Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Oscar Mayer's beloved 'Wiener Song' has roots in Wisconsin

The Wienermobile.

"Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener." The jingle, called "The Wiener Song," has become so ubiquitously known that there are few who can't hum along with it. It all started with a contest out of Madison, Wisconsin, when Oscar Mayer announced a contest for its new jingle.

Pre 1960 GH&S "The Marvel" Open Back Soprano Banjolele

Joe Kapler, lead curator for the Wisconsin Historical Society, says the jingle was the product of an adman from Chicago: Richard Trentlage. He specialized in jingle-writing and heard about the contest just a day before the entries were due. He sat down and typed out a few ideas, quickly landing on the hook: Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener. He began composing the song using an unusual instrument: The banjo-ukulele.

"Later that evening he had [his] kids, at dinner, learn the lyrics... His wife Vivian could play standup bass, and they worked it through that evening and cranked out a demo tape in the house," Kapler explains.

Trentlage submitted the tape, but assumed he hadn't won the contest since he didn't hear anything for a year. Then one day, he gets the call from Oscar Mayer. He headed into the recording booth with his kids in tow, and they created the version of the Wiener Song still played today.

The banjo ukulele on which the song was composed is now at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, in honor of Trentlage and his lasting, cultural impact.

Kapler says, "The Wiener Song is identified as one of the longest running and most important advertisement jingles in the advertising business but its origin story is just remarkably simple and that’s what makes it a great story."

Have a story idea you'd like to hear on Lake Effect? Share below.


Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
Related Content