When Steve Knutson originally heard that Tommy Boy records was releasing an album filled with the amped up, high BPM songs that are played in stadiums and arenas, he wasn’t sold on it, not at all. “I thought it was the worst idea,” Knutson, who was then the director of sales at Tommy Boy, told HuffPost. “I thought it was really stupid. Why would anyone do this, especially a hip-hop label?”
Fortunately for artists like C+C Music Factory and 2 Unlimited, and the kind of people who still enthusiastically do the running man, Tommy Boy’s then-president thought that the mid-90s music-buying public would be totally into making their homes sound like Madison Square Garden on a weeknight bender. “To tell you the truth it was just like one of those very simple, very obvious ideas,” Monica Lynch told the outlet. “I would hear the same music being played at the games, all these classic rock and R&B tracks with these organ bits in between, so I thought this stuff would probably be pretty easy to license.”
Lynch and Tommy Boy CEO Tom Silverman decided to run with the idea, convinced ESPN to come in as a partner on the project, and they released a classic rock-heavy compilation called Jock Rock in 1994. But things really got serious a year later, when they added some house and dance tracks into the mix, and released their next 20-track compilation under the name Jock Jams.
“Our idea was to brand it around baseball, football, basketball and hockey and make it a dance record, but when you put it in the contest of a game and tie it in with ESPN it made sense,” Silverman told MTV. “That album went gold and sold in the mid 600,000-700,000 range. It had things like Snap!’s ‘The Power,’ and a bunch of one-hit wonders, but also things like ‘YMCA,’ which everyone loved.”
Four more numbered volumes of Jock Jams followed, as did one All-Star Jock James record, between 1995 and 2001 and, according to Silverman, around 30 percent of Tommy Boy’s income came from the kind of records that opened with wrestling announcer Michael Buffer or basketball commentator Dick Vitale aggressively screaming their catchphrases. By the time the Jams had run their course, the CD series had sold more than 4 million copies.
Y’all ready for this? In the 1990s, we absolutely freaking were.
You know what else we’re ready for? This week’s Twitch video on demand. Some Jock Jams knowledge may just help you with Random Knowledge. Check it here.
Featured image courtesy of: Tommy Boy Records