Behind time and without a budget, Rob Meyers, the Island vocalist best known for his indie-pop band Kahoots, was working up his first radio jingle for Cronig’s. He had nailed the jazzy barbershop harmony, wrapped up the doo-wap top-off. All he needed was the catchy hook. Then, deadline looming, he hit it: (sing along now) “Everybody digs Cronig’s ...”
Only trouble is, Mr. Meyers was writing jingles for the Vineyard Playhouse holiday production opening tonight, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Radio Play. As anyone who has seen the Frank Capra film can tell you, this sentimental classic is set in the Depression era. And the down-and-outs of the time did not “dig” Cronig’s, or anything else. It’s a hippie word not known in those bygone days of bank failures (only in here-and-now days of bank failures, when taxpayers are digging very deep if not exactly digging it).
Jingles feature throughout this Wonderful Life production, where folks in the playhouse audience will become the studio audience for a live radio play set in the days of black-and-white film. “There are five places, built into the play, that are designed to have commercials,” Mr. Meyers explained. So into those spots go ads for contemporary supporters of the Vineyard Playhouse, starting with Cronig’s, a longtime sponsor. The new hook? “It’s Island grown, at Cronig’s.”
Just like all those backroom boys of advertising throughout the ages who never gained the glamour of the copywriter or the art director, jingle writer Rob Meyers was willing to beg, borrow and steal. He searched the Web and pulled down some jingles from the 1940’s, the golden era for radio jingles. He recycled and riffed and readied rhymes to root themselves deep in your brain.
His jingles also will get air time on WMVY radio. Maybe one of his four-part paeans of praise will become the “You deserve a break today” or the “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner” or the “It’s the real thing” of your day soon, like it or not. That’s how the oldest form of advertising works, after all — just ask any city street vendor.
Unlike those who have gone before him in the jingle business — including The Police and David Bowie, who starred in a 1969 TV commercial for Lyon’s Maid Luv ice cream, directed by Ridley Scott — Mr. Meyers has the whole time-warp issue to deal with, and other challenges. When composing his Bunch of Grapes jingle, Mr. Meyers said, “I was trying to have all the lines rhyme with ‘grapes’... so I sang, ‘They’ve even got books on tapes.’ But when we sent the demo to the Bunch of Grapes, they said that at their temporary location, they don’t have books on tape. So ... it’s ‘Walk, run or traipse, down to the Bunch of Grapes.’”
A deejay at community radio station WVVY (his show is every Saturday noon to 2 p.m. at 93.7 FM), Mr. Meyers also was in the feature film now in post-production, Mow Crew. He plays seven roles in It’s a Wonderful Life, The Radio Play: “I play Bert the cop, George’s brother Harry, the nerd who takes Mary to the dance, Freddy, Mr. Potter’s assistant, Nick the bartender, and ...”
He’s lost track amid all his jingle tracks and rehearsals. “But it’s been really fun,” he said, adding, in falsetto and then basso profundo, “I get to do voices way up here, and way down there.”
For this production, playhouse artistic director M.J. Bruder Munafo said, “Sound is everything.”
So besides Mr. Meyers’ vocal range, and the four-part harmony singers, pianist Wes Nagy will be on stage with keyboards, a glockenspiel and other musical instruments, and nearby Paul Munafo and Jim Novak will be crinkling paper, stomping empty boots, and things much more imaginative (you’ll have to see them) as the sound effects guys.
Their sounds will surround Christopher Kann, who plays George Bailey, along with a host (including Clarence the angel) of others in this holiday classic. Adults of all ages, and kids from about age eight and up, are sure to dig it.
It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play by Philip Grecian opens tonight and plays six shows: Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through next weekend. Tickets are $15 for all adults, $10 for children under 18, available in advance by calling the box office or at the door on the night of the show, if available. For details, call the box office at 508-696-6300.