Love That Tune!

The radio industry was just coming into its own in 1926, and Earl Gammon saw great potential in it. As station manager for WCCO, he was in charge of the failing Minneapolis radio station bought two years earlier by his employer, Washburn Crosby Company.

Earl had always professed a fondness for music – particularly the melodic ring of a cash register. So it was no great surprise when he answered his employer’s call for help selling more flour with a song as the way to promote its new ready-to-eat cereal “Wheaties”.

Earl recklessly invested $24 to have a male quartet sing a song he composed for the airwaves to crate what is now recognized as the first advertising jingle. Crooned to the tune of “She’s a Jazz Baby”, America’s first singing commercial was a smash success in Minneapolis.

All this was happening as Washburn Crosby executives were noticing that Wheaties sales were falling, and were seriously considering discontinuing the brand. Only sales were very strong in Minneapolis…because of Earl’s song and the group singing it to local radio audiences.

Convinced of the magnetism of music but lacking the coast-to-coast radio hookup necessary to boost sales nationally, Washburn Crosby renamed their crooners the Gold Medal Fast Freight Quartet and sent its members by rail across America. The quartet’s fireman (first tenor), brakeman (second tenor), conductor (baritone), and engineer (bass) drew appreciative crowds everywhere.

Within a short time they had all of America humming the Wheaties’ theme song, and Washburn Crosby (now General Mills) went singing happily to the bank.