Walworth County Sunday | Janesville Messenger | Stateline News



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Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00

Jingle writer crafts catchy tunes

Written by  Ian Gronau
In addition to writing familiar jingles heard throughout southern Wisconsin, musician Terry Sweet plays regularly at Delavan’s Lake Lawn Resort. In addition to writing familiar jingles heard throughout southern Wisconsin, musician Terry Sweet plays regularly at Delavan’s Lake Lawn Resort. Submitted photo

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- On any given Saturday evening in the bar room of the Lake Lawn Resort’s Frontier Restaurant, you may find yourself being entertained by the skillful piano playing of Terry Sweet.

This may be the first time you sat and listened to Sweet work the keys in person, but chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve listened to his music.

If you’ve heard the jingle for Stein Gardens and Gifts, the “Grillax” Klement’s sausages song or the 7 Mile Fair radio jingle, you’ve been listening to Sweet’s handiwork. (LISTEN)

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Sweet is a professional musician who has been producing jingles for TV and radio commercials and shows and corporate events for all of his adult life. The Milwaukee resident has left his mark throughout southern Wisconsin with his special brand of musical advertisement.

“I got into this because I became a studio musician playing piano when I was about 20 and it just happened that the studio needed someone who could compose jingles, arrange them for musicians and singers and then produce them,” Sweet said during an interview from his Milwaukee studio. “I’d been playing on sessions at their studio so they asked me if I could do that, and I just said ‘Yes, I can.’ So I started writing for them and a few years later I went off on my own.”

That simple “Yes, I can” opened the door to what is Sweet’s calling. His career has taken him all over the map, musically and geographically, and even led to an Emmy nomination.

“I do some orchestra scoring and I wrote a score for a TV show called ‘Miracle Mouse,’” Sweet said. “It turned out that they submitted one of the shows and all that went into it, and part of it was my score, so I ended up with an Emmy nomination out of the deal. It was really exciting. I was flattered to say the least.”

So you might ask, what does it take to make it in the field of professional jingle writing? Sweet credits his perfectionist nature for a lot of his success, often spending large amounts of time writing his musical scores and paying special attention to the talent he recruits during recording sessions. In fact, he travels often to Nashville to tap into the market of not only musicians and singers, but the recording studios there as well.

“Nashville is a huge recording center. There are so many fantastic singers, musicians and recording studios down there that it just blows your mind,” Sweet said. “I’ll put together a recording session and I’ll have people from Faith Hill’s band and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The people that play in these bands live around there and you can get them for your sessions. When I record a project for someone, the quality of that is of paramount importance to me, it’s my reputation. If I can get the very best musicians and singers to perform on my projects, I am going to do it.”

Time and time again Sweet’s dedication to doing the best work he possibly can has paid off, so much so that his business more or less advertises itself through his website and reputation.

Jack Henke, president and creative director of the Henke and Associates advertising agency, has collaborated with Sweet on a number of projects and has built a long-term working relationship with him. Henke said that Sweet’s originality is truly what sets him apart from other jingle writers.

“I’ve collaborated with Terry on a number of projects over the years, and collaborated is a very kind word because he really is a genius,” Henke said. “Every time you work with him it’s original. You’re never like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that tune before or he’s mining that vein again.’ He comes up with something unique every time. That’s what he is -- an original.”

But along with that originality comes an understanding of the industry, Henke said. Although Sweet is an artist, he’s not above going the extra mile to understand what the marketing objective of a particular project is.

“Terry is really versatile, too,” Henke said. “He’s has done everything from the Klement’s famous racing sausage song, which is almost like a polka, to writing an opera for us.”

Even though Sweet has a lot of passion and enthusiasm for working as a jingle writer, he admits there is a special place in his heart for his Saturday evenings in Delavan. Sweet was discovered by Lake Lawn Resort management when he was substituting for a pianist at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva.

After getting re-established, the resort decided to introduce Saturday night live music and gave Sweet a six-week tryout. Since then, neither party has looked back.

“I love playing there. We get a wide variety of people in. It’s a great mix demographically and age-wise,” Sweet said. “The audience is eclectic, sometimes they ask for classical and others they’ll ask for ragtime or pop. It’s really a good fit for me because I enjoy playing so many styles.

“I try to always stay in tune with whatever the energy in the room is. If it seems like a quieter, more subdued evening, I don’t want to be intrusive. If it’s a bit louder and everyone is kind of rocking, then I’ll pump the energy up to match it.”

And if you ask Gerard Prendergast, director of food and beverage at Lake Lawn Resort, how Sweet’s audiences respond, he’ll tell you that night after night he plays just what they want to hear.

“He personalizes his music to the audience,” Prendergast said. “The audience can vary Saturday to Saturday, but he will customize his approach to them, and midway through the evening they are all with him. People come back just to hear him play, that speaks for itself.”

Sweet said that he’d miss his Saturday nights in Delavan terribly if he ever lost them, but he is a busy musician.

He is making plans for a Nashville trip to record some original music, and he has been busy with a score for an animated series for which he has big hopes.

Although he clearly stated that he has no plans to leave the resort, if you haven’t been out to see him play, now might be the time. As Henke said, it’s kind of a surprise that he is here to begin with.

“He not only takes a feeling, but he understands how to translate it into music, memorable music,” Henke said. “I’ve told him many times that he is too big to be around here, but I am glad he is.”

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