35 Years of JAM
By Scott Westerman – Curator, Keener13.com
I remember exactly where I was when I heard my first JAM Jingle package. I was program director for WATT in Cadillac, Michigan. Our last jingle package was “Shotgun Heaven” and we were only using one cut.
Like JAM founder, Jonathan Wolfert, I was a huge jingle nut. In 1971, I had the great fortune to work at the same station with Ken R. Deutsch, who would become the worlds greatest jingle collector. We swapped probably fifty pounds of Mylar on the seven inch reels that were state of the art for tape recording.
Jon and I both admired Bill Meeks and PAMS, his legendary jingle house at 4141 Office Parkway in Dallas. In college, Keener13.com co-founder Steve Schram and I had our PAMS faves, lead by “CLYDE”, a package named by Jon as an acronym for “Cool Logos You Don’t Expect”. We loved the great Tom Merriman, who’s TM productions knocked PAMS out of the box from time to time, like they did with the “All Hits All the Time” package for the nation’s premier AM rock station, WABC – New York.
PAMS had fallen on hard times by the time I made it to WATT and our minuscule promotions budget would never have funded a jingle session.
But I could dream.
And my imagination was fired to white-hot, when JAM’s first major package, “Priority One” was released. Jon had a sixth sense for how to sell to DJs, and put the demo together like a symphony, jingle cuts flowing seamlessly into the hits with a blinding intensity that held your attention until the tape literally ran of the capstan.
Fast forward two decades. I’m now a cable guy and Steve is running the Detroit broadcast cluster that includes our beloved Keener, now WNIC. He calls to tell me that we’re going to Dallas to hang with Gary Berkowitz, Jon and Mary Wolfert and Tom Merriman.. and help produce a new jingle package for the station that purveys “Detroit’s Nicest Rock”.
Berko was and is one of the greatest radio programmers in the business. And Tom, semi-retired, was still at the top of his game. And as we entered the custom JAM studios, I felt like I was truly in heaven.
“Tempus Consumit Res Creare“. That’s Latin for “It takes time to make things”. Jon is constantly reminding his clients that artistry cannot be cranked out like chocolate chip cookies. And we feel it as he and Tom pull magic out of the vocal chords of the professionals who have been singing ten second radio logos since the PAMS days. Berko reminds us that radio branding is a subtle thing. The theme is the brand and no matter how much brass or harmonization is mixed in, when the jingles hit the air, the listener must instantly identify the station’s unique sound.
This is the world that Jon and Mary Wolfert have lived for 35 years. Every station of note in the world has, at one time or another, been a JAM client. And when Sirius/XM Satellite Radio needed logos to identify their Decade channels, the first place they turned was to JAM.
You don’t hear jingles as often these days. The even tighter budgets that face group owners on the brink of bankruptcy can’t fund an annual trip to Dallas anymore. Jon and Mary have adapted. They now do some barter work, where before it was always cash on the barrel head. And they have competitors who daily demonstrate that imitating JAM is the sincerest form of flattery.
But they are still in the game, as passionate as ever about what they do, producing fresh product that is still the Stradivarius of their field.
And Jon keeps the PAMS legacy alive, too. He bought the rights to the PAMS masters when Bill Meeks went out of business. Some of those are what you hear on Sirius/XM’s 60s on 6 oldies channel.
So the 24 track Studer reels that were home to the great PAMS packages that helped brand WKNR still exist, waiting for fresh lyrics, new call letters, and a new life..
On the air.