Philadelphia

Philly Area Native Les Waas, Songwriter Behind Mister Softee Jingle, Dies

You might not know Les Waas but you likely know the tune he created that elicits memories of summertime and, of course, ice cream.

Waas, a Philadelphia-based adman, created the chiming jingle that lives on today every time a Mister Softee truck rolls down the street. Waas died April 19 of pneumonia at Abington Memorial Hospital at the age of 94. [[377450071, C]]

Waas’ memorable (if you like it or not) jingle, officially known as "Jingle and Chimes" -- known for the instrumental but that song had words with it: The CREAM-i-est DREAM-i-est SOFT ice CREAM you GET from MIS-ter SOF-tee…” -- first began blaring from loudspeakers on Mister Softee trucks in 1960 after Mister Softee grabbed Waas to write its iconic theme. The Runnemeade, New Jersey- based ice cream truck giant shared condolences on Waas' passing on its Facebook page: "The song has since become one of the most recognized commercial jingles in America." [[377452581, C]]

The Mister Softee song, originally written for the company started in his Philadelphia hometown just a few years earlier, played in the company's ice cream trucks as a way to signal their approach. Soon, the song became ubiquitous with ice cream, summer and fun as the opening notes became instantly recognizable to anyone within earshot — sparking a craving they didn't realize existed.

Both loved and loathed, the jingle remains a lasting part of the collective American childhood.

It was one of nearly 1,000 jingles he wrote for Philly-based Waas, Inc.

Per Waas’ NY Times obituary:

He celebrated the virtues of clients including Holiday Inn, the Philadelphia Phillies and at least one local food manufacturer. (“Give me a little Kissling’s Sauerkraut,/It’s fresh and clean, without a doubt./In transparent Pliofilm bags it’s sold,/Kissling’s Sauerkraut, hot or cold.”)

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But none captured the public — and held it captive — like the Mister Softee song, which the Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 2 (2014), calls “today’s best-known ice cream truck tune,” and of which Mr. Waas remained proud to the end of his life.

Waas, whose wife of 53 years Sylvia died in 2004, was a 2005 inductee into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. Besides his jingle work he also appeared on numerous television shows, had a radio show and came up with the “number system” for reporting school closings on air, according to the pioneers. [[211053881, C]]

He also served as pilot in World War II, said the Pioneers — where he served as president and chairman of the board.

Waas was also known for his sense of humor. University of Calgary psychology professor Piers Steel wrote in a 2011 "Psychology Today" article that in 1956, Waas and some of his fellow admen posted a sign in a Philadelphia hotel reading, "The procrastination's club meeting has been postponed." The sign drew attention from local press, prompting Waas to eventually hold the meeting — the start of a long-running prank. Waas served as president of the Procrastinators Club of America, which even today claims thousands of members.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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