What San Diego musician can claim the title of Most Local Airplay? Pinback? P.O.D.? Jewel?
The honor goes to Leonard Tucker. You many not recognize the name, but odds are you know the voice. Here’s why: “Mossy Nissan! Mossy Nissan moves you!”
Love it or hate it, but the Mossy Nissan jingle — and Tucker’s distinctive yell at the end of the spot — is well known to most San Diegans. The 20-year-old song, in various incarnations, is broadcast locally approximately 2000 times a month on both radio and television. According to FM 94.9 music director Mike Halloran, a current Top 40 radio hit gets about 10,000 plays a month nationwide.
The song was recorded in either 1988 or 1989 — details about the recording are a bit fuzzy — and Tucker credits San Diego songwriter Dove Linkhorn at Powerhouse Recording Studios for writing the song.
“His jingles have a fun rhythm,” says Tucker. “He gave me the melody of what they were looking for and just kinda let me go for it.”
As for the yell at the end of the tune, Tucker says he went with his gut. “It just kind of came out. I don’t think it was a direction from anybody; it just kind of happened at the end.”
Singing commercial spots is a tough way to make a living, but Tucker has a successful career as a session singer and has performed on a number of well-known jingles. His voice can still be heard crooning the tag for Smooth Jazz 98.1, and radio listeners might remember his vocals on a radio spot for Bill Howe Plumbing and a jingle for the San Diego trolley.
“I also sang the San Diego Chargers song,” says Tucker. “There are two different versions. They played mine for years, and then more recently — with the Chargers having such a phenomenal season — they went back to the original, more disco version.”
The original “Super Chargers” was recorded in 1979 by a group of session musicians under the name of Captain Q.B. and the Big Boys. Tucker’s rendition has since been retired.
Along with having two of the best-known San Diego songs under his belt, Tucker, a former employee of NASSCO (National Steel and Shipyard Company), also sings with ’60s R&B soul legends the Fifth Dimension.
Jim Tindaro, co-owner of American Strategies Marketing, the agency that handles advertising for Mossy, said he was looking for something with a Latin beat back in 1988 to catch the ear of the young, urban car buyer.
“We knew that music plays a big part in that segment, and we decided to come up with a musical signature,” says Tindaro. “At the time I knew kind of what I wanted to accomplish — I’m a former musician myself — and I knew what kind of sound would resonate. At the time it was all Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. That was the thought process. I went to the creative people and said, ‘This is what I am envisioning for this tune.’ ”
Dove Linkhorn isn’t surprised at the jingle’s longevity. “Mossy Nissan is Jingles 101. The essence of jingle writing is all there. If you want to know how to write a jingle, listen to that one, and you’ve got it. It has to have a hook, and you’ve got to get the name out there clearly — get it out there so people are not only listening, but singing. It’s really not much different than trying to write a hit song.”
For proof that the jingle has become a piece of local music history, look no further than Rookie Card’s front man Adam Gimbel. The song is such a San Diego institution that at one point the band incorporated the jingle into their set list.
“Everyone knows it,” says Gimbel. “We opened up for ABC at the House of Blues and opened up with [Mossy Nissan], and I swear, there were 500 or 600 people and you could see them start to cheer. Everyone knows it.”