MONSTER TRACKS has produced far more instrumental scores than jingles in recent years, but that wasn't always the case, thanks to producers like Mark Lipsky.
Mark has a passion for radio advertising and his company The Radio Agency continues to produce highly effective spots for a variety of clients. When I first met Mark he was handling a lot of shopping malls, many of which wanted a catchy jingle to raise brand awareness and attract shoppers. These were fun to produce, but I sensed that Mark wanted to create more distinctive spots that would really cut through the clutter. That's exactly what he did with a 2002 campaign for PrePass.
PrePass is a system (much like E-ZPass) that allows truckers to avoid stopping at weigh stations. Because the service was new, Mark had to find a way to explain its advantages to a very specific audience. Here he had two key insights. The first was that truckers tend to listen to overnight radio programming; the second was that they tend to like country music. It further occurred to him that a Johnny Cash-style delivery could be used to convey a lot of information in a fun and memorable way.
The script he sent over was one of the best I've received. Using "Ghost Riders in the Sky" as a reference, Mark wrote a lyric that had a natural cadence and flow. I put together a standard country two-beat and then brought in Jeff Kay to add acoustic and electric guitars. Jeff nailed the style, particularly the characteristic whammy-bar bends. My one addition to Mark's script was the "cowboy chorus" that supports the lead vocal. This nod to the Vaughn Monroe recording of "Ghost Riders" echoed groups like the Sons of the Pioneers; I sang the parts and then had Chet Brown double me. When Mark asked who I had in mind for the lead I unhesitatingly recommended versatile voice artist Wes Heywood, who had impressed me years earlier with a brilliant turn on Cash in our award-winning jingle for Oskar Huber Furniture. Wes delivered a spot-on performance, modulating his rich baritone with a hint of quiver.
The jingle was an unqualified success. Airing multiple times per night during nationally syndicated shows like Coast to Coast, the campaign gave PrePass near one hundred percent brand awareness among its target demographic. The jingle remained in use for more than a decade on terrestrial and satellite radio, and Mark later confided that it had done a lot to help build his business. For me, it's a reminder of the reason I went into commercial composing: I love all kinds of music and couldn't imagine restricting myself to a single genre. Getting to work on projects like "PrePass" with dedicated pros like Mark is why I still love coming to the studio each day.
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.