The WABC/JAM Story

The WABC/JAM Story

The following was written and contributed to the Musicradio WABC website by Jonathan Wolfert, President of JAM Creative Productions in Dallas Texas.

 

Introduction

JAM Creative Productions began doing jingles for Musicradio 77 WABC in 1975, and we continued to do them even after the switch to Talkradio. That's a span of over 35 years; far LONGER than the total number of years that WABC was a top-40 station, and more years than any other company has done jingles for any individual station!

Background

Growing up in the NY area, I had gotten to know WABC Program Director Rick Sklar while still in high school because I would visit the station as often as possible. During college, my goal had become to work at PAMS in Dallas. When an opening finally came up Bill Meeks (then president of PAMS) had lost my phone number. So he called Rick. Imagine getting a call at home from Rick Sklar telling you to call Bill Meeks because he wanted to offer you a job!! Words fail to adequately describe that adrenaline rush!!

During my time at PAMS (1971 to 1974) I worked on several WABC projects. Then, after leaving PAMS, I spent several months doing freelance projects and was hired to be the engineer on some of the Thunder sessions for WABC. (Thunder produced the WABC jingles between the PAMS and JAM eras in 1974).

In November 1974 my wife and I started our own jingle company JAM. The name was formed from the initials Jon And Mary Lyn, and the similarity in sound to "PAMS" was unintentional (although many at the time thought otherwise).

The First Attempted WABC JAM Jingle

The first attempted JAM jingle for WABC did not get on the air! It was a re-make of the famous "Dan Ingram" all-male acappella from PAMS Series 31. Since WABC was no longer able to use the PAMS jingles, they had asked Thunder to re-create many signature items including the Ingram acappella. But Dan preferred the original (and rightly so), and wanted to keep using it. As a compromise, the station created a cart where both versions (the original PAMS and the new Thunder) were played at the same time. Dan used it, but I always thought it sounded like a train wreck because the two sings didn't go together well AT ALL. In an attempt to get the "wreck" off the air, JAM recorded a new, clean version which sounded more like the original acappella and sent it to the station as a gift in early 1975. They liked it, but didn't use it saying that "the audience has gotten used to the one we have now and we don't want to change it".

The "original" PAMS Series 31 Dan Ingram Acappella (13K)
The JAM version (that never aired) (21K)

If At First You Don’t Succeed.......

I continued to send Rick Sklar demo tapes as we made new packages. I didn't expect to get the account; I just wanted him to know what we were up to. In August 1975 he called us. We remember it clearly because it was on a Friday afternoon at 6 PM (7 PM in NY). Mary Lyn answered the phone and, considering the day and time, didn't believe it was really Rick at first!

WABC was looking for some new jock acappellas with a softer sound. They also intended to drop the "W" and just call the station "ABC" because that's what most of their listeners called them. So new jingles were needed. JAM got the call!

The "Priority One" Package

We did the acappellas and several "77 ABC" shotguns using tracks from our Priority One package. They went on the air in October 1975. The fact that this was a major business accomplishment was lost on me at the time. But on a personal level (as a life-long WABC fan and jingle lover) it was the neatest thing that could possibly happen!

The next jingle is a composite of the "soft" DJ acappellas that JAM created for WABC. This composite includes acappellas for the DJ's who were at WABC in the Fall of 1975:
The "soft" DJ acappellas
(115K)
Musicradio..... WABC (52K)

Note on the next two jingles that the "W" is missing:
The Best Music... A B C (48K)
Happy New Year.... 77 A B C (42K)

The "77 ABC" phase was short-lived because the station started to get pressure from "corporate". The big guys upstairs felt that calling the station "ABC" was creating confusion between WABC (the radio station) and ABC (the corporation). So the "W" had to go back in. But how could we make the "ABC" portion stand out? The solution was to sonovox the "W". In February 1976 the station began airing revised versions of the Priority One cuts with the "sono W". One of these cuts (#7) received a Clio award that year... pretty impressive considering it was only 2.5 seconds long!

