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Thomas W. Dawes, 64; musician, jingle writer

November 06, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Thomas W. Dawes, a rock musician whose band opened for the Beatles on their final tour but who made a broader mark on pop culture writing music for such well-known commercial advertising jingles as "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz" for Alka-Seltzer and "Our L'Eggs Fit Your Legs" for the hosiery maker, has died. He was 64.

Dawes died Oct. 13 at a New York City hospital of a stroke after carotid artery surgery, said his wife, Ginny Redington Dawes.

In 1966, his band with an upbeat folk-rock sound had a No. 2 hit with the Paul Simon song "Red Rubber Ball," and a name -- the Cyrkle -- that was supposedly suggested by John Lennon. That same year, the group had its only other Top 20 hit, "Turn Down Day," which featured a sitar-playing Dawes.

The four band members were performing as the Rhondells in Atlantic City, N.J., when they were discovered by an associate of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. Soon they were presenting their tight-knit harmonies on arena-size stages at the height of Beatlemania in the summer of 1966.

The three-week tour "was sort of a life adventure," Dawes told the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call in 1995. Beatles-related hysteria meant they "couldn't leave the hotel. . . . There wasn't anything you could do but watch TV and play poker with the Beatles."

The Cyrkle released two albums between 1966 and 1968 but never had another hit single, although Dawes, who usually played bass, and another band member, Don Dannemann, "proved themselves quite capable" as songwriters, according to the All Music Internet database.

After the Cyrkle recorded a jingle for 7-Up's "Uncola" campaign, Dawes turned to writing catchy tunes for advertising, as did Dannemann.

The work gave Dawes something he craved musically -- complete creative control.

"He just had a knack for it," said Redington, a musician who was a competing jingle writer when she met her future husband in an ad-agency boardroom. "It seemed like a way to make music and be happy without suffering so much."

Among the dozens of musical ditties Dawes wrote are "We're American Airlines, Doing What We Do Best" and "Nothin' Beats a Great Pair of L'Eggs." Advertising Age placed the "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz" ad that featured his melody among the top 15 advertising campaigns in history; the Alka-Seltzer ad ran from 1975 to 1980.

With his wife, Dawes wrote the music for "If You Don't Look Good, We Don't Look Good" for Vidal Sassoon and the "Coke Is It!" campaign that aired during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In 1990, the couple retired from jingle writing.

"We decided there's so much more to life than singing ketchup bottles," Dawes told Reuters news service in 2006.

Together, they wrote the book, music and lyrics for "The Talk of the Town," a musical about the celebrated 1920s literary circle known as the Algonquin Round Table. The show ran for nearly two years off-Broadway beginning in 2004 before it was presented as a cabaret show at New York City's Algonquin Hotel.

Thomas Webster Dawes was born July 25, 1943, in Albany, N.Y.

As a young teen, Dawes played guitar and banjo and had a folk-singing group in high school.

Dawes graduated from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where he and Dannemann put together a band that played the college frat-party circuit.

Soon after being discovered, the act briefly broke up when Dannemann left for a short stint in the Coast Guard. After Dawes was hired as a guitarist for a Simon & Garfunkel tour, Simon offered the Cyrkle "Red Rubber Ball," which he had co-written with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers.

Soon after the quartet reformed, they recorded "Red Rubber Ball" and were basking in their good fortune.

"The band was just so breathless about the whole thing, to go from a fairly funky bar in Atlantic City . . . to the Beatles' tour," Dawes said in the 1995 Morning Call story.

In addition to his wife of 29 years, Dawes is survived by his sister, Robin Ducey.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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