1993: Sunoco Food Markets "Catch the Sun"
on April 10, 2017
  • original music

I mentioned in an earlier post that a handful of the many jingles I've created in my career have stood the test of time as personal favorites. The second to make that list came about in 1993 when producer Dennis Geraghty asked me to compose a jingle for Sunoco Food Markets. Dennis was familiar with Baker Sound from his days at McAdams, Richman & Ong, but this would be our first MONSTER TRACKS assignment since he had formed Geraghty Roman Creative Associates. Of course, I was excited to have the opportunity to work on a high-profile brand.

At the time, Sunoco was operating both Sunoco Food Markets and the APlus chain they had acquired after purchasing Atlantic Petroleum in 1988. G&R was tasked with promoting both brands, and wanted a catchy, song-like radio jingle to appeal to summertime drivers and boost the image of the Sunoco Food Markets line.

The lyric provided by then G&R Creative Director Keith Gillespie may be the best I've ever received from an ad agency. Unlike the awkwardly-rhymed collection of bullet points that often come from copywriters unaccustomed to choosing words that will sing well, Keith's lyric exhibited the poetic sensibilities of a veteran songwriter. The imagery of his opening lines immediately captured my attention:

I can see it, I can feel it
It's just around the bend . . .

Keith (now CEO of JonEvan Marketing Group in Princeton) clearly understood the difference between ad copy and lyric, and by the time I got to his hook I already had the tune in my head:

Catch the Sun--Sunoco Food Markets
It's so easy when you're on the run
Catch the Sun--Sunoco Food Markets
Feels so right when you head for the Sun

With a melody in mind, I grabbed a guitar and had the completed jingle written in less than an hour. I programmed a driving pop/rock drum track, added a bass part, and then called in Jeff Kay to cut guitars. This piece is a great example of what Jeff brings to a recording session; I supplied the basic chord structure, but all of the detail in the clean electric parts during the verse and the soaring lead that occurs at the end of the chorus are his invention. The subtle backing vocals on "Catch the Sun" were provided by Denise NeJame, but the star of the show is the powerful lead vocal delivered by John Plumley. I had John's voice in mind from the moment I read Keith's lyric, so it was a thrill to hear him bring the "song" to life in the studio.

Sunoco Food Markets was eventually absorbed by the A-Plus brand, which became the focus of our subsequent work for G&R. But there was something about this jingle that always resonated with me--some combination of the sunny imagery of Keith's lyric, an arrangement that was equal parts Bon Jovi and Rick Springfield, and John's gravelly, sincere vocal. Or maybe it's just that the piece came out the way I had imagined it. That doesn't always happen; any number of factors--from client requested changes to new ideas that spring up during the production process--can send a piece in an unexpected direction. "Catch the Sun" may stand out for me because the finished product so closely resembles what I heard in my head the moment I read Keith's inspiring lyric.

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.