Jingles have gone in and out of fashion over the course of my career, but in my early years at Baker Sound they accounted for around 80% of our original music work. That was fine with me; I enjoy the challenge of translating an advertiser's message into a catchy mini-song that brings personality to their product or service. Some of our most successful MONSTER TRACKS productions have been jingles, and a handful of these have stood the test of time as personal favorites.
The first to make that list was a jingle I produced for Herr's Potato Chips in 1991. I was contacted by producer/writer Alan Johnson of Artichoke Creative Services who had been a Baker client since his days as Weightman Advertising. Alan was interested in creating a jingle for Herr's that would feature the tagline "Make Herr's Yours."
As it happened, producer Peter Tilden had recently asked me to demo a jingle for Groff's Potato Chips. Digital sampling was a novelty in those days, and I was always looking for opportunities to incorporate real-world sounds in my productions (such as the bat crack effect in the Phillies Theme discussed in my previous post). For the Groff's demo I had sampled myself eating potato chips and used the resulting crunch as a percussion element. The demo didn't sell, though everyone loved the chip crunches the nostalgic feel of the music. So when the Herr's project came along, I saw an opportunity to give the idea another shot.
Alan forwarded a number of bullet points he had discussed with his client. In addition to the "Make Herr's Yours" tag these included "made in the U.S.A.", "family tradition," "tasty and crisp," "great for dipping," and a few others. As always, my goal was to weave these into a lyric that felt more like a song than a collection of copy points.
Because Alan had emphasized the Herr's family tradition, I decided that a nostalgic approach to the music and lyric would be appropriate. I also assumed that tasting one Herr's chip would naturally lead to the desire for another--everyone knows the old adage that you can't eat just one potato chip. That gave me a starting point, and I sat down at the piano and began working out a tune that had a Tin Pan Alley vibe. Before long I had an opening verse that I knew would get me to the payoff:
That first Herr's chip is only the start
Of a taste that comes straight from the heart
'Cause it's made with care the old fashioned way
By the Herr's family in the U.S.A.
The rest of the lyric and melody came easily, and the 1930s style effectively dictated the arrangement. After laying down the rhythm section parts and adding the sampled crunches I called in my usual crew: Jeff Kay on banjo and acoustic guitar, Ron Kerber on clarinet, his brother Rick Kerber on trumpet, and Sal Scarpa on trombone. I performed the backing vocals, and then turned to Byron Smith for the lead. Unlike some of the local talent I had introduced to the ad business, Byron was an experienced New York jingle singer with many national credits. He immediately understood what I was after, and within a few takes we had a finished track.
Herr's ran the jingle for a couple of years, and it's been a fixture on our reel ever since. I recall feeling particularly good after receiving an excited call from Byron informing me that the jingle was airing every day in the New York market. That was great advertising for him, but it was also a victory for me. The Philly market is inundated with New York-produced advertising, so it felt good to take my own small bite out of The Big Apple.
Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.