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On this page we are proud to share some of the many newspaper and magazine articles which have been written about different aspects of JAM.

"He Dreamed of Jingles" Dave Roos
The New York Times
"JAM Makes Jingles All the Time" Ken R.
Radio World
"Jingles All The Way" Al Brumley
The Dallas Morning News

He Dreamed of Jingles


By Dave Roos / The New York Times

Back in the 1960's, every New York neighborhood had its radio addict, the kid who knew the names and catch phrases of every local D.J., and the title of every song ever played backward in a call-in contest. Such a kid's fantasy, of course, was to one day be a D.J. himself.

But for one shy Brooklynite who came of age in the heyday of top-40 radio, a singular devotion to WABC-AM fueled a singularly strange dream: to become the king of radio jingles.

The station, at 770 on the dial, reached its peak of popularity in the late 60's and early 70's, at one point pulling in a staggering eight million listeners a week. One of those loyal fans was Jonathan Wolfert, 9 years old, who would sit in his room in Flatbush with his tabletop transistor radio and a yellow notepad, meticulously comparing play lists and station identification jingles from New York's top stations. He was enthralled with the highly produced WABC jingles, particularly those featuring the Sonovox, a device that gave robotic speech to musical instruments.

"I heard this trombone sing 'W-A-B-C!' " Mr. Wolfert recalled. "This completely flipped me out."

One night, while scanning the dial for far-off signals, he heard something remarkable. WKBW Buffalo was playing a note-for-note copy of a WABC jingle sung with different call letters. It was like a Beatles fan learning that the band had re-recorded all their albums just for Cleveland, "then you go to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and they've done them again."

Mr. Wolfert had stumbled upon jingle syndication. Armed with his reel-to-reel tape recorder, he made it his mission to collect the hundreds of regional variations of his favorite WABC jingles. On Memorial Day May 31, New Yorkers will again be able to hear some of those memorable jingles. Starting at 6 a.m., WABC will broadcast its sixth annual Rewound special, 12 straight hours of vintage top-40 radio - music, D.J.'s, commercials and jingles - from the station's glory days in the 1960's and 70's.

Mr. Wolfert's crusade to collect these jingles took a big step forward when he moved to Great Neck, on Long Island, in the eighth grade and met Peter Mokover, a fellow radio buff whose family had a summer place a few doors down from Rick Sklar, the legendary program director for WABC. With this prized connection, the boys won entry into the holy of holies, the WABC studio itself. The two teenagers became regular fixtures at WABC. They learned that the station's jingles were produced by PAMS Productions, a Dallas company owned by jingle pioneer Bill Meeks. One afternoon, Mr. Sklar's assistant mentioned that Mr. Meeks was at the studio. "This is like someone telling you: 'The Lord God is in the building. Would you like to meet him?' " Mr. Wolfert remembered. After telling Mr. Meeks that he would love to work for PAMS one day, he asked him for his autograph.

While still in high school, Mr. Wolfert volunteered at WALI at Adelphi University, on Long Island, where he masterfully removed the "W-A" from a WABC jingle and the "L-I" from a KLIF Dallas jingle to create a perfect (albeit illegal) replica of a PAMS original. Later, he persuaded a friend to sing the lyrics of a jingle over his own musical composition. His co-workers were blown away. The jingle king had found his calling.

In 1969, Mr. Wolfert entered Clarkson College in Potsdam, N.Y., under the guise of studying electrical engineering, but spent every waking hour at the town's top-40 station. Within six months, he had his own popular radio show and had been promoted to production director.

During those years, he was making monthly phone calls to Bill Meeks at PAMS, asking for work. The call he was waiting for came just days before the start of his junior year, and within a week, Mr. Wolfert was in Dallas, dubbing tapes and running errands. "Years later," Mr. Wolfert said, "it occurred to me that I didn't even ask what it paid until I'd been there about three or four days."

It wasn't long before he was producing his own cuts. PAMS hit hard times in 1974, prompting Mr. Wolfert, then 22, to resign and start JAM Creative Productions (the initials stood for Jon and Mary Lyn, his wife of six months). Less than a year later, Mr. Wolfert got a call from Rick Sklar. WABC wanted a new jingle. The circle was complete.

