Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The oldest 'jingle rack' in the world?

"43 years later the jingle cassettes with overly-neat, multi-colour Dymo labels with enticing names, still hold their audio secrets" (The minutiae of a dj's life). 

Like most of us (in the older generations) my earliest memories of jingles are the "organ and sassy female" vocals on "Sounds Fine it's CAROLINE"... which were quickly out-classed when Jean Oliver (and the PAMS gang) sang "It's Smooth Sailing" and "Wonderful, Radio, London!" 

As a quiet, introverted 14 year old in 'posh' Twickenham (Dickie Valentine lived on our road) I was already determined to escape London at the earliest opportunity - I never liked big cities. My only solace was that I could actually get Radio London loud and clear all day every day. But unusually (for 1964) it was the sung jingles that got my primary attention. 

Like "a Bee to a flower" I was drawn into a new world, so whilst other 'teenagers' bought football boots and balls, I had a Philips 'magic eye' reel-to-reel tape recorder and spent my pocket money buying he latest American singles, and magnetic tape to record the radio. Soon I discovered a man in East Anglia who HAD some of the PAMS jingles I'd heard about for sale!


Now I need to jump to 1971 (no room to get nostalgic about my 'bedroom' station Radio Sceptre on 221) By '71 I did mornings on Action Radio at Swansea University (Britain's second uni-radio service that I started in '68), and afternoons at Radio City. I still remember "serving Hill House, Mount Pleasant, Cefn Coed and Singleton Hospitals, this is the Swansea Hospital's radio service Radio City...." And at night... discos. I had to (as it's fashionable to say now) 'step-aside' from my academic studies as I failed to dissect frogs or understand the finer points of George Elliott's novels  - I learnt later he was a 'she'!

So by 1971 to pay my £3.50 a week rent on my 'flat', I HAD to WORK - sheer shock. As much as I disliked it, the only way to be paid to dj was discos. I certainly was not the only introverted disco deejay in South Wales (or the world) who did it to kill time until they could get into radio. And it paid well; for 3 or 4 night's work you could live like a Welsh king and eat at the White Elephant Curry House 7 nights a week!  Some days were spent at Swansea library getting addresses for broadcasting organisations in Australia and New Zealand (after I visited Manx Radio in 1971 I realised I'd never get a job there) but a move of 12,000 miles defeated even my enthusiasm for radio.

All this leads me to announce that I think I have the oldest 'jingle rack' in the world!

'The Len Groat Get Together' jingles were needed for all the radio shows and the discos. I was the 'star turn' (after the bingo) at the Aberaman Working Men's Club, and even had one night in Swansea (oooh) at 'Pandoras' where 'disco go-go girls' danced reluctantly to the Ronettes 'Baby I love you' (my choice..) 

Between nearly EVERY disc ............ I played a jingle! 

And they were 'cut and splice' versions of those great PAMS jingles from 'Big L' Radio London, and many others "Happiness Is...." "GoGoGoGoGoooooooo" and even some from a company called Pepper Tanner "The Station That's ALL Heart.." And in the early 70s, with no ILR, the record companies threw endless singles at those of us on their mailing lists (good old Probe with Steely Dan and the 4 Tops). 

For three years this was the crazy world I lived in, a radio-loving dj forced after a day 'on the wireless' into the dark realm of night-time discos... until Independent Local Radio was (finally) announced! 

Despite my determination I was still surprised when I was asked for interviews at Capital (Michael Bukht & Aidan Day) and Piccadilly (Colin Walters) But when I was offered a JOB by Peter Lewis of Metro Radio (Metropolitan Broadcasting) I was so flabbergasted I had to ring him to ask again..

'Are you SURE I've got the MORNING show?"

I had..... 

And so the cardboard box (it was for a Shure mic) that held my jingle cassettes was put away but (sub-consciously?) never thrown away. Now 43 years later the jingle cassettes with overly-neat, multi-colour Dymo labels with enticing names, still hold their audio secrets... as I have no cassette player.

Lastly, for those who can only go back as far as Plessey CT80 or ITC 3 stack cart machines, a secret - I spent hours opening up the cassettes, removing the 'leader' and all but 60 seconds of the (fragile) tape - so to re-cue.... all I had to do was 'hit' re-wind.

The rack was only used for 3 years - but the 'art' of Dymo labelling served me well - I both carted and labelled the on-air jingles at Metro for nearly 2 years.

On July 15 this year it will be forty years since I did my first morning show on Metro's launch day. I've learned a lot about radio since that day, but as the 'oldest jingle rack in the world' shows, my foundations go back to those crazy wonderful days in Swansea....

1 comment:

  1. That "jingle rack" looks like a piece of art. Thank you so much for sharing this story. It is always great to go back in time through music. ^CP