I only had a few projects under my belt when renowned ad man Allan Kalish called to ask if I would be interested in working on a jingle for local retailer I. Goldberg. Allan had been nice enough to listen to some demos I had produced in college and was willing to give me a shot at a real project now that I was working at Baker Sound. This was a big deal for our new MONSTER TRACKS music division. Back in 1988, before the rise of national chains like Dick's and Bass Pro, I. Goldberg owned the outdoor market in the Philadelphia area and maintained a high profile on radio and television.
Allan asked me to call Gene Shay, who had come up with a lyric for the jingle. Gene read his lyric to me over the phone and suggested that the musical arrangement include "some kind of mnemonic device" after the phrase "I Got It!" to signal that a lightbulb had gone off and the "answer" to the series of questions the lyric posed was about to be revealed. Before long I had a tune that built up to a nice payoff at the client's name, and so I recorded a basic rhythm track and sang a reference vocal so that so that Allan and Gene could hear the direction I was taking. A few days later they informed me that I had won the assignment!
Now it was time to record the finished jingle. I planned to add guitars, horns, and densely layered backing vocals, which was going to be a challenge with only 8 tracks available at Baker. So I moved the production across the street to the 24-track room at Chestnut Sound, and after laying down the instrumental parts it was time to record our lead singer.
That was when things took a turn I hadn't anticipated. Since starting at Baker I had been scrambling to find local talent to use on my productions. When the I. Goldberg project came along I began frantically listening to demos of male singers until I found one who I thought would do a good job. But when he stepped behind the mic I could immediately sense that Allan and Gene were unhappy. After we finished recording and the singer had left they asked why I hadn't used "the guy who sang on the demo." I explained that I had sung the demo and had always intended to replace myself with a "real" vocalist for the final production. But Allan and Gene (along with Peter Tilden, who was also present at the session) said that they liked what they had heard on the demo and wanted me to give it a try. So I went into the booth and began recording line by line until we had a complete vocal track. After countless takes and punch-ins, everyone (but me) was happy. The experience taught me not to include anything in a demo that I wasn't prepared to use in a final production, and I vowed never to sing lead on a demo again. To this day I. Goldberg remains the only MONSTER TRACKS production that features me on lead vocals.
Fortunately, my less-than-polished vocals didn't prevent the jingle from being a success. It was on the air constantly and really put MONSTER TRACKS on the map as a serious music production company. There's nothing better for business than having a credit everyone knows, and I'll always be grateful to Allan and Gene for giving me the opportunity.
Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.