The New York Times did a wonderful profile of a friend of mine, Jon Wolfert. Jon is to radio jingles as Janet Jackson is to wardrobe malfunction. What makes it even cooler is the gratuitous mention of our mutual friend, Peter Mokover.
Jon is responsible for some of my favorite jingles – including a few he did for me. I am responsible for sneaking him into the Kennedy Space Center to watch John Glenn’s launch.
I’ve attached the article to the link below.
He Dreamed of Jingles
By DAVE ROOS
ACK 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, 54, 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.”