Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Monday, February 09, 2015

Jingle All The Way

Growing up, I was a fan of great radio jingles like those produced by legendary production houses JAM and PAMS, which were heard on hundreds of radio stations across the country (and around the world). From hyper-fast name-shouts to shotguns to full-length theme songs about their cities, they all intrigued me. In my basement, along with thousands of hours of my own radio shows, I have several demos jingle companies sent out to stations to entice them to buy their packages.

In high school, I was not alone in my love of jingles. My close friend Bill Sobel was even more of a media freak than I was. Bill started our high school radio station, WRHR, after convincing the principal to allow students to do the morning announcements during homeroom, and then later got permission for us to play music over the speakers in the cafeteria during lunchtime. Bill was (and still is) a serious go-getter. He printed up stationery with our call letters and contacted record companies to ask them to send us free albums to play on WRHR -- and some of them did. I remember that he had such good rapport with the MCA Records rep that our little station was playing Elton John's "Rocket Man" before any of the bigger real radio stations ever added it to their playlists.

At one point, Bill wrote to one of the jingle companies to ask for a demo. He knew that we had no budget at all, so we were never going to be able to buy jingles, but he got the demo anyway and we listened to it over and over at his house on his reel-to-reel-machine. We would break down how each jingle was produced, and how they'd sometime change tempos to help DJs segue from a fast song to a slow song or vice versa. We dreamed of one day having our own jingles.

The demos included samples that had been produced for stations all over the country, including WABC/New York, WLS/Chicago, and KSD/St. Louis. When we heard that one, we looked at each other in shock. It was the first jingle we'd ever heard from a station west of the Mississippi, so its call letters started with a K! We were even more surprised because we knew of a Top 40 station in St. Louis where two of the jocks we listened to on WABC, Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy, had once worked -- but its call letters were WIL.

We realized that St. Louis must have stations on both sides of the Mississippi, some of which started with W and some that started with K. Not only did that turn out to be the case all those decades ago, but it's still true today. And, we later learned, there were exceptions to the rule allowing a station in Pittsburgh to be KDKA and one in Philadelphia to be KYW.

And to bring the story full circle, the station that once called itself KSD-AM eventually morphed into the station I still work for, KTRS! Unfortunately, we don't have any jingles -- but I have been fortunate enough to work for two places that did.

The first was WYNY, which was NBC's FM station in New York (in the days when NBC was still in the radio business). As the morning guy, it gave me a major thrill every time I pushed a button and heard those ultra-talented singers shout out my name. The other time was a couple of years ago when I was doing the America Weekend syndicated show and executive producer Kipper McGee, knowing of my love of name-shout jingles, ordered one especially for me.

I used it every hour.