If you’ve ever served tables at Chili’s, you’ve probably had at least 36 jackasses order extra barbecue sauce in a deep, sonorous voice. Hell, maybe you’ve been one of those jackasses—it’d be hard to blame you. The ubiquitous Chili’s baby back ribs jingle is a work of art, a simple, endlessly infectious refrain that not only thrived in the ad space but also on film. In 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Fat Bastard himself had a go at it.
If you’ve ever wondered who wrote such a joyously infectious jingle, here’s your answer: A guy who couldn’t care less. Munchies reached out to Guy Bommarito, who wrote the ad while serving as the executive creative director at Austin-based ad agency GSD&M, and he revealed that he not only has never eaten a Chili’s baby back rib(!), but that the whole assignment was kind of embarrassing from moment one.
I only did it when we got into a situation where we had done a campaign that did so poorly they were going to fire us. We went up to Dallas and we begged them for a second chance. They said, “We need a spot for baby back ribs in about six weeks, and we want it to be music in the restaurant.”
I was too embarrassed to go back to my department and give them the assignment, because it was really an awful assignment. This was a time when really good agencies would send out Christmas cards that would have a blank before the word “bells,” like “___ bells, ___ bells,” and when you’d open it up it would say “We don’t do jingles.” That was the feeling at the time, that jingles were the lowest form of advertising and the lowest common denominator. Our department didn’t even do them, so I just did it myself so that no one would have to mess with it.
Being the surprise hit that it was, Bommarito actually began seeing money stream in from the jingle, though things got complicated when it came to splitting royalties with Tom Faulkner, the voice of the ad. What followed was a minor betrayal and a touch of melancholy.
You know, I just let him have it because it doesn’t matter to me. It wasn’t something I was so proud of that I wanted it to be in my obituary. Tom’s a really nice guy, this guy that would fret over everything. When I found out that the song ended up in Austin Powers, Tom was the first person I called up, and I said, “Did you hear?” He went on and on about how GSD&M had contacted him and asked if he had the original paperwork. So Tom put in his negotiations that they would pay him $4,000, and that both he and I would get a credit at the end of the movie. He said that he wrote the song and I wrote the lyrics. That was the first time I’d heard of it, and he said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll split the $4,000 with you.” But then the song kept appearing again and again, and every time the agency would have to negotiate with Tom, so Tom decided to cover his ass and registered the song with BMI in his name and left me out completely. Finally, he got a buy-out. A few years ago, I said, “It would really be nice if you corrected the record.” But his life had been pretty tough lately, and he kind of freaked out. I decided to just let it be. If I wanted to, I could bring in the people who were there when I originally sang it, but it just doesn’t matter to me.
Remember that next time you’re leaning into the bass of that “barbecue sauce.”