CLOSE-UP: TRIBUTE/CLIFF ADAMS - A successful pianist and maestro of jingle writing. From Milk Tray to Smash, Cliff Adams was the jingle master, Chris Sharpe says

Cliff Adams, who died last week aged 78, was born in Southward in

the early 20s. He was a boy chorister at St Mary-le-Bow and grew up to

be a successful pianist and arranger with Ted Heath, Cyril Stapleton,

Stanley Black and others after the war.

In 1949 he formed his own vocal group, The Stargazers. A few years

later, in 1954, he put together the Cliff Adams Singers. His incredibly

popular radio show, Sing Something Simple, was first broadcast in 1959.

Today it is still on air and is the background music to my clattering

typewriter as I put this lot together for Campaign just after 4.30pm on

Sunday 4 November, 2001.

Yet, for the advertising community at least, Cliff will be best

remembered for his defining contribution to a particular lyrical form -

which sadly appears to have pre-deceased him.

The story of the jingle goes back a long way. Back to the nursery, in

fact, when we found delight in the rhythm, words and music of our

mother's voice: this little piggy went to market; Bobby Shaftoe's gone

to sea; round and round the garden, like a teddy bear.

My dictionary defines a jingle as "a repetition of the same sound,

especially as an aid to memory or to attract attention. To be full of

alliteration, rhymes, etc."

It makes no mention of music, even though it was tunes that came to

dominate the genre. One of the most successful non-musical jingles that

I can recall ran: "Cheapest time to phone your friends, after six and at


The commercial jingle truly arrived in the UK with the invasion of GIs

and Wrigley's chewing gum during World War II. This brought us the joys

of hearing the slick, professional comedy radio shows from across the

pond, courtesy of the American Forces Network. And one of the things we

loved and copied was the sound of the vocal groups who merrily jogged

the show along.

The Beeb was not slow to copy the Yanks. All its great comedy shows were

soon introduced with a catchy jingle or signature tune. There was the

well-remembered "It's that man again; It's that man again; Yes, that

Tommy Handley is here!" and "Ray's a laugh! Ray's a laugh!; When you're

feeling sad and blue just; Ray's a laugh!".

When commercial television arrived in the mid-50s, the leader of the

Cliff Adams Singers was perfectly placed to satisfy the demand for

musical soundtracks that followed.

By the time I joined SH Benson in the early 60s, Cliff had his own

recording studio in the basement of 129 Kingsway beneath the agency,

with the goodwill of Howard "Boogie" Barnes, head of television at that

time. Those were the days of the full-service agency when everything a

client could possibly need from a creative team was laid on:

photography, casting, animation, a fully equipped cinema, a restaurant

and well-stocked bar. As a colleague remarked to me once: "These are the

good old days."

Cliff soon got down to work, churning out early hits such as: "Murray

Mints, Murray Mints; too-good-to-hurry mints."

This was followed shortly by: "Get that pink-pink-Paraffin, right to

your door; go and ring HUNter, 1-2-3-4."

He wrote the famous theme for the Cadbury's Milk Tray campaign, which

ran for years. And also the Lonely Man theme for the launch of Strand

cigarettes, which didn't. He was great fun to work with and pretty damn

quick too, when the spirit moved him. John Webster recalls the time he

approached Cliff in his Bond Street offices about a new product launch.

The words of the required jingle had been written and approved by all

concerned. They were: "For mash; get Smash!"

About 30 seconds into the meeting, Cliff went to the piano and struck

three chords (one of them twice). That was it. Time for a celebratory

glass of Champagne.

My best memories of working with Cliff are associated with the work we

did together for British Rail. At Ogilvy & Mather we handled Eastern and

Western Regions and produced a series of commercials designed to get

out-of-towners to visit the big city. Then, some years later, Masius

Wynne-Williams asked us to present tracks for the account-winning

campaign "Have a good trip!" to the new chairman of BR, Peter Parker. As

soon as we observed the chairman's foot tapping, we knew we'd won the


Needless to say, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the jingle and

the works of the late, great Adams. I was most surprised to read in the

Oxford Companion to Popular Music, the following sour notes: "Jingle:

Apt name now given to those insidious but fortunately brief musical

interludes (usually vocal) which radio and TV advertisers use to herald

their wares."

Funny thing for a commentator on "Popular" culture to express.

Fortunately the necessary rebuff to this attitude may be found in the

History of Popular Music in America by Sigmund Spaeth, published in

1948: "Let no musical scholar think for a moment that the creation of

popular music is an easy matter, to be tossed off in an idle moment.

Many a serious composer has been heard to lament his utter inability to

turn out even one tune that people really want to whistle."

Not so Cliff Adams. Pip pip!

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