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Thanks Giving Day

Sweetwater and Adams Radio Group team up with the Red Cross for an uplifting awareness campaign (and maybe give Thanksgiving its signature tune at last)

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-11-25


“You never really hear a song about Thanksgiving,” Mike Ross says. “There’s no ‘White Christmas’ of Thanksgiving, is there?”

Not only is there no “White Christmas” for Thanksgiving, there’s no equivalent of “Jingle Bells” either, or even a “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” While the holiday season offers up a barrage of Christmas songs — sad songs, nostalgic songs, goofy songs, happy songs, songs that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and songs that catalog all the cool stuff you might get —Thanksgiving, the holiday that actually kicks off the “holiday season,” is underrepresented musically. In fact, we’re betting you can’t even name a Thanksgiving song…

Unless you’ve listened to US Country 93.3 or Great Country 103.3 over the past couple weeks. If so, you’ve more than likely heard “Thanks Giving Day,” which debuted earlier this month. The tune celebrates giving thanks to someone who helped you out in a time of need, and serves as the “anchor” of an awareness/fundraising campaign for the regional branch of the Red Cross. “Thanks Giving Day” is also an almost completely “local” production, a collaboration between Sweetwater, Adams Radio Group, and the American Red Cross of Northeast Indiana.

The effort is the brainchild of Mike Ross, the song’s co-author. Ross is eager to
spread the credit around — it took a lot of people working together to turn the idea into reality — but it all began with a song idea Ross had a couple years ago. “You never really hear a song during the Thanksgiving holiday that talks about the value of saying thanks to the people who have done things for you,” he says. “So I thought ‘let me see if I can come up with a song that includes the words “thanks giving” and find a hook for that’.”

Ross’s day job is VP of Marketing at Sweetwater; he writes songs as a hobby, and a few times a year, Ross heads to Nashville for a songwriting session with Dennis
Dearing, a musician friend. “Some people go fishing for vacation, I go song writing,” he laughs. The result of one of those sessions was a version of “Thanks Giving Day.” Ross thought they had something special, and the song’s “random acts” of kindness” stories — some of the lines, Ross says, reference the Nashville flood — set the gears churning. “It
sounds a little goofy, but almost literally, the logo for the Red Cross popped into my head,” Ross says. “That organization kind of embodies the theme of the song — people volunteering, doing a good thing, doing the right thing, when there’s nothing really in it for them.”

Ross thought it might be interesting to approach the Red Cross to see if they could use the song as a way to connect with the community and spread awareness of what they do. Ross made a demo and floated the idea by Katherine MacCaulay, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Northeast Indiana. MacCaulay loved the idea and wanted to see if they could do it for this Thanksgiving, which at the time was about two months away.

Luckily, Ross was ready to go. He had a demo and marketing plan in place. “All I really needed was for everyone to say ‘this is a good idea; let’s get this going’.”

And, to make a long story short, that’s exactly what they did. Sweetwater lent its first-rate recording facilities — as well as the first-rate talent of its studio staff — to the project at no cost to the Red Cross. Maude-Jo and Mike Baczynski — lead vocalists for regional country band Breaking Tradition — sang lead vocals. Adams Radio Group loved the tune and agreed to give air time to the campaign. From that first meeting with MacCaulay to the final product, the whole project took about six weeks.

Ross served as producer during the recording sessions, though as mentioned above he’s quick to give all the credit for how the record turned out to the musicians and engineers at Sweetwater Studios. “Mark Hornsby (Sweetwater Studio’s director, producer, and chief engineer) would bring me tracks and we’d talk about it,” Ross says. “But I didn’t play on it. When you have guys like Don Carr and Phil Naish and everyone else… why would I? You smile, step out of the way, and let them do their thing.”

Those of you who have heard the song might already be familiar with the campaign. “Thanks Giving Day” is played on the radio, and followed by a recorded testimonial from a listener calling in to thank someone who helped them out when they were in a tough spot. After the testimonial, the announcer urges listeners to make a “thank you” call to someone who has helped them, and to “pay it forward” by donating time, money or blood to the local American Red Cross.

“Adams Radio is the big hero in this, because quite frankly, if we didn’t have the radio stations involved in this, we’ve got nothing,” Ross says.

The campaign runs through Thanksgiving, and in the handful of weeks its been on the air, it’s already generated a tremendous response. It’s also only running in the Fort Wayne area at the moment, but once again, it’s been very successful. It might be interesting to see what happens next year, if Red Cross National might adopt it — or adapt it — for a wider campaign, perhaps their signature campaign for the Thanksgiving holiday. “That’s a great ‘what if?’” laughs Ross when I indulge in a little speculation. “Quite frankly, we’ve already achieved the first and most important goal which is that people are talking about the Red Cross, talking about this song, Breaking Tradition is out playing the song and talking about people giving blood or volunteering their time. That ultimately is the win, that’s what we want. Anything else that happens… ‘hallelujah’ if it happens, but if it doesn’t, we’ve already gone far beyond our expectations.”

For more information, and to purchase the song, go to thanksgivingdaysong.com

Or on Facebook at facebook.com/tgdsong

“Thanks Giving Day” is being played on US 93.3 and Great Country 103.3

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