Local Jingle On the Air Nearly 30 Years

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Even if you've never eaten at their restaurant, you've probably heard their jingle.

The TV and radio commercials for the Beltline Bar in Grand Rapids have been on the air nearly 30 years.

The people behind it had no idea it would last so long. They just tried to make a simple ad to save a struggling business.

Jerry Ford, President of 8th Day Advertising, was contacted by the Rutkowski family in 1982.

For a while the family owned two restaurants: the Beltline Bar and Jerry's Roadhouse. In the late '70s they sold Jerry's, but there was a problem.

"Everybody thought that Jerry's Roadhouse was still the Beltline Bar," said Ford. "But the food was not very good so they thought that the Beltline Bar was going downhill."

Ford decided to emphasize the Mexican cuisine. That meant changing perceptions.

"A lot of people were saying, 'I don't want to take my family to a bar', the Beltline Bar," said Ford. "So I had Jerry change it to the Beltline Bar's famous Mexican Cafe."

That took care of the name, now he needed an ad campaign.

Ford recorded the spot at River City Studios in Grand Rapids. They hired musicians: a trumpet, drums, and sax, seven in the little studio at once.

Ford's inspiration for the music was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, which were popular at the time. But they still needed a spokesperson.

Though he may sound like it, Jorge Garcia is not the owner. He's originally from Ecuador, has a Ph.D. in education and owns a company that does corporate consulting on culture and language, including translations and voice over work.

"Some times I go to other places, other restaurants and they say, 'Aren't you the voice of the Beltline Bar?" Laughs Garcia.

Dianne Penning sang the jingle. She's been singing professionally since age ten, and still does work with operas and orchestras all over the country, including Grand Rapids.

"And I have to say that when I'm somewhere and I hear it I want to say, that's me," said Penning.

Penning got $60 for the gig--a bargain for 28 years of airtime.

The question is, would Ford or the current owner, Jeff Lobdell, consider taking it off the air?

The answer is yes--maybe in another 30 years.

"Why would you? It's almost a legend in this town," said Ford.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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