....A B C (no W) (31K)

Now, the same jingle WITH the sonovoxed W. This is the jingle that won the Clio!
W....A B C (29K)

As WABC Changed So Too Did The Jingles

Unfortunately the times were changing and so was the type of jingles the station was looking for. Although WABC never succumbed to the "just use one shotgun" approach made famous by KCBQ, or the "just use a handful of acappellas" approach made famous by Bill Drake (and utilized by WOR-FM), they did drastically reduce the number of jingles in rotation. Most of the cuts were short shotguns with lyrics restricted to "Music radio","The Best Music", or "77", and the call letters. (Editorial: Although today's jingle companies are sometimes criticized for "not being as creative as the old companies like PAMS", it is only a reflection of what the STATIONS today are asking for and are willing to air.)

In 1977 Rick Sklar was promoted to VP/Programming for ABC and Glenn Morgan was named program director. Although Rick was still involved with the station, we worked with Glenn on a day to day basis. In 1979 it was Al Brady, and in 1980 it was Jay Clark. We also worked closely with the station's Production Directors through the years, including Sandy Sanderson, Steve Goldstein, and Johnny Donovan.

JAM Creates the Sound For a New WABC Disc Jockey

Upon the departure of DJ Jay Reynolds, WABC hired Bob Cruz. He began in March 1976 and we did a new set of jock jingles for him. This is memorable because at that time it was still big news for a new jock to be hired at WABC. Later on it happened more frequently, and became less of a big deal.

The "LogoSet" Package

To expand the initial JAM package, we produced a new custom package for WABC called "LogoSet" in early 1976. As usual the station only used some of the cuts, but the short brass shotgun (cut #10) was used extensively for years. Our original "soft" DJ acappellas were also added to the end of this package.

    The "Brass Shotgun" jingle (38K)

"LogoSet" was the first JAM demo which was narrated by Dan Ingram (another personal thrill!). In the years that followed we also used folks like Bob Lewis (Bobaloo) and Cousin Brucie on our demo presentations.

"Happy Birthday America"

July 1976 was the bicentennial and JAM produced a series of custom jingles and beds with the "Happy Birthday America" lyric. The station had various celebrities record greetings over the jingles to wish America a happy 200th birthday. That same month was Dan Ingram's 15th anniversary at the station, and we did a few special jingles for that event too.

Celebrity Bicentennial jingle (210K)

"I’ll Take Manhattan" Gets Retired..... Sort of.....

At about this time, WABC decided that it no longer wanted to pay for the rights to use the "I'll Take Manhattan" melody. So JAM was asked to propose new melodies for the "77" part of the logo. This was an exercise in futility, because it had to be a committee decision and no one wanted the responsibility of picking the "wrong" logo. We must have done more than a dozen different auditions over a 12 month period. In the end we changed one note (the second one). It goes by so fast in most of the jingles that hardly anyone noticed.

Ok jingle freaks...... you'll have to listen to this a few times!
The "Old" 77 (10K)
The "New" 77 (12K)

It Wasn’t Easy.....

One common thread throughout the PAMS and JAM days is this: WABC was always in the habit of requesting new jingles whenever a new idea struck them. But, unlike most clients, they wouldn't place a definitive order for a new cut or package. It was always "what would it sound like to do such-and such? Why don't you play around with it and send up a few things and let us hear it?" Their idea would then evolve as they heard the various experiments. It worked, but it could be frustrating.

A great example: In December 1976 Rick Sklar came up with the slogan "The Best Music on The Best Station". The station asked us to record a few acappellas (i.e. voices only, no music track) which we gladly did:

"Best Music Best Station" Acappella (60K)

They decided that the vocals were fine as they were but there wasn't enough punch, so could we add some instrumentation? So, in a truly bass-ackwards maneuver, we managed to have the musicians overdub to the singers! (It's usually done the other way around). We sent those up in January 1977. Well, that wasn't quite right either because it didn't sound natural (of course not- it WASN'T). So in February 1977 we started all over again and did it the right way... we recorded new tracks and then sang over them. That's what got on the air. Those cuts later became part of our "Positron" package:

Best Music Best Station (This is one of the final versions that was used.) (48K)

The "Positron Package"

I tried very hard to convince the station to do something special during the year of 1977, and proposed many ideas revolving around "the year of 77". But all they really wanted to hear was new and better shorties with "The Best Music" and "Music Radio". We created the "Positron" package to satisfy those requests, and it went on the air June 1977.