Thirty years later, JAM is one of the largest and most experienced producers of station identification jingles. Mr. Wolfert, 52, still makes jingles for WABC, as he has done for nearly 20 different New York stations and over 4,500 stations worldwide.

He will participate in an on-air discussion about WABC's golden years directly after the Rewound broadcast. The thrill isn't lost on him.

"Sitting behind a mike that says 'WABC' on it - this is what you dream about when you're in 10th grade," Mr. Wolfert said. "It's just one of those things you never thought would even remotely happen."

This article originally appeared in the "New York Region - City People" section of The New York Times.

JAM Makes Jingles All the Time


By Ken R. / Radio World

Most recording studios end up doing a bit of everything- a little demo for a rock band here, or an industrial soundtrack there. At JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, the two huge studios and large staff are dedicated to one product: jingles.

JAM not only specializes in jingles, but to narrow it down, almost all of what is recorded there are radio station ID jingles. These are the 6-second, intensely produced sung cuts that blaze a station's image into the listener's minds.

In the old days they sang call letters. Now they sing mostly nicknames, such as Kiss, Magic, or Young Country 102. During its 25-plus years in the business, JAM has produced IDs for thousands of radio stations.

Jonathan M. Wolfert, President of JAM describes his studio as "a technology museum." By that he does not mean that all his gear is old, he means that he has the best of the old and new.

The reason is syndication, in which the same instrumental tracks are used dozens of times for stations in different cities.

After hearing a demo CD of different styles, a station chooses one. Each time a new station orders a specific jingle package, the calls and slogans are changed, but the music tracks remain the same.

This allows stations in smaller markets to save money, and to know what their package will sound like ahead of time. Of course, JAM records custom jingle packages every month to provide a steady stream of new product for syndication.

"The reason we keep the old equipment around isn't just sentiment," said Wolfert. "Because we are in the syndication business, we must always be able to play older material. We must be back compatible. The only alternative to that would be to copy everything we make every time the technology changes, which is not practical."

When a second, third or fourth station orders the same package, the engineers at JAM do not use the original master tape. They have an elaborate system of multi-track reduction mixes with the masters filed safely away. This lets them capture the same sound as the station heard on the demo, yet allows the flexibility to move a brass stab out of the way if needed.

In 1987, JAM moved to its current location in Dallas with two customized studios, the acoustics for which were designed by Tom Hidley.

The larger "A" room generally is used for recording new music tracks and mixing custom packages. The "B" room usually is reserved for vocal work.

"People are amazed in this day of MIDI that we bring in live musicians and need a big room," said Wolfert. "If you want the sound of strings and saxes, the real thing sounds better, hands down, all the time."

JAM will often use thirteen-piece string sections consisting of 8 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and a string bass. It has also have been known to record 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, a sax, a flute and a French horn simultaneously

In both rooms the front third is carpeted. The rest is hard wood so reflections can be controlled. Vocalists are set up on the carpet; brass and strings on the wood.

JAM is known for its vocal sound, an anachronistic 7- or 5-voice blend not typically heard in contemporary music.

One might ask why a big vocal group is used instead of soloists or duets, which are more representative of what's heard on the radio. The reason is history.

The jingle industry started in Dallas in the late 1940s growing directly from the big bands of Glenn Miller, Vaughn Monroe and Tommy Dorsey. Vocal groups have continued to be the rule in jingles.

There are production companies in other cities that produce less traditional sounding cuts. But more jingles come out of Dallas today than anywhere else, most of them featuring a blended vocal sound.

According to Wolfert, program directors like the big vocal sound because it stands out from the rest of the music on the air.

"Putting solos in the jingles would be like saying 'Hey, I have a great recording of the ocean here. Let's go down to the beach and I'll play it for you.'"

A 7-voice group is recorded using four mics. Three Neumann TLM 170s are used; one for the lead female, one for the two other females and three guys share a mic. The bass singer gets a Neumann U47.

Oddly enough, all four mics are combined through the board to one track on the tape. Then another pass is made in which the singers perform the same chart onto a second and sometimes a third track. This process is called stacking.

