Ice Cream Trucks Will Be Driving to a New Tune Soon

There’s a new sound of summer.

August 13, 2020
101557790

101557790

Photo by: joSon/Getty

joSon/Getty

The ice cream truck jingle has been a familiar sound for many generations. We love it. We “scream” for it. We even run after it. Yet many are unaware that the familiar melody signaling the truck’s arrival every summer has deeply racist origins. That’s why Good Humor, the brand that invented the ice cream truck, is changing its tune, literally. The brand worked with RZA of Wu-Tang Clan to make history right.

Though the iconic jingle shares its melody with a 19th-century minstrel show folk song, Turkey in the Straw, the trucks’ jingle actually originated as a racist offshoot version, first recorded and released in 1916, with an offensive title and accompanying lyrics.

So how did it end up as the chosen song for ice cream trucks? Ice cream parlors played popular minstrel songs at the time, including this one, which, however circuitously, references ice cream. The jingle became a song of summer, so the instrumental version has stuck around — that is, until this week.

Good Humor and RZA are releasing a jingle, inspired by RZA’s childhood memories of chasing after ice cream trucks in Staten Island, to help the industry remove the racist song from use.

The musician shared, “I remember the days when I would hear that iconic ice cream truck jingle outside, and I would drop what I was doing to chase it down for a treat. When I learned about that song’s problematic history this summer, I knew I had to get involved and do something about it. I’m excited to share this new jingle with a new era of ice cream truck fans and continue to spread that joy with Good Humor.”

Photo by: Rakeem Diggs/Photo courtesy of Good Humor

Rakeem Diggs/Photo courtesy of Good Humor

The new music is a blend of traditional ice cream truck sounds, like old-school bells from Good Humor’s original trucks, with jazz and hip-hop elements such as a modern bass and high-hat. The jingle will be available – for free – to any ice cream truck driver who wants to use it starting in August through Nichols Electronics, the sole manufacturer of electronic music boxes for ice cream trucks in the United States. Nichols Electronics stopped selling electronic music boxes for Turkey in the Straw this year.

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