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It was back in 1884, when copies of “Wait For The Wagon” found themselves being distributed to people to play at home on their pianos, guitars or banjos (as was the prominent venue for music publishing sales at that time.)  Sure, there were lots of pieces of sheet music at the time but how many of them came with the message “Compliments of the Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Co” and contained a line about a product?

“It’s ev’ry Sunday morning when I am by your side
We’ll jump into the Wagon and all take a ride
Wait for the Wagon, Wait for the Wagon
Studebaker’s Wagon and we’ll take a ride”

“Wait For The Wagon” was first written in 1850 (so says Wikipedia) and a few versions of the song on YouTube have no mention of Studebaker.  We dug a bit.  According to this nugget from “The Life Of Clement Studebaker” (written in 1901 and published in 2009):

“A little girl wrote him a letter telling him that she could play the music of “Wait For The Wagon” which had been set to words advertising the Studebaker wagon.”

So, Studebaker commissioned the new version of the song with new words to promote their product.  This beats by about 20 years what we had previously thought was the first example of Music Branding – the 1905 sheet music for “In My Merry Oldsmobile.”

What was it about car companies in those days (and today) breaking ground with music?


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4 Comments
  • LucasGonze

    1:17 pm - Mon, May, 2010 -

    Great topic, Richard.

    “Rough on Rats”, published 1882, promoted the “Rough on Rats” brand of
    rat poison. No doubt it was sponsored.

    Original sheet music:

    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S?ammem/mussm:@OR(@field(TITLE+@od1(Rough+on+rats++))+@field(ALTTITLE+@od1(Rough+on+rats++)))

    More links:

    http://thevirtualdimemuseum.blogspot.com/2008/05/1880s-rough-on-rats-advertisement-sheet.html

    http://www.hagley.org/library/exhibits/patentmed/items/roughonrats.html

  • Jake Bergen

    8:41 pm - Mon, May, 2010 -

    Fascinating post, Richard! Thanks so much for sharing it with me. I am sure you won’t mind if I share it…

    Jake @ Tractor Beam Marketing

  • hdhouse

    3:30 pm - Tue, May, 2010 -

    Actually not entirely accurate. In London at the time of Shakespeare all assortments of merchants, vendors, makers, etc., developed what are know as “street cries”…most of them little short melodies with perhaps some accompanyment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hBQGKJrRvo .

    Street cries can easily be likened to branding motifs – Intel being perhaps the most concise one of our time. Some were really short and not much too them while others were actually published or reworked all during the baroque period into arias and ditties for all sorts of settings. A woman named Gibbs (at the time) who I knew a bit – we are in the late 60s compiled these street cries and if memory serves me i think she found something like 140 of them.

    Richard makes a good point about “Wait for the wagon” although there is some evidence that it was used in a minstrel show(s) in New Orleans in the 1840s and the publication date is most certainly after the composition and first performances. Wasn’t the composer Buckley or something like that?

    Anyway, this is a good topic. As someone who paid for his grad school books by writing jingles (Crestview Farms Milk was a classic – move over Bach) this entire area is ripe for a book. You might look in the archives of musicology..i think the late 1980s for an article where someone tackled some of your ideas.

    Good work.

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