2001: Rita's "Stop and Taste the Rita's"
on June 5, 2017
  • original music

Bruce Lev was another loyal Baker Sound client who provided opportunities early in my career. I liked Bruce immediately (and didn't even mind him calling me "Chucky") because I recognized that he was as passionate about his work as I am about mine. I quickly became his first call for original music, and between 1990 and 2005 we collaborated on numerous projects for local and regional advertisers.

Many of the assignments I handled for LevLane Advertising during this period were noteworthy, and 2001 was a particularly productive year capped off by an award-winning campaign for Sovereign Bank. But the project that meant the most to me was a jingle for Rita's Italian Ice that remains one of my two favorites (the other was discussed in my previous post).

Rita's had experienced explosive growth since it's founding in 1984. The company began offering franchises in 1989, and by 1996 boasted more than 100 locations in nine states. By the time LevLane won the account in the late '90s, Rita's was an established regional brand with a catchy jingle composed by my friend Larry Freedman. The agency produced some slick TV ads in 1999 using cutting-edge CGI, and Bruce asked me to give Larry's jingle a modern spin. I created ska and electro arrangements that worked well for those spots, but by 2001 Bruce had concluded that Rita's needed a brand-image to rival that of national advertisers like Coke and Pepsi. It was time for a fresh approach.

The initial scripts I received from the agency called for a revamp of Larry's jingle with updated lyrics. I didn't think this would achieve Bruce's objective, so I asked if he would be open to something new. He was, though we both knew that it would be difficult to convince Rita's to part with a jingle that had stood them in good stead for more than a decade. Determined to compose a piece that would take the brand to the next level, I headed to the nearest Rita's and began thinking about how to convey the experience through music. LevLane's scripts included two lines of announcer copy that had caught my attention--"Life's sweet" and "Stop and taste the Rita's"--and these became the hooks that I built my lyric around.

It's a taste of life, it's a taste of love
It's the kind of taste you've been dreamin' of
Life is sweet when you stop and taste the Rita's
It's a smiling face, it's a brand new sound
It's a warm embrace and it's all around--
Life is sweet when you stop and taste it
Life is sweet when you stop and taste it
Life is sweet when you stop and taste the Rita's
Stop and taste the Rita's

Much of the production was inspired by the Rick Springfield tune "Dream in Color." Jeff Kay contributed the chimey guitar riff that opens the piece and perfectly compliments the bright, pop sound of my drum, bass, and keyboard parts, but what really makes the track is the terrific vocal by Denise NeJame. Once again demonstrating her versatility, Denise walked into the studio, took a lyric she had never seen before, and within about twenty minutes delivered a pop-star-worthy performance.

Bruce loved the result. Walking back to our cars after the final mix, he told me that he felt more proud of this jingle than of any music he had produced in his career. I suspect he was reacting in the excitement of the moment, but I never forgot the remark because it had come from someone whose opinion I valued, and whose respect I had worked hard to earn.

Sadly, the jingle was relatively short-lived. After a year or two of solid airplay, internal changes at Rita's brought a shift in priorities and a return to their previous jingle. I was disappointed, of course, but I knew that I had done my best and that "Stop and Taste the Rita's" would remain a great example of what MONSTER TRACKS can do.

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.