Jeff Arthur started out writing songs and performing in a trio. His group, Arthur, Hurley & Gottlieb, made two albums, the second one praised by the Time Magazine critic. But the Jeff Arthur compositions familiar to most people in the Tampa Bay area are played constantly on TV commercials.
For more than four decades, the St. Petersburg native has made his living writing jingles for companies in TV and radio markets throughout the nation. He also wrote the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fight song, “Hey, Hey, Tampa Bay,’' Arthur, 69, semi-retired, still writes jingles in his Clearwater office. He talked with the Tampa Bay Times about his career.
You say you started performing when you were a student at the University of South Florida.
There was a song contest which I entered with another guy that was in my school, and we won the local contest and then we went on and won the intercollegiate music festival for all the colleges in the United States. After that happened, we continued to play, not for a very long time. We immediately moved to New York. I must have been maybe 20 at the time, 19, and we got a pretty large record deal with (producer) Clive Davis. And the reason was... we were very different. It was violin, guitar and piano, very orchestrated.
Your second album, for A&M Records, received kudos in Time Magazine, you say.
The second album was picked in Time Magazine, along with Bob Dylan, “Blood on the Tracks,’' Linda Ronstadt, Henry Gross and us. I think it was like one of the five or six picked albums for 1975, and it said all positive things. And how can I argue with being (named) along with Ronstadt, “Heart Like a Wheel,” and “Blood on the Tracks” by Dylan?
How did you start writing and selling jingles?
I started doing it for pay, my first jingle was for a company called Just Pants in Chicago, and that was a very popular jingle in Florida. And that was probably... ’74 or ’75. ... Everybody has an idea for a jingle or a great idea for a product. Everybody. The difference between what I was able to do and what everybody else wants to do is that I was able to get it into the market. … Just by using my (established) market, I was able to write these. … I wrote everything on all the albums, but I also knew that a jingle was just a 30-second or 60-second song about a product instead of about a relationship or going riding on my bicycle or things like that. And I was able to get paid.
Do you have jingles that are running now in the Tampa Bay area?
Yeah, (sings) “Precision Door, a name you can trust.’' Gold & Diamond Source. “Gold and Di-i-iamond Source.’' It’s upbeat until Valentine’s Day and then it’s a slower version. (Founder) Steve Weintraub was one of the very first people that gave me an opportunity to do his stuff. ... One of the others that plays all the time is “1-800-we-r-open, Acree air.’'
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How did the Bucs’ fight song come about?
I knew they needed something, and I knew how to write it, so I wrote this piece and I brought it in to the marketing director. His name was Bob Best. Really good guy. ... (He said) “I love what you did, Jeff, but I’m sorry, the answer is no.’'... He was very kind about it and I told him thank you very much and I brought it to a local radio station. His name was Jeff Lawrence. ... He started playing it on WDAE, which was the sports station, and then people went kind of crazy, and then all the other stations started playing it, so Bob Best calls me back and says, “Bring that fight song back here.’'
I never got a penny for it. I never asked for a penny. But to sit there in the stadium – I went... to one of the playoff games. ... This is years and years ago, the first winning season. And they were playing my song on that old scoreboard, and people were singing along with it. But I was sitting with Jimmy Buffett, who’s an old friend of mine, and he was with Glenn Frey (founding member of the Eagles) … and I said, “I’m getting more airplay this week than you guys are.’'
Where do you sell your jingles?
We’re all over the country as far as whatever station group. … There’s basically five big station owners and they pretty much own every market. So we would get in with a particular group. We’d do a good job in Roanoke or in Richmond – which I just did last week – and we would go into the station and I would literally sit down with the client, having no idea what I was going to write.
But they would tell me about their businesses…. (I would) take their information while they talked and come up with a 30-second idea. And I would come into the room and I would sing to them their new jingle, or hopefully their new jingle. And they usually, almost inevitably… it’s always like,“Wow!” ...
From there we did one TV station, then two in the group, then 11 in the group and eventually it grew into a fairly successful jingle company.
What does a jingle do for a product?
It lets you remember the product. You can’t teach them a whole bunch of stuff about exactly what the new sandwich is going to be, but you can get them to remember “two all-beef patties.”... A friend of mine wrote a jingle – this was years ago in New York, and he brought it into a big agency that handled a car dealership. And it went like this: “bump-bump, the heartbeat of America, bump-bump.”
He waited a couple of months. He never heard back. One of those committee decisions that nobody really wanted to make. And he brought it to Chevy and they bought that and it ran forever. The Heartbeat of America, today’s Chevrolet. So what it does is it helps you to remember the product, usually in a positive or more uplifting light.
For more information, go to www.jeffarthur.com .