from being a true period piece.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 17, 2022 8:26 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

“It took a long time for Hayao Miyazaki to utilize 3D animation.”

I wish he hadn’t! The small touches of CG in Spirited Away are fine, but Earwig and the Witch is an abomination. Technically his son’s abomination, but it still bears the Ghibli brand, and I can’t unsee those 3D Ghibli horrors.

cappiethedog
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November 17, 2022 6:25 pm

Oh, yes. I got to see Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind at a anime festival, and they previewed the making of, maybe it was Earwig and the Witch, and I was a little surprised.

I notice WALL*E is getting a Criterion release. Which Miyazaki film would you negotiate with Ghibli for if you worked at Janus Films?

The question is open to anybody.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 17, 2022 8:22 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

When researching Raymond Scott, I found out that Jim Henson directed this Bufferin commercial from 1967, featuring Scott’s electronic ambience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bj23dnhdsw

JJ Live At Leeds
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November 16, 2022 4:20 am

This is why I love this place. Taking something that most people probably don’t give a second thought (I’d have to put myself in that category) and turning it into something fascinating.

What struck me listening to that American Top 40 jingle from 1970 is that its universal. It sounds like my memories of listening to the charts in the UK in the 80s. Despite the British invasion of the 60s there was still a long tradition of music trading on the perception of the US being the epicentre of popular entertainment with acts borrowing an American accent to sound cooler. There’s no specific jingle but that 1970 Top 40 sound was definitely still going strong well into the 80s.

reggie
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November 16, 2022 2:08 pm

You had me at Burger Chef. Man, I loved their hamburgers. They were quite small so my standard order was four of them. I can still taste the buns (sweet) and mustard (had some kick).

As for jingles, my home town was in Northern Indiana so we listened to a lot of WOWO out of Ft. Wayne and Chicago’s WLS. Their jingles, though somewhat nondescript, are seared into my memory. RIP Larry Lujack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6aP-mx3Ahs

cstolliver
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November 19, 2022 9:45 am

The WIBC stepdaughter one sounds an awful lot in the beginning like the Sesame Street theme.

Listening to these brought back memories of the Chicago AM jingles. Here’s a chronology from the king of them all, WLS: https://www.wlshistory.com/new/jingles.htm

Great job, Link!

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