Friends in Cincinnati may not appreciate the full cringe value of a Norton Furniture commercial playlist or the genius of the I-X Indoor Amusement Park jingle’s opening chords. Good luck trying out the clap back, “this ain’t Spitzer!” to a self-centered out-of-state relative. From one Clevelander to another, here are the stories behind seven jingles that burrowed into our memories before we even realized they were trying to sell us something.
While waiting to catch a flight back to Cleveland in LaGuardia Airport, Jim Herrick’s phone rang. The Liberty Ford jingle spilled from its speaker. Three girls 9-10 years old burst into chorus for Liberty Ford’s founder.
“It almost became a part of my business card,” Herrick says, referring to his jingle’s unequaled onomatopoeia, “Ohhhmmmm!”
The ridiculous hum was introduced to Herrick in the early 1990s by a firm in Detroit. At the time, Liberty Ford only had two locations, Vermilion and Bedford, that location was eventually moved to Maple Heights.
“We had a choir come in,” recalls Megan Corrao, Liberty Ford’s marketing director. “It started to sound a little bit robotic. We worked really hard at getting it to as close as possible.”
“The thing about a jingle is, in my opinion, you had to stay with it regardless,” Herrick says, referring specifically to car dealerships. “You had to make it part of the fabric of everything in your commercial world.”
Herrick, who retired in 2020, calls this philosophy brand building 101. He notes a jingle needs to be simple and catchy, not overcooked.
“Lord knows there are enough commercials on television with running footage of cars and trucks,” Herrick says. “It’s almost like automatic time to go to get something to eat.”
Hence, the barbershop quartet. Better yet, cameos from locals about town singing the jingle. In 2018, 50 people participated in Liberty Ford’s jingle contest for $10,000. The youngest contestant was 9 years old.
“I’m sorry,” the LaGuardia Airport girls’ mother told Herrick.
“Oh man, I’m not,” Herrick told her.
The latest rendition of Patio Enclosure’s jingle strives to leave a positive imprint. You’d think it was a song about love or heaven. The final line reveals it’s about a sun room.
“The one thing that is consistent throughout has been that end tag of ‘the one and only Patio Enclosures.’ Very iconic,” says Melissa Skinner, Patio Enclosures’ vice president of marketing.
The original, created sometime in the ‘70s, has obtained mythic status. Legend has it the jingle was written by a local composer. His daughter provided the original vocals. Their names, Skinner says, have “been lost to time.”
The latest version, recorded in New York City through a firm in 2010, is what the company currently uses.
Discount Drug Mart
Short, sweet and informative, Discount Drug Mart has broadcasted its jingle since the mid-1970s. The Ohio-based chain, started in Elyria in 1969 by Dr. Parviz Boodjeh, hired a Cleveland ad agency to create this earworm, but the recording took place in New York. The final line was tweaked when the jingle was revisited in the ‘90s.
“The ‘need’ was kind of higher pitched. It didn’t really flow as well,” Danielle Harubin, Discount Drug Mart’s marketing specialist, explains.
The jingle has several variations, including Christmas and acoustic versions, Harubin says.
In 2010, Discount Drug Mart troops were deployed to local spots for B-roll in its next commercial. On a whim,
locals began singing the jingle.
“[The commercial] is very Cleveland," Harubin says, "so it was just very at home."
I-X Indoor Amusement Park
George Sipl is Cleveland’s most prolific jingle writer. He’s the mastermind behind USA Insulation (sung by Steve Jochum, famous for “Funky Poodle”), the original notes of the General, Spitzer (refreshed in 2019 by former-American Idol contestant Madeline Finn).
This past February, Sipl performed at the Music Box Concert Hall as part of Frank Amato’s Christmas Jam, featuring The Cleveland All Stars. Originally slated for December but postponed due to 2022’s bomb cyclone, the proceeds benefited The Autism Society of Greater Cleveland.
During the performance, Sipl played his biggest hit: the I-X Indoor Amusement Park jingle.
“I started it by just doing an instrumental, flow piano, you know, not easily identifiable, until we got to the chorus,” Sipl says. “When we went into it, people all sang along, the whole crowd.”
Beside Sipl that night stood Billy Sullivan, the jingle’s voice. A guitarist for Herman’s Hermits, Sullivan, who’s also the vocal talent behind “Georgio’s Oven Fresh” and “Mr. Hero, it’s the taste you crave!” moved back to Cleveland from Chicago in 2018. But the I-X jingle follows him across state lines.
“That’s the one that will live on to infamy,” Sullivan says. “I still get requests for it. In particular, this one venue in Cleveland called the Public House, on the West Side, Kamm’s Corners, the moment I walk in the door they start going ‘I-X! I-X!’ It’s crazy. Even when I lived in Chicago, there were some people that were from Cleveland that sent a request up, ‘Can you sing the I-X jingle?’ I did it in downtown Chicago. I said, ‘This is for my Ohio friends.’”
