Commercial-soundtrack producer Gerald Dolezar, the founder and president of a New York “jingle house” called Radio Kings, is part of a growing contingent on Madison Avenue that believes advertisements should sound like Top Forty tunes. “The problem,” Dolezar says, “is that most jingle writers haven’t been within fifty miles of a hit.”
So four years ago, the bearded forty-year-old Texan hit upon a profitable solution: he started hiring chart-seasoned talent whose careers, in his words, “need revitalizing.” “What I try to do is stay in touch with the record companies,” Dolezar says, “and see who’s available.”
Sure enough, Radio Kings’ master cassette is loaded with familiar names. There’s Gary Wright doing a “Dream Weaver”-ish ditty for Gallo wines, Southside Johnny juking it up for American Airlines and Dan Hicks getting in some licks on behalf of Ball Park franks. In addition, there are some twenty-five other downward-bound denizens of the rock world, including America, Jimmy Cliff and the Temptations, crooning variations on that immortal theme, “This Bud’s for You.”
Ten years ago, Radio Kings couldn’t have existed. “Bands didn’t want to do commercials,” says Dolezar. “It wasn’t a cool thing to do.” Even today, persuading an ex-star to go commercial can be touchy business. Dolezar smooth-talks his fallen stars, telling them that composing for commercials “validates their worth as writers, because they’re not in a situation where everyone is telling them they’re great.” His advice: think of a successful jingle as “the ultimate thirty-or sixty-second hit.”
Currently, Radio Kings’ biggest workhorses are Mike Smith and Eddie Jobson. Smith, you probably don’t recall, was a member of the Dave Clark Five. “He’s been on The Ed Sullivan Show nine times,” says Dolezar. “More than the Beatles.” Smith is the author of numerous Sixties hits, including “Bits & Pieces,” “Glad All Over” and “Can’t You See That She’s Mine?” Today you can hear his husky tenor on Mother’s Cookies commercials and on those stirring spots from the Beef Industry Council — the ones with Cybill Shepherd extolling the virtues of hamburger. That’s Smith wailing, “Whatever happened to real food?”
Jobson is a raucous, longhaired synthesist with impeccable rock credentials: Roxy Music, King Crimson, Yes and Jethro Tull. Recently, though, he’s managed a slick transition from art rock to ad rock, penning gentle New Age piano ditties for L’eggs Sheer Elegance panty hose and GE light bulbs.
Not that all of Radio Kings’ jingle writers are deposed rockers. Two of Dolezar’s younger contributors are Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo and Wall of Voodoo’s Andy Preboy. And then there’s Bob Corbin, best known as Alabama’s songwriter but also the author of a very successful jingle for Safeway food stores. “I’m sure he made $200,000 on that one,” says Dolezar, adding wistfully that he takes a percentage of his writers’ original fees but gets no share of their residuals.
Dolezar looks a little sheepish when asked to recite Safeway’s anthem: “It goes, ‘I work an honest day, I want an honest deal.'”