Music Radio WABC (59K)

I especially wanted them to do something on July 7 (which was 7/7/77!). But nothing special happened at all... except that one of Dan Ingram's grandchildren was born that day!

I finally got my way at the end of the year when I convinced them to let us do a few custom "Top 77 of 1977" jingles. Those cuts (with different lyrics) later became part of our "Pro/Mod" package.

The "Christmas Kit"

We did a new package of Christmas jingles to replace the 1968 PAMS Christmas grid. We called ours "The Christmas Kit" and the station used it for many years beginning with 1977. It sold in just about every other market as well.

Seasons Greetings.... WABC (82K)

The "Class Action" and "Pro/Mod" Packages

In July 1978 we did our first major custom package for WLS, which was ABC's sister station in Chicago. WLS bought an enormous number of cuts, so we divided them into two packages for sales purposes. We called some of them "Class Action". The remainder we called "Pro/Mod". We played the new WLS jingles for WABC, but they couldn't envision how they'd sound with the WABC melody in place of the distinctive WLS melody. So we re-sang the "Pro/Mod" section for WABC to show them. When they heard it they liked it and used several of the cuts... after making a few changes, of course.

"Best Music of 77.... WABC" (89K)

The "Dance To The Music" Package

Much has been written about the effect that disco music had on WABC, and it was evident in the jingles as well. In November 1978 we were asked to create several cuts based on the sound of big disco hits which the station had started to play. We did this, and those cuts (along with more WLS material) later became part of our "Dance To The Music" package.

Dance to the Music "Musicradio..." (73K)

WABC continued to add a few cuts here and there from the packages we were doing for others. Most of the additions came from WLS packages such as "Outstanding".

The "You’ll Like Our Style" Package

The last custom jingle package for WABC as a music station was done by JAM in 1981. There was already plenty of talk and sports on the air in the evenings at that point, and the slogan had become "New York's Radio Station". Program Director Jay Clark commissioned us to do a full package based on the theme "You'll Like Our Style". It began as the basis of the station's TV spots, which featured the morning team of Ross and Wilson. Then we expanded it into an ID package.

In order to make a break with the vocal group sound that had typified WABC jingles up until then, it was decided to sing these with an all-male vocal group. Now, for the first time in years, the jingles increased in length. There were jingles with versions sung for each of the 5 boroughs and about 50 suburbs; "traffic jam" jingles with versions which mentioned almost every major road, bridge, or tunnel; a song about famous NY landmarks; and many shorties. (The shorties survived the longest, of course). On the day the jingles first aired (6/4/81) Dan Ingram played his new opening theme without talking over it... "so that the jingle freaks can tape it".

"Brooklyn We Like Your Style" (One of the "Town Mention" cuts)(73K)
Dan Ingram's Opening Theme (which he used until his last show on WABC) (291K)
You'll Like Our Style Weekend (an example of a longer jingle) (248K)

Also in 1981 Dan Ingram celebrated his 20th anniversary at WABC with a commercial free four hour program. JAM contributed several special jingles (as well as some of the airchecks which were used on the show).

JAM Jingles Change With WABC: The "Talk To Us" Package

And so we come to May 10, 1982. We created a new jingle package called" Talk To Us" for WABC's new Talkradio format. In order to minimize the change, it was sung with the same all-male group that did the "You'll Like Our Style" package. In fact, some of the YLOS cuts continued to run even after the format change.

I found out that Musicradio WABC was going to end with a long song montage (mostly borrowed from WLS' annual new year's eve tape). I told them they had to insert the era-appropriate jingles into the tape as WLS had done. But I was told that no one could find the old masters and didn't know which cuts to use anyway. So I supplied them from my personal collection. I also told them that, no matter what, the last thing they played had to be the WABC Chime jingle. And that's what they did. I helped program the last 3 seconds of WABC!

After a dramatic pause they kicked off the new format with a :60 song from the new JAM package (and it was a cut that I had written).

The only thing that made this even more memorable and emotional than it would have been anyway was the timing: WABC, the station of my youth, changed it's format at high noon on my 30th birthday.

 

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