On The Avenue: How Tom Woodard Became a Frog

It was 1995. The phone rang: “Can you make a frog say Budweiser?”

On the line were some good friends: Michael Smith and Dave Swaine with DMB&B, Saint Louis. We had already done a ton of music tracks together for their clients. Now they wanted something a little different. We talked for a while about three frogs sitting on lily pads, croaking into the night.

As it happened, I lived on a farm here in Tennessee that had a small pond on it…
a pond full of frogs. I knew exactly what that spot was supposed to sound like. Lay
down a bed of crickets. Splatter some ambient sounds of frogs bellowing in the background. Then, in the foreground, three voices – three syllables, gradually coming together in the right sequence…

I was “Bud.” Ronnie Brooks was “Weis” and Brian Steckler was “Er”, and the audio was complete. A few days later Michael Smith took that studio track and three pencil drawings of frogs into the Anheuser Busch offices. And just like that, the spot was born. Three Nashville voices were changed, forever.

The frogs, by the way, were never meant to be a campaign, with eagerly awaited installments at each year’s Super Bowl. In fact, the spot wasn’t originally pitched for the Super Bowl at all. But then the agency hired Stan Winston, the creator of animatronics, to make the frogs themselves. (While the technology was still fairly new, Winston had just done the movie Congo and a little picture called Jurassic Park.) Pretty soon, everyone knew we had something special on our hands.

It was a great run and a true blessing – that is, until it came to a tragic end in the swamp, at the hand of those scheming lizards.

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