When recording the music, Neumann U87s and U47s often are used on brass with AKG 414s on occasion. The drum set is recorded using 10 or 12 mics. There's also a mic set close to the drummer's head [to record the count-off].

"We learned years ago not to trust the overhead mics for that. The singers need to hear the tempo being established before the music track starts," said Wolfert.

JAM usually records the bass through a Countryman DI. Guitar is sometimes taken through a box or the amp may be miked- and sometimes it's a combination of both.

"When we're doing acoustic piano, we sometimes use an electronic keyboard during the session and overdub a real grand piano later," said Wolfert. JAM records a Kawaii piano with two Neumann KM84s.

During vocal recording a dbx compressor usually is used on each mic. JAM also uses a dbx900 rack, which holds many cards. A de-esser may be inserted after the mic pre, depending on the singer. Some EQ is used during recording to brighten, as intelligibility is essential.

"I get asked if we have a magic box that gives us our sound," said Wolfert. "What it really comes down to is the combination of talent in the room, the writing, the production, the recording. The magic box is on our shoulders- it's our experience."

"We don't rely completely on compressors for vocals because they are dumb. By that, I mean a compressor doesn't understand that a low note won't pop out as brightly as a higher one, so we compensate with constant fingering on the faders during vocal sessions. It changes almost syllable by syllable," said Wolfert.

JAM records vocals dry, adding reverb and effects during the mixing process.

JAM prides itself on having a consistent staff of key people.

"Brian Hamilton, chief engineer, is a 20-year veteran at JAM. Mark Holland helped with the design and layout of the studios, and he's been with JAM for 24 years," said Wolfert.

The JAM engineers mix to a Sonic Solutions system.

"It gives us great quality and lets us to do neat edits. If there's something problematic with the cut, we may need to perform some surgery," said Wolfert.

JAM uses an Adam Smith timecode generator, which can sync to a 3/4-inch video deck, a Studer 1/4-inch machine or a 24-track analogue [or digital] machine when SMPTE is recorded. Although Wolfert claims to be an analog guy when it comes to sound, the studio just upgraded from a Harrison MR-4 analog board to a Euphonix System 5 digital console.

"Our old board didn't have the inputs, sends or returns we needed. We just outgrew it," said Wolfert. "But there used to be something in between the million-dollar consoles and the low end for studios like us. Now we have to commit to spending a lot of money to get the features we want."

Wolfert noted that he is a recent convert to an all-digital system.

"It's basically a computer that masquerades as a board. Because of that, everything can be recalled. We get into projects that take days to complete and this allows us to switch gears quickly without taking a studio off-line for a week at a time."

Wolfert tries to be realistic about equipment purchases, only picking up those pieces that will help the product.

"No one will pay us a nickel more for one of our jingles because of what we used to make it, and that's not true of rental studios. All that matters is the end result. It has to make us money by making us more efficient," said Wolfert.

He points out that unlike many traditional recording studios, "everything we record goes on the air. Our stuff has been heard by more people on more stations than many of the so-called hits. The hits get aired for a few weeks, then disappear. The jingles keep going," Wolfert said.

"You can buy all the same equipment we have and that doesn't mean you can do what we do," said Wolfert. "The equipment is an important tool to help you make what's in your head. But the level of excellence you're willing to accept, the amount of time you want to spend and how obsessive you are willing to be, those are the qualities that make great jingles."

This article originally appeared in the June 7, 2000, edition of Radio World, the Newspaper for Radio Managers & Engineers. Reprinted with permission.

Jingles all the way

Chances are you've heard a tune or two from this Dallas studio


By Al Brumley / The Dallas Morning News

Somewhere in the Philippines, a radio station is playing back-to-back classics.

We know this because on a recent afternoon, seven people gathered around microphones in a tucked-away South Dallas recording studio and, at the behest of a Filipino client, sang "Back-to-back CLASSICS!" about 18 times.

Next, it was "Relaxing back-to-back CLASSICS! - Only on Mellow TOUCH!"

At this point, Jonathan Wolfert looked up from the studio board with a barely perceptible grin, bemused by the station's odd moniker. "I don't explain 'em," he said. "I just record 'em."

