The Word - Vol 21
Theme Songs and Jingles
Theme songs and Jingles become part of our life, and are as recognizable as any top 40 or hit pop song. But who writes them
I used to work with a man at CKNW radio who wrote the iconic “Dollar Forty-Nine Day” commercial jingle for Woodward’s Stores. Sing and whistle along, 🎶 Dollar Forty-Nine Day, Woodward’s, Dollar Forty-Nine Day, Tuesday! 🎶. His name was Tony Antonias, and ask any old Vancouverite to sing the jingle, and I’ll bet they will.
There were other old jingles that might have stuck with you if you were around this town in the old days. How about “There’s not a single suit for sale at Murray Goldman”. Or singers singing along to someone cutting wood with a hand saw, “Valley Lumber, Valley Lumber, Valley Lumber.”
One of the more prolific jingle writers was Barry Manilow. He wrote the jingles for:
- State Farm Insurance. “Like a good neighbour, State Farm is there.”
- Band Aid, “I am Stuck on Band Aid and Band Aid’s stuck on me”
- McDonalds, “You deserve a Break Today.”
... to name just a few.
And right up there in the Jingle Hall of Fame has to be the memorable Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle.
"Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener
That is what I’d truly like to be
’Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener
Everyone would be in love with me.”
Genius! And According to the songwriter, Richard D. Trentlage, he wrote it in about one hour one night in September of 1962! He submitted the song to an open contest held by the company, and even though it took only an hour to write, it took Oscar Mayer over a year to decide to go with the jingle. A decision that earned Trentlage years of very healthy royalty cheques, and resulted in one of the longest, if not the longest running commercial jingle in history.
Then there are memorable TV show theme songs. That familiar Jeopardy theme music, especially when played for Final Jeopardy pops up sometimes in the most unusual places. When playing a family card game and one of the players is taking forever to lay down a card invariably someone will start humming the Jeopardy tune.
The music was not originally written for Jeopardy! In fact, Merv Griffin, who created the Jeopardy game show, wrote the 30-second jingle in 1963 to help his five-year-old son Tony fall asleep. He called it "A Time for Tony" and he told the New York Times that he wrote it in less than a minute. The title was changed to “Think” for the show. It’s been reported that Griffin received royalties every time the song aired which earned him close to 80 million dollars before his death.
One theme song that is so memorable is The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson theme. That song was written by Canadian singer-songwriter Paul Anka, with Carson also getting credit as a co-writer. Anka said he let Carson write new lyrics to the song in order to claim a songwriter’s credit, along with half of the royalties every time the song was played. That would earn each man an average of about $200,000 a year. It’s been estimated that “Johnny’s Theme” had been played over a million and half times before it was retired from the show when Carson retired.
I’m sure you have your own favourite theme song. A quick search on Google will reveal a treasure chest of music, all short tunes, but so memorable. Here are a few that really stand on their own as hit songs!
A lot of these go back in time, so put on your elderly headphones and think back to...
“Hawaii 5-O.” Composed by Morton Stevens, who won a pair of Emmy Awards for the song, and a version of the theme done by The Ventures peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969.
“Cheers” “Where everybody knows your name” Written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo. It’s reported that Portnoy was paid $150 to write the song, but later made up for that amount with royalty cheques that are probably still flowing in.
“The Seinfeld theme” was written by Jonathon Wolff, and you can imagine the cheques that land in his mailbox. It seems Seinfeld is playing somewhere in the world every day.
“The Love Boat” That theme was written by Charles Fox and Paul Williams. Williams also wrote hit songs by Three Dog Night "An Old Fashioned Love Song,” Helen Reddy's "You and Me Against the World", and the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays”
Shall I go on? Why not!
“M.A.S.H. - Suicide is painless” written by Mike Altman and Johnny Mandel.
“Happy Days.” Written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimble.
And one of my all-time favourites, probably because I was a radio DJ for a thousand years! The theme from “WKRP in Cincinnati” written by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.
I’m sure you were humming or singing the lyrics in your head as we took this musical trip down memory lane.
And while we’re going down memory lane, don’t forget, Tuesday is $1.49 Day!
Till next week...
The classic "$1.49" Woodwards jingle
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2