Ho-Ho-Ho: The People Behind 4 More Famous Sounds
On Tuesday, David Israel introduced us to the people behind 10 famous disembodied voices. Today let's put names and faces to four more seemingly anonymous sounds.
Three little words paved the road to higher education for two young girls. Those words were, simply, "Ho-ho-ho." No, we're not talking about Santa Claus. We are speaking of the Jolly Green Giant, who was named by Advertising Age magazine as the third most recognizable advertising icon of the 20th century (after Tony the Tiger and the Marlboro Man). Baritone singer Elmer "Len" Dresslar, Jr. stepped into a Chicago recording studio in 1959, sang his "ho-ho-ho" and left. "I'm the king of minimalists," he would later say in an interview. Dresslar recorded 15 albums with the jazz group Singers Unlimited and appeared in a touring production of South Pacific. He also provided the voices for "Snap" of Rice Krispies fame, and Dig "˜Em frog. It was also his deep voice that admonished listeners "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer." But it was his Jolly Green Giant work that was beamed into households for 40-some years, earning him hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties every year. His elder daughter, Teri Bennett, said at the time of his death (at the age of 80) that her father never got tired of "ho-ho"-ing for fans. "If nothing else, it put my sister and I through college," she added.
2. Snap, snap
Vic Mizzy is something of a legend when it comes to TV and film music; he's the man responsible for both the Green Acres theme and the spooky organ theme from the Don Knotts film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. But his most popular composition is also the one song in which the audience actually hears him - The Addams Family theme. Filmways was operating on a very tight budget, so Mizzy ended up not only composing the tune, but also singing it. (He recorded his vocals on three separate tracks and then blended them together in the final mix.) Once the song was in the can, it came time to film the opening credits. Mizzy approached director Sidney Lanfield and explained his vision of close-ups of the various cast member snapping their fingers. He mentioned that a "click track" (the steady beat of a metronome on tape) would be required so that the actors could snap on cue. Lanfield basically replied, "What do I know from click tracks? Do it yourself." So Mizzy ended up directing the opening scenes where the cast members stared impassively at the camera while snapping their fingers as prompted.
3. The Partridge Family Drummer (not Chris 1 or Chris 2)
You cannot deny that "I Think I Love You" is a pretty catchy song. Even though a disclaimer in the end credits of each Partridge Family episode noted that the music featured on the show was augmented by other musicians, I always pictured little Chris Partridge pounding the skins on the group's hits. Peek behind the scenes, however, and you'll find session drummer Hal Blaine. And for those who dismiss the Partridge Family songs as disposable "bubblegum," the musicians involved were strictly A-list. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Blaine has played drums on a vast array of hits including Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night," Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were."
4. All Hits, All the Time!
Radio station ID jingles gained popularity in the early 1950s, when stations were still broadcasting live and had in-house singers and orchestras to perform local advertisements. Around that same time, the company that would eventually become Arbitron started compiling audience ratings for radio stations. Statistics showed that stations needed to frequently announce themselves in order to keep their name/dial position in the listener's mind. Bill Meeks, who worked for KLIF in Dallas, came up with the concept of having the studio singers and musicians perform a musical station identification, and the radio jingle was born. Meeks went on to form Production Advertising Marketing Service (PAMS) in Dallas, which provided customized jingles for radio stations. Eventually several competing companies opened up in the area (yep, the hotbed of the radio jingle business is not Los Angeles or New York, but the Lone Star state), and most all of them have utilized the Johnny Mann Singers at one time or another. They are a group of studio professionals who know the difference between a "shotgun," a jock-name jingle, and a Pepper. The faces (not that you've ever seen them) have changed over the years, but their voices can still be heard on Adult Contemporary and Oldies stations across the country.