Richard Trentlage, the professional jingle writer behind the famous “Oscar Mayer Wiener Song,” died last Wednesday, September 21st, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.
Trentlage’s family confirmed his passing, though did not give a cause of death.
Born in Chicago in 1928, Trentlage wrote his first jingle as a high school senior, penning a song for a fictional product, Modern Plastic Brooms, that served as a cheeky bumper to the school’s talent show, which was formatted like a radio program. According to his family, Trentlage’s classmates were still able to recreate the song at their reunion 50 years later.
As a professional jingle writer, Trentlage penned tunes for V8 (“Wow, it sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice!”), the National Safety Council (“Buckle up for safety, buckle up!”) and McDonald’s (“McDonald’s is your kind of place!”). However, Trentlage’s four-line Oscar Mayer jingle was undeniably his magnum opus.
The meat products company had run a jingle contest and Trentlage reportedly penned the tune — which famously begins, “Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener” — at the last minute in under 24 hours. According to Trentlage’s son, Dave, his father composed the jingle on banjo and ukulele at 4 p.m., recorded it at his home studio at 7 p.m. and turned it in to Oscar Mayer’s ad agency the following morning. Both Dave and his sister Linda sang the jingle, despite both having colds.
In an interview, former Oscar Mayer ad executive Jerry Ringlet (who was behind the company’s other inescapable song) recalled the “haunting” quality of the version sung by Trentlage’s kids, and pushed his fellow executives to test the rough version before re-recording it with a professional group. The company agreed to run the jingle in Houston — a market they weren’t otherwise involved in — and the song was an immediate success.
“Editorials were being written about the song, people were writing us, we got tons of mail about the jingle, the Little Sisters of the Sodality wanted to use a parody in one of the things they were putting on, and we knew then we had a winner,” Ringlet said, adding: “It was the commercial that carried Oscar Mayer to national distribution.”
The first ad featuring “The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song” debuted in 1963 and the song would serve as the company’s flagship tune until it was retired in 2010.
As Trentlage raked in residuals for “The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song,” he continued to pen more jingles with the help of his family. “We were always getting out of school to hop a train and meet our dad at a Chicago recording studio,” said Linda. “We never thought that was unusual. It was just part of our regular lifestyle. And it had no negative affect on our grades.”