Jingles, Jazz and More

Trella Hart

Iconic radio jingle singer Trella Hart passed away on July 4, 2024. She was 88.

Trella was a big part of two of PAMS most successful 1960s jingle packages, "Swiszle" and "Fun Vibrations."

PAMS Series 32 for WKLO in Louisville featuring Trella Hart

After her exclusive contract with PAMS ended, she went on to sing for other Dallas-based jingle companies.

She also performed live jazz at clubs and other places in the Dallas area.

In honor of her big impact to the radio jingle industry, we've received permission from The Jingle Book (2002)author Ken Deutsch to post his chapter on Trella Hart.

Trella Hart, the Lady With Swiszle

I am at a loss to describe Trella Hartís unmistakable singing voice.

Itís a little like the scent of jasmine on a quiet, starry night. Uh, thatís no good. Itís strawberry ice cream with bananas on top. Sorry, thatís worse.

Try again: Her laugh starts small, like a little ripple, but can erupt into a full-fledged, milk-through-the-nose snort at times.

That doesnít really do it justice, either.

Anyone who has ever heard PAMS Series 32 ("Swiszle"), Series 33 ("Fun Vibrations") or any of the hundreds of commercials this woman has sung will know her voice and love it.

When I spoke to her by phone for this interview, she still had that voice. We hadnít spoken for about 15 years, since I visited Dallas to hire her for a jingle session; but on the phone she sounded exactly as she had then, to my delight.

Her career included stints running her own advertising business, singing under contract with Capitol Records and paying dues for many years on the road performing with bands like Don Jacoby at top night clubs around the United States.

Trella Hart

Down on the farm

She was born on a farm in rural Illinois. She and some musical neighbors formed a band called the Toe Ticklers when Hart was 14. Her mother had to drive her back and forth to dance jobs.

Later she moved to Chicago and by 1963 was singing in Indianapolis, where she was asked by future jingle writer and drummer Phil Kelly to join Jacobyís band. The group was headed for Dallas, and Hart soon discovered that she loved the town.

She soon made Big D her home base in 1966 while continuing to travel around the country on gigs.

As early as 1964, her stops in Dallas gave her a taste of the jingle industry. Tom Merriman, then musical director of Commercial Recording Corp., asked Hart to sing some commercials for Pearl Beer.

"I liked that," said Hart. "I also had a little boy and I was looking for a place to land because I couldnít drag him on the road with me. So moving to Dallas worked out great."

In 1966 Bill Meeks dropped in at Club Village, where Hart was performing. He liked her singing so much that he put her under exclusive contract for two years. "I was paid whether I worked or not, so I could have some time with my son," Hart said. "It was terrific because I earned money to learn the craft of studio singing."

In 1966, PAMS was experimenting with what was to become Series 32. Hartís future husband and frequent piano accompanist Whitey Thomas was taking his first tentative steps with the Moog synthesizer. The first jingle use of that instrument was on Series 32.

"Everybody sat in on brainstorming sessions," she said. "Weíd all get in a room and talk about ideas. Whitey wrote some of the cuts; so did Euel Box and Bob Farrar."

Hart sometimes sang with the rest of the vocalists but more often stood in a room by herself, sometimes in Studio C, adding her solo lines to a package. This method of recording allowed her to experiment and polish her performances without wasting the time of her fellow singers.

Because of the uniqueness of her voice, and because PAMS took the unusual step of identifying her by name within the Series 32 demo ó "Trella Hart and the Good Timers" ó she began to gain a following among program directors and DJs across the country.

"It wasnít long before I realized I was becoming popular, because I was getting fan mail from the jocks," she recalled.

In fact, many of them asked her to perform spoken "wild lines" for the disk jockeys as well as singing their jingles. Some of these stations included AM rockers like WABC in New York; KFYR in Bismarck, N.D.; KQV in Pittsburgh; and WHB in Kansas City. Because her laugh was so infectious, many stations wanted to record her doing only that.

"Sometimes Iíd have to come in at 9 a.m. and immediately start giggling and shouting in a room by myself," said Hart.

The PAMS gang was invited to Detroit by WKNR(AM) for the fall introduction of its new sound in the fall of 1966. "I flew up there with Bill Meeks. We had a small live band, and we played the jingles for everyone on tape, then I sang some songs with the band," Hart said.

Trella Hart

Fun vibrations

A follow-up series was ordered to take advantage of her talents. Whitey Thomas, by now more learned with the Moog synthesizer, added inventive sounds to what would become Series 33, "Fun Vibrations," in 1967. A second version of the package called "Just for Fun" also was designed and marketed.

Series 32 and 33 sold well, but Hart wanted to move into other areas and be allowed to work for other people. While her contract with Meeks still had a few months left, Hart asked for her release, which Meeks granted.

Now that she was available, calls started to come in. Hart sang for Gwinsound, the newly formed TM Productions, Spot Productions and the Dallas studio of Pepper Tanner. She worked extensively with a commercial producer named Ken Southerland.

"I worked for Ralph Stacheon, a jingle producer, and in fact was the creative director there for a year or two," said Hart. "I would work with the writers and do a lot of the producing."

On her own

Hart also formed her own production company with Bettye Zoller (nťe Pierce) called B.R.O.A.D.S. The acronym stood for Broadcasting, Recording and Other ADvertising Services. That lasted a year; she then decided to go it alone as Trella Hart Productions in the early 1970s.

"I did a lot of work with a Florida agency, Caravetta, Allen and Kimbrough," she said. "We had the Burger King account for many months."

After traveling a bit more, Hart settled back in Dallas, where she kept busy producing, writing and singing.

"After traveling with my nightclub career, Iím happy to be back here full time," she said. "I still do some clubs and a few commercials, but Iíve been here for three years and I love it."

Oh, and her brief record career with Capitol? That was Jim Longís idea at TM.

Hart recorded several songs that, according to industry insiders, had solid commercial potential. It wasnít her fault that Anne Murray released "Snowbird" that same month (July, 1970) for the same label and got the big promotional push. Unfortunately, Trella Hartís career with the major label died a quick death. Timing, you know.

Norman Barrington Remembers Trella Hart

Norman Barrington's Trella Hart Tribute

My personal tribute to the late, great Trella Hart who passed away on 4th July 2024. A unique singer with the great personality, who made jingles so much more than just jingles. Her instantly recognizable voice, powerful enough to drive the most strident jingle as the soloist, yet just as delicate and fragile when the composition required it. (Hear WSGN, KQV-FM & WRIZ.)

And as natural with a fun novelty cut, as with a jazz standard. She was everywhere, PAMS, Pepper Tanner, Gwinsound, Spot Productions, JAM, TM, CPMG, Ken R, Alfasound and more. We were fortunate that the BBC chose some of her cuts in 1967. Also profusely bootlegged by Radio Caroline, Radio Veronica and RNI in Europe.

She will indeed be sadly missed by all who worked with her, and those who loved her personality through her voice. One for the truly great singers, from the golden age of radio.

All copyrights acknowledged.

Norman Barrington
July 2024

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