Meet the woman who helped create 'Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin'

·3 min read
Connie Baxter in her production studio at CFRN-TV (now CTV Edmonton). Baxter helped create the
Connie Baxter in her production studio at CFRN-TV (now CTV Edmonton). Baxter helped create the

At her retirement party from CTV Edmonton in 2015, Connie Baxter admitted to something she had sworn to herself she would never bring up again.

She announced to her colleagues that she had helped create the infamous jingle, "Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin," a four-second earworm that has been imprinted in the minds of Albertans since the 1980s.

"I told people at that party that I had done it because I'm old now and I don't care," Baxter told CBC's Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

Before that, Baxter had grown quiet about her role in its creation. The jingle had been played so much, the people she worked with had grown tired of it.

"They got sick of that jingle because they heard it once every five minutes," she said.

But last month, while on her way to buy groceries, Baxter heard Judy Aldous, host of CBC's Alberta at Noon, mention "that one from Wetaskiwin" while talking about jingles.

She decided to call the show and let them exactly where it came from.

Connie Baxter/Facebook
Connie Baxter/Facebook

It was 1984, or 1985 — Baxter can't recall exactly. She was a new hire at CFRN-TV (now CTV Edmonton), working as a writer and producer in the advertising department.

A colleague went on vacation. Covering for him, Baxter was assigned the account for a group of car dealerships in Wetaskiwin, Alta., 70 kilometres south of Edmonton.

Coming up with a jingle was not an easy task, she recalled.

"I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to appeal to the demographic of the Toyota and the Ford and all in one," she remembered.

The tagline, "Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin," had been given to her. She believes a child had suggested the words to a dealership manager.

It was Baxter's job to come up with a tune.

Around that time, Dolly Parton had transitioned from country to pop with songs like 9 to 5 and Islands in the Stream. Inspired by the musician, Baxter decided to make the jingle "nice and bouncy."

"She's kind of a bouncy character," Baxter said of Parton.

Even though her creative director thought she was out of her mind, he didn't protest too much.

After finding a "Dolly Parton sound-alike," Baxter and the rest of the team sat down and wrote an entire song in one afternoon, in 30-second and 60-second versions.

The song ended with a "tag-out" — the "Cars cost less in Wetaskiwin" part.

A cassette of the song was played on a boombox to a boardroom full of older men — one of whom went as far as calling her "little lady."

"I was completely intimidated and shaking in my space boots," Baxter said.

Unanimously, the dealership clients accepted the song for a commercial and it was sold to stations across the province.

For the first few weeks, the song ran full-length in commercials. But the "tag-out" became so catchy, it stuck around. And around.

The more popular the jingle became, the quieter Baxter became about its origins.

"I was a victim of my own success," she said.

These days, she's more comfortable with her legacy.

"If you like it, great. And if you don't like it, too bad. It's sold a lot of cars and that's what makes the world go round."

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