The iconic GBH sting, the glowing electronic fanfare that accompanies the GBH logo during programs’ closing credits, has been updated to reflect GBH’s vibrant purple brand refresh in September 2020.
With its synthesizer crescendo, the sting has changed very little since it sizzled across the airwaves for the first time almost 50 years ago. The flair was created by legendary composer Gershon Kingsley, who died in 2019 at the age of 97. An up-and-coming musician who elevated the Moog synthesizer to almost cult status during the 1970s, Kingsley developed the sting in conjunction with two GBH employees: GBH’s director of creative services and the general manager. It happened in secret, and the story of its development was almost lost to history.
“In all the executive meetings I attended, there was never a mention,” says. Dietmar R. Winkler, then type and design director for GBH and now professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
“I remember no referencing of the project, but that was not uncommon, because of the keen competition between producers.”
Just as it is today, GBH was known in those years for its bold thinking and dynamic atmosphere—so much so it was the subject of a 1976 New York Times article headlined, “What Makes WGBH Crackle with Creativity?”
The story reported that Creative Director Sylvia Davis, who developed the sting with General Manager Michael Rice, described GBH’s work culture this way: “People are able to shape themselves here. There is a respect for eccentricity here that encourages people like Julia Child to develop.” Davis, a longtime GBH innovator, died last week.
“Our audio sting is GBH’s enduring promise of quality programming,” says Jon Abbott, president and CEO of GBH. “Kingsley and our designers were ahead of their time in understanding viewers’ appetite for something as innovative and exciting as electronic music.”
View the old GBH sting here:
Upon release the sting spawned a passionate following. Featuring an almost surreal synthesizer riff, it has earned nicknames (“the doodle doo”) as well as hundreds of online video homages and lively internet discussions (like this Reddit thread).
The contract with GBH came as Kingsley was building his electronic music career with the Moog. He created concertos, movie soundtracks, advertising jingles and a rock version of Jewish Sabbath services, according to his obituary in The New York Times. Kingsley eventually received worldwide recognition. His music continues to wield influence, including with such hip-hop artists as Jay-Z, J Dilla, Black Milk and RJD2, who have sampled his works, according to Rolling Stone.
Kingsley’s music also has a connection to another revered Boston institution—the Boston Pops Orchestra.
According to Kingsley's obituary, Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler “asked Mr. Kingsley to write a piece for Moog quartet and orchestra. The Pops concert was televised, and ‘Concerto for Moog’ drew broad interest."
“It’s a tribute to Kingsley’s musical vision that the sting has lasted so long and has resonated with listeners for almost five decades,” says Abbott.
Download the GBH sting as your ringtone below!