Copywriting, Cows & Country Music

cowsWhen I moved to Ashland, Oregon in my early twenties, I needed a job right away. As I perused the employment section of the local paper, an ad jumped off the page with its bold heading: Copywriter Wanted. A local radio station needed someone to write ad copy. No experience was necessary, but along with a resume they wanted a sample thirty second commercial. I’d worked in newspaper advertising, but had no idea how to write a radio spot. Still, I thought it would be a fun challenge and had nothing to lose by applying.

I was surprised when they called for an interview, but even more shocked to find that the country music station was located in the middle of a cow pasture, about three miles out of town. While I wasn’t too certain about the country music, I thought the setting was a hoot. I don’t remember much about the interview, other than I didn’t do well. Nevertheless, they like me and I was hired the following week.

What started as a fun idea turned into the most fulfilling job of my life. As the copywriter I interfaced between the sales staff that sold air time and the disc jockeys who recorded the commercials I wrote. Often there was very little turn around time between the sale and getting the commercial on the air, so I had to be creative and quick. I wrote, directed and produced thirty and sixty second commercials for a variety of clients: tires, lingerie, ski equipment, shoes, etc. What I enjoyed even more than writing the commercials was producing them. I picked out the music, sound effects and who recorded each spot; and because all the disc jockeys were male, I voiced the female parts. The job didn’t pay much, but it certainly was fun.

Working in the middle of a cow pasture had benefits too. Every spring we watched new calves romp over the field, and aside from the occasional lowing of the cows it was a quiet and peaceful setting.

I didn’t care much for country music when I started, but one of the side effects of listening to it forty hours a week is that I came to have a great appreciation for it. The lyrics, the upbeat tempos, the rich harmonies. One of the speakers that monitored the station was right above my desk, so there was no escape from the music apart from when I was in the recording studio. Some of the lyrics are still lodged in my brain thirty-five years later:

These brown eyes that adored you

They’re already red

I see a black cloud forming

Just above my head

I’m turning green with jealousy

To think of her and you

You’re not even out the door

And I’m already blue.

Circumstances took me back to California a few years later, but that job taught me never to be afraid to try something new. And though familiarity often breeds contempt, listening to country music had the opposite effect. Date night these days means Buck Owens Crystal Palace and kicking up my heels. Yee Haw!

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10 thoughts on “Copywriting, Cows & Country Music

  1. I especially loved this piece because I’m a summer Oregonian! Love Ashland and try to go there most summers to the Shakespeare Festival. Sounds like you lucked into a great job that broadened your skills as well as your interests. Very enjoyable post, Jenny. Thank you. xoA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I worked at the radio station I got free press passes to the shows, best seats in the house, it was an amazing perk! The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the best theater I’ve seen.

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  2. I too took a job at a country station back in the 80s. It was a lot of fun and gave me an appreciation for country music. Copywriting is a tough job. You have to fit a lot of information in a small space. I bet it made you a more efficient writer. And, sale rep could be a bit crazy. I remember one calling the station and telling the program manager he had to do a live read for a gas station because he need ten bucks worth of gas.

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    1. Sounds like a few sales reps I knew! Yes, and keeping peace between the crazy sales reps and the inflated egos of the disc jockeys was also a challenge. Fortunately the program manager and I were on the same page and the station manager was rarely around to interfere with our decisions.

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