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Radio: The Yellow Rose of Ford

2 minute read

The call letters of radio station WGMS stand for Washington’s Good Music Station. Two years ago, pursuing its cultural aims, WGMS presented a concert by the National Gallery Orchestra, featuring The Confederacy, a medley of Southern songs prepared and conducted by Richard Bales. When Columbia Records brought out an album of the songs last fall, WGMS proudly broadcast the premiere of the long-playing disk.

This summer, in Manhattan, bearded Mitch Miller, Columbia’s pop record genie, was talked into listening to one of The Confederacy’s songs, The Yellow Rose of Texas. He agreed that there was a possible hit in its bouncy rhythms, decked it out with a French horn or two, and soon had it blaring from jukeboxes and radios across the nation.

There were other interested listeners, particularly the admen of J. Walter Thompson, who were searching for some theme music for the ’56 Fords. They thought Yellow Rose was good; it was also in the public domain. They slapped in a new set of lyrics (“It’s here, the ’56 Ford/It’s new, all new for you . . .”) and put it to work as a singing commercial.

The Yellow Rose made a full circle when the commercial record reached station WGMS. Since the station has a rule against singing commercials, the ad was refused. More hurt than angry, the admen pointed out that the song had been carried as good music on the Good Music Station—so how could it now be banned?

Station executives took another look at the situation—and at the Ford check and capitulated. This week the singing commercial will go on the air.

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