NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1926 __ Early Uses of Jingles on Radio
Comment : The whole question of jingles is a difficult one -- because jingles weren't invented. They evolved out of theme songs during the twenties, and many of the earliest theme songs were clearly intended to advertise the sponsor's product, even though they never mentioned the product by name. I think one of the early master strokes in this technique was the use of "Brighten The Corner Where You Are" as the theme for Harvey Hindemeyer and Earle Tuckerman, a.k.a. Goldy and Dusty, The Gold Dust Twins. The opening announcement for their WEAF/Telephone Group program clearly tied the theme song to the product, by suggesting that Gold Dust Washing Powder really did "brighten the corners." In the same era, Harry Reser's "Cliquot March," introducing the Cliquot Club Eskimos, was a purely instrumental piece -- but its "sparkling" banjo-driven melody was obviously intended to evoke the image of ginger ale, and it was accompanied each week by a barrage of sled-dog sound effects clearly meant to remind the audience of the company's Eskimo Boy trademark. And what better theme song for a toothpaste program than "Smiles," the weekly intro for Sam Lanin's Ipana Troubadours? There have been claims that the "Have You Tried Wheaties?" jingle was first used around 1926 on WCCO, Minneapolis, then owned by Washburn Crosby Company, the makers of that cereal, but I've never seen proof of that claim. By 1933, this theme was used with slightly altered lyrics, as the closing theme for "Jack Armstrong." As far as I've been able to determine, 1928-1930 was the period which really led to the flowering of the "singing commercial" idea -- in part as a way to get around NBC's lingering restrictions on direct advertising in nighttime shows. During this time, the names of sponsors and specific product plugs were being inserted into the theme songs on a number of programs. Some of the more famous examples were "Hello! Hello! The R-K-O!" which each week opened the RKO Radio Pictures Hour; "On The Road To Sunshine" (or, "Sunshine Vitamin Yeast") which was used as the theme for Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Hour until Vallee put his foot down over how ineffably lame a song it was; "Tastyeast Is Tempting," which introduced Dwight Latham, Wamp Carlson, and Guy Bonham as the Tastyeast Jesters for a nauseating-sounding chocolate flavored yeast bar; and "Oh, My! It's Eskimo Pie!," which cued the adventures of the Jenkins Family over CBS (and via Judson syndication) beginning in the fall of 1930. The Interwoven "Socks! Socks!" jingle also came out of this era, so while it wasn't precisely the first, it was part of the first wave. There were probably many other such "singing commercial" theme songs during this early era -- these are just ones that immediately come to mind. None of these theme songs were meant to stand alone in the manner of the famous Pepsi-Cola jingle -- and Pepsi may well have been the first sponsor to use a stand-alone jingle as part of a national campaign, beginning in 1939. (Elizabeth McLeod, 1999)It's been claimed that the "Have You Tried Wheaties?" jingle was first used around 1926 on WCCO, Minneapolis, then owned by Washburn Crosby Company, the makers of that cereal, but I've never seen proof of this claim. (By 1933, this jingle was used with slightly altered lyrics, as the closing theme for "Jack Armstrong.") But it's quite probable that this wasn't the first, because singing commercials weren't a sudden innovation. Nobody invented them -- they evolved. Musical themes with a link to the product dated back to the 1923-25 era, and such original compositions as the "Cliquot March," for Harry Reser's Clicquot Club Eskimos or the appropriation for commercial purposes of such pre-existing compositions as "Smiles," used as a theme by the Ipana Troubadours -- S. C. Lanin, Director. One of the first vocal examples of this genre of musical theme song was the use of "Brighten The Corner Where You Are" as the theme for Harvey Hindemeyer and Earle Tuckerman, a.k.a. Goldy and Dusty, The Gold Dust Twins. The opening announcement for their Red Network program clearly tied the theme song to the product, by suggesting that Gold Dust Washing Powder really did "brighten the corners." Strictly speaking these theme songs weren't commercials -- but they got the point across. 1928-1930 was the period which really led to the flowering of the "singing commercial theme song" idea -- in part as a way to get around NBC's lingering restrictions on direct advertising in nighttime shows. During this time, the names of sponsors and specific product plugs were being inserted into the theme songs of many programs. Some examples were "Hello! Hello! The R-K-O!" which each week opened the Radio Pictures Hour; "On The Road To Sunshine" (or, "Sunshine Vitamin Yeast") which was used as the theme for Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Hour until Vallee insisted otherwise; "Oh, My! It's Eskimo Pie!," which cued the adventures of the Jenkins Family over CBS beginning in the fall of 1930; and "Tastyeast Is Tempting," which beginning in 1930 introduced Dwight Latham, Wamp Carlson, and Guy Bonham as the Tastyeast Jesters. Billy Jones and Ernie Hare, of course, were early practitioners of the singing theme song, and by 1929 were integrating Interwoven Socks into the lyrics of "How Do You Do Everybody, How Do You Do?" as they would continue to do with subsequent sponsors. There were many other such "singing commercial" theme songs during this early era -- these are just ones that immediately come to mind. But the idea of commercial messages set to music was well established long before the craze for free-standing singing jingles hit in the late thirties. (Elizabeth McLeod, 2004)
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