But that's being modest. Mr. Wolfert, president of JAM Creative Productions Inc., has turned the creation of radio jingles into an art form that some say is unequaled anywhere in the world. He writes them, produces them, collects them and, oh yeah, he sells them, too.

The passion Mr. Wolfert brings to his work has helped Dallas maintain its reputation as the nation's jingles capital, along with other top studios such as TM Century and Thompson Creative.

And it has helped write one of those great American success stories that always seem to begin with a childhood fixation on something, well, different.

"Essentially, I turned my hobby into my career," says Mr. Wolfert, 46, a soft-spoken man who looks much younger than his years. "And I feel very, very fortunate, because I know how rare that is."

Joel Salkowitz, program director for JAM client "Magic 102" KTXQ-FM (102.1), says JAM's jingles "pop really well on the radio."

Making good jingles is a true art form, Mr. Salkowitz says. "They're supposed to fit the sound of the radio station without blending seamlessly into it," he says. "And JAM does that very well. Jon is an old radio junkie. He just knows what works in the mix on a radio station. They do a great job designing stuff that fits, yet pops just enough so you notice it."

JAM clients have included such radio giants as Casey Kasem and Dick Clark. When David Letterman decided he wanted his own jingles to play between jokes, he turned to JAM. The company has clients all over the world, from Indonesia to Japan to Great Britain to Russia.

Perhaps this all sounds like overkill. After all, how hard could it be to record a jingle?

But a lot of work goes into those short bursts of music - enough to keep Mr. Wolfert and his small staff humming year-round in JAM's 11-year-old, custom-built studio just below Interstate 30 in Dallas.

Putting a package of jingles together can sometimes take weeks, Mr. Wolfert says. And that's why he installed a plaque outside the studio doors bearing the Latin motto "Tempus Consumit Res Creare," or "It takes time to make things."

"Every time we have a client come in, the first day when he gets here, we show him that," Mr. Wolfert says. "We say, 'You may not understand this now, but when you leave here, you will.' And they always do. It's because what is made is not a mass-produced item. It's like every one is hand-carved, and so it takes a lot of time to do that."

JAM's story begins in the early 1960s in Brooklyn and, later, Long Island, where Mr. Wolfert grew up a fan of WABC, the nation's leading Top 40 station at the time.

But more than the songs caught his ear. He'd already begun concentrating on jingles when he made an important discovery: At night, it's possible to listen to stations from far away - a practice known in the radio industry as "DX-ing."

"And I heard stations with the same jingles as WABC," he says. "It was kind of like the rush a scientist might get if he discovers life on another planet. And then, it became a hobby to try to collect them."

The WABC jingles were created by Dallas-based PAMS (Production Advertising Merchandising Service), one of only two or three major jingles studios at the time, Mr. Wolfert says.

Mr. Wolfert soon became a familiar presence at WABC, where program director Rick Sklar was impressed by the youngster's serious questions and interest in things other than autographs and free albums.

Mr. Wolfert entered college as an engineering major at the suggestion of his high-school counselor. But he never forgot jingles.

In the summer of 1970, Mr. Wolfert spent three days at PAMS - at his own expense. "When I left, they said, 'Stay in touch,' so I took them literally, and I called them every month."

It paid off in 1971 when PAMS offered him a job as an editor. Mr. Wolfert immediately withdrew from college at the start of his junior year, left his girlfriend, Mary Lyn, behind and moved to Dallas.

"For me, PAMS was the big time," Mr. Wolfert says. "I knew more about their product than a lot of them did. I didn't even ask what they paid until I'd been here a few days."

A year later, Mary Lyn graduated from college, moved to Dallas and was hired as an elementary school teacher.

A year after that, PAMS began to fight the slow economy by diversifying, but "it was a disaster," Mr. Wolfert says.

Soon, Mr. Wolfert and Mary Lyn, who had recently married, decided to start their own company. (Mr. Wolfert says "JAM" stands for Jon And Mary Lyn and was not meant to be confused with PAMS, despite some accusations to the contrary.)

The company began in the couple's apartment. Mr. Wolfert handled the artistic side; Ms. Wolfert took care of the books.

