By Scott Westerman
It was a sad day when Ken R. got out of the jingle business.
I first met Ken Deutsch in 1971 when we were both part timers at WPAG in Ann Arbor. Even then, he was a fascinating guy. We shared a love for well executed radio and a passion for jingles, those short 8 second logos that provide the audio image we all associate with our favorite stations. He was way ahead of me as a collector and generously made me reel to reel tapes of the hottest PAMS jingles, along with customs he had made for WCBN, the campus radio station at the University of Michigan.
By 1973, I was at Michigan State University, and he was in Toledo, continuing to amass his collection and work his on-air magic. Although he downplays his skills, Ken was one of the best technical jocks I knew. Radio, at its best, is like a symphony. The various program segments ebb and flow an harmonious whole, keeping the listener connecting and re-connecting with the elements that, together, constitute the brand. He knew how to put the pieces together and it was inevitable that he would do so in the studio, adding his own interpretations to the classic PAMS library.
But that came later.
I was editing and remixing my favorite jingles so they could find life on WMSN, the flagship student station at MSU, and when I found professional work at WILS and WVIC, one of the first things I did was to make dubs of every jingle package I could find.
My favorite was the 1970 PAMS series that Jonathan Wolfert dubed “CLYDE” – Cool Logos You Don’t Expect. Originally conceived for my favorite radio station of all time, WKNR, CLYDE was, to me, the best jingle package ever made. It had all the stuff I loved: horns, electric guitars, driving percussion, and the tenor quartet that Steve Schram and I dubbed “The Keener Boys”. We got our hands on a demo and literally wore the oxide off of the tape memorizing every nuance.
Fast forward to 2005. In the intervening years, I had escaped radio for a long cable television career, built my own production studio and had a small hand in some jingle production of my own. Whenever I had a question or got stuck, I wrote to Ken. He was always patient and generous with his answers. His company, Ken R. Productions, had a license to re-sing the PAMS library, and he had discovered a worldwide appetite for CDs of old radio jingles, which he sold by the thousands to collectors and jingle fans. Naturally, I bought the entire WKNR library, most of the other Detroit stuff he had, and went as far as to have his singers record a WKNR CLYDE Jock Shout with my name at the end. Steve and I built the Keener13.com tribute site and my lifelong dream of actually working a shift on the old WKNR facility came true for two summers when we recreated the Keener sound for the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend.
I couldn’t imagine Ken ever retiring. His commitment to excellence in jingle creation was physically taxing and as he stepped away from production, I assumed he would continue to market his now huge collection of CDs forever.
So I was stunned to his call from him in 2006. He was retiring for sure and was looking for a home for a nearly complete back-up collection of his jingle library. I had no idea how to value such a priceless artifact, but somehow we agreed on a number and in a few days several huge boxes arrived at my studio. There were 332 disks in all, each with over an hour of jingles, re-mixes, out-takes, sonovoxes, and work parts that stand as an incredible tribute to Ken’s contribution to the history of the art.
I keep them in a small bookshelf that stands just to the right of my recording station, always in my peripheral vision. Knowing Ken’s continual forward motion, I wasn’t surprised that he never fully cataloged the cuts. Perhaps thats something Norman Barrington or I may do at some point. My guess is that Norman B owns the only other complete copy of the entire collection.
But not knowing the details isn’t bad. There is many a late night when I grab a random CD from the shelf and pop it into the player. I’m instantly transported back to the golden age of rock radio with pristine cuts from KFRC, the Beeb, KHJ, WBZ, WABC, etc., etc., etc., etc.
And yes, I still listen to CLYDE.
There were hundreds of talented jocks, programmers, salespeople and executives who contributed to the magic we remember as 60s rock radio. But as I look at my bookshelf, I’m grateful for extraordinary people like Ken R., who made it possible for us to keep those memories at the front of our consciousness… Four decades later.