The digitized ice cream truck jingle is a staple of summer in America, but like many things we take for granted, ‘Turkey in the Straw’ can be traced back to a darker time and place in the country’s history, and in this, Good Humor saw the opportunity to present an alternative. Company representatives reached out to producer and Wu-Tang Clan front man RZA to pitch the notion of an ice cream truck jingle that is, in RZA’s own words, “made with love.”
While there’s no official standard ice cream truck jingle, ‘Turkey in the Straw’ is certainly recognizable to just about anybody who grew up in American suburbia. Sadly, its popularity can be traced back to minstrel shows, and some versions of the song even include outright racist lyrics.
“While Good Humor did not create ‘Turkey in the Straw’ or other ice cream truck jingles, the brand is using its influence to acknowledge the song’s history, educate drivers and fans, and help the ice cream truck industry remove it from use,” the company said when it announced the collaboration.
“Good Humor invented the ice cream truck and is the maker of some of today’s most iconic ice cream truck treats. And while we have not owned ice cream trucks since 1976, we wanted to be part of the solution and offer ice cream truck drivers a jingle that can bring joy to every community,” said Russel Lilly, Senior Director, U.S. Ice Cream at Unilever.
There are alternative jingles available to operators already — including some seriously creepy ones, as I learned while researching this story. There are even suppliers who produce physical jingle boxes designed to be hooked up to a PA system explicitly for this purpose.
In fact, Good Humor is partnering with one such outfit in order to help get the new jingle into the hands of truck operators. The jingle will be pre-loaded onto the boxes produced by Nichols Electronics, right here in the USA. It will also be available for download directly from Good Humor’s web site. RZA says in his background video that the jingle will be available for free in perpetuity, which should help get it into the wild.