Sullivan recorded the “Teen” version of the jingle with Sipl at Sipl's house near the end of 1993. Having just finished the kids’ version, Sullivan recalls Sipl a little frazzled. There wasn’t much room in the booth; Sipl was on the keyboard right behind Sullivan and Ed Starley was on guitar. Sipl encouraged Sullivan to think of alternative ‘90s for the vocals, to make it fun and upbeat.
After a few runs, Sullivan tapped into the I-X energy, annunciating the name that would teach the public how to easily say the awkward title for the next 25 years.
“We did alternate versions of it. There was (three) country version (none aired) and a kids’ version (that did air),” Sipl says. “But none of them stuck. The main one (the kids version) was the one that survived.”
Sipl attributes its success to the hook’s simplicity.
“’I-X, Indoor, Amusement Park,’” Sipl sings. “That’s three notes. If you really stop and analyze it, ‘at Spitzer, our world revolves around you,’ three notes. That’s probably one of the things, not complicating the issue. So you kind of learn the song.
"Once you learn the song, it simply becomes far more palatable. If it's going to take too long to learn the song, people will lose interest.”
In the early 2000s, The General moved from Saifman, Richards & Associates to Balboa Communications in California. But he left his voice in Cleveland. Rick Sellers decided to leave the company’s president a voicemail.
“I just saw a commercial, and I don’t know who that imposter is, but I want my gig back,” Sellers said, using the General’s voice.
Within two minutes Sellers’ call was returned.
By 2004, Wes McCraw had rewritten Sipl’s lyrics and recorded the latest with Sellers at Creekside Audio Production in Norton, near Akron.
Sellers’ professional vocal arsenal includes Transformers, like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, and Star Wars characters, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, for Hasbro. He slides easily into Shaggy, Scooby-Doo and a shrill tone he reserves for stories about his girlfriend during our phone interview. His unaltered voice reminds me of a nasally Alan Alda.
Sellers didn’t start into voice overs until his late 20s. In ’98, Saifman, Richards & Associates got the bid for the General. Sellers was hired, but he was nervous.
“I’d never sang before for anything professional, and I didn’t know when to start,” Sellers says. “[Sipl] stuck me in front of the microphone, and he hit the button and everybody looked at me expectantly like, 'OK, go ahead and do your thing.'
"And I had no idea when to start. The music was playing and George was looking at me and I was looking at him, sweating.
“Finally I just told him to point when it’s time for me to sing. So he cued up the music, hit play, music began and I did my thing.”
One of Cleveland’s older jingles, Garfield 1-2323 began crackling over the airwaves during baseball games in the 1940s. If America’s second religion was baseball, then the voice of god was
Jimmy Dudley for Clevelanders. And this god was a spokesperson for
Sipl praises Garfield’s jingle for its four simple notes. Skinner mentions it with a giggle. But how does Herbert Schoen remember it?
“I think I remember it sadly as a source of embarrassment,” Schoen, Garfield’s owner, laughs. “It was on so much, I kind of became identified with it. Other kids would tease me and sing it at me.”
Schoen’s father, Leslie, and Uncle Buddy bought the business in 1973 from the original owner, who started it in 1936.
“We were on television so much back in the '70s and '80s … People were brainwashed with it,” Schoen says. “When they hear it now, they kind of laugh, it brings a smile to their faces. I think it takes them back to a time and place in their lives that maybe they think of fondly.”
Stanley Steemer began in Columbus in 1947. The gummy jingle was born on a piano in Dallas in the early aughts.
Paul Loomis, chairman and founder of The Loomis Agency and co-owner of Luminous Sound Studios, created the resilient earworm after meeting with Stanley Steemer’s chairman, Wesley Bates. Loomis convinced Bates to buy the phone number with the spelling variation of steamer. Lisa Bevell, a Nashville-based artist, lent her warm voice to the original.
“We started running that regionally in about five U.S. markets in Texas and Colorado, starting in 2004. It was picked up nationally after that,” Loomis says.
Loomis has written jingles for Pier 1 Imports, PepsiCo and Ford Motors, among others. Steemer’s jingle belongs to the studio’s long lineage of success.
“There’s a lot of psychology associated with this. People have an uncanny ability to retain melodies, and it is related to the intervals in a scale,” he says.
New variations continue to multiply. Ben Leeson, Stanley Steemer’s director of video and photography, plays the accordion in a pirate-themed version; the harp in a Caesar-themed one. The Canton native’s favorite is a soft folk rendition by Columbus-based musician J. Moriarty.
“That kind of music is really our kind of music as Ohioans, as Midwesterners. I think people connect to that kind of organic, folksy kind of sound,”
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