"You know, you hear about all these corporations that have long-range plans and all this stuff," says Ms. Wolfert, 48. "My concern was, 'Can we eat and pay the rent?' "

"In hindsight, it seems like a preposterous notion," Mr. Wolfert says. "I mean, we were competing with companies with millions of dollars. But my contention was, it didn't matter if we didn't have spiffy offices. What mattered was, 'Are the jingles any good?' "

Turns out, they were. Soon, the BBC was knocking on the door. And in October 1975, WABC came calling. Suddenly, JAM was on the map.

Ms. Wolfert says her husband understands jingles from the artistic and technical sides, but he also knows what radio programmers are looking for.

"He can be the translator between the radio people and the music people," she says.

And that's important. A recording session can become maddeningly tedious for the uninitiated as seven vocalists sing "Good-time oldies weekEND!" time after time.

But Mr. Wolfert loves the challenge of putting a lot into a small package. And he now has two staff writers, Chris Kershaw and Judy Parma, along with several free-lancers, to help him.

Stations provide JAM with the copy, and the writers tweak it and put it to music. Or sometimes lyrics are set to music JAM has already recorded.

Free-lance musicians lay down the tracks, and a seven-voice group does the singing (although some jingles call for fewer singers, or sometimes even a soloist). Mr. Kershaw and Ms. Parma sing in the group, and the rest are free-lancers. They've all been singing together since the youngest member joined in 1986. Several have been singing jingles since the late '50s.

The five free-lancers sing at other leading Dallas-based jingles studios, but the seven-voice group at JAM is unique.

When they open their mouths, what you hear is instantly recognizable, a natural wonder that seems to have always existed. It's the sound that has announced KVIL-FM (103.7) for years, along with nearly every other station in town at one time or another. Current clients include KLUV-AM (1190), KEOM-FM (88.5) and KTXQ (102.1).

To actually see the sound being created is both thrilling and jarring, kind of like learning that the wind you hear in the trees is coming from a synthesizer.

The members are adept at sight-reading and often sing in foreign languages. It's not unusual for a client to listen in over the telephone during a session to ensure that the accents and inflections are correct.

At a recent session, Americo Gomez came to JAM from Venezuela to have jingles cut for his station, Diamante 95.9. The group sang "Noticias Diamante! Con La Verdad!" as Mr. Gomez and his son sat in the studio and critiqued the accents.

"There are other places we could have gone," Mr. Gomez says. "But they don't have the same quality and professionalism."

Next up for the group was "Cozy 101" in Denver: "Your home for the holidays . . . Cozy 101!"; "It's the 12 days of Christmas, and Cozy gave to me, a gift from Cozy charities!"

Then came an ID for a British disc jockey, Adam Butler. But the group had to give the "R" a softer treatment than they would for an American DJ.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wolfert sat on the other side of the glass, fiddling with knobs and switches, working the board like a blind man reading Braille.

At one point, the group had to shout, "More oldies!" To which Mr. Wolfert wryly responded, "It's cool, but it scared me."

The jingles start out a little ragged at first, but in two or three takes they sound perfect to amateur ears. Still, there are flaws that at this point only Mr. Kershaw, who also serves as producer, or Mr. Wolfert can hear. Usually it takes no more than 10 attempts to make everyone happy.

Then the jingles have to be mixed, a process that can take up to a week, depending on the size of the package.

Jim Clancy, who sings bass in the group, says Mr. Wolfert is "an absolute genius, and I don't use that word loosely. He has an incredibly analytical mind. He loves what he does, and he just has a way of getting a perfect balance."

Bill Curtis, program director at KVIL, says Mr. Wolfert "has a true personal passion and commitment to what he does. It is not a factory mentality. He eats it, he sleeps it, he breathes it."

Mr. Wolfert says his goal was never to run a company; he just wanted to make great jingles. Now he not only has spiffy offices, but jingles groupies coming around to watch and learn, just as he once did at PAMS.

He appreciates what he calls "the complete closure of the loop": "I did a term paper on Voice of America in the eighth grade, and now we do jingles for them," he says. "That's pretty cool."

Reprinted with permission of The Dallas Morning News.