The office looked
normal enough...floor-to-ceiling glass walls accented by dark wood
frames, parquet floors and muted green and wine-colored carpeting. I
wasn't sure if I had entered a world-renown jingle studio or a
lawyer's office! But as we got closer to ground zero (the control
room), the sweet blend of singing voices waiting through the air let
me know I had entered someplace very special.
Ken R. Incorporated is hidden in a non-descript office building in
Toledo, Ohio and remains one of the better kept secrets in the
advertising world. For the last 22 years, thousands of jingles
created here have influenced the sound radio ads in over 200 markets
in the USA and 12 other countries. Car dealers in Cincinnati,
restaurants in Reno and jewelry stores in Jasper have all come to
Toledo, Ohio for their broadcast image. And is there actually a
person called "Ken R." somewhere in this picture?
There is. He is 48-year old Ken R. Deutsch, a former radio DJ and
talk host, college drop-put and (according to Ken) one of the worst
piano players ever to hit the bar circuit in 1968. While his
background includes 10 years of classical training, performing was
never his "thing." "If I had to make a living playing gigs l would
starve. If I had to make a living singing, I'd be thrown in jail,"
says Ken, a soft-spoken man known to wear ties only under duress.
But here l was in a
studio to witness the recording of three retailer jingles and four
radio station ID packages (those short 6-second clips which sing
"More Music... Kiss FM" for example) "Where's the band?" I asked.
The answer is that the instrumental portion of the jingles is always
recorded earlier. The singers on the other side of the glass listen
to the music in their headphones and add their vocals in layers,
building up an impressive wall of sound as they go.
Under the glow of a pink neon sign reading "Jingles," the red
recording light pops on. The first take is tentative as the singers
sight-read the music for the first time. The next take is much more
solid, but still not quite right. Although I couldn't hear a
problem, the singers and Ken did. They are all very, very picky
about singing in tune, ending phrases together, and the blend of the
voices. Finally a perfect take is recorded. Then the singers
re-record the same phrase again on another track to add depth and
sparkle to the sound.
The atmosphere in the studio is intensely focused but light-hearted.
DJ, one of the three male singers, is quite a cut-up. Lisa, one of
the two very pretty female singers, is pensive. She never quite
seems satisfied until the singers hear the playback. Then she nods
that all is well. Everyone seems to work together, yet with a
constant eye on the clock.
I am impressed by the total lack of egos in the room. I've witnessed
big recording artists throw fits -- and ashtrays. These jingle
artists aren't like that at all. While they may have discussions
about musical points, it's never personal and always cordial. "I
really look forward to these sessions," says Ken. "Lisa has been
singing with us since 1979. Doug since 1980. Ben is a 14 year
veteran. DJ has put in about 9 years and Amy is the newcomer at
three years. Our jingles are very well-received and it's all because
of these guys."
With only short hourly breaks the singing continues until the last
jingle is complete. The vocal group then troops back into the
control room for a final playback of the evening's work.
Big smiles all around. People are happy in Jingleland.
Graphic Version of the