Friday, 7 October 2011

A. C. Nielsen Jr. & Marv Tarplin R.I.P.

A. C. Nielsen Jr.

A. C. Nielsen Jr., the son of A. C. Nielsen Company founder of the A. C. Nielsen Company and its long time head, passed on 2 October 2011 at the age of 92. 

Arthur Charles Nielsen Jr. was born on 8 April 1919 in Winnetka, Illinois. It was in 1923 that his father, A. C. Nielsen Sr. founded the A. C.Nielsen Company to provide companies with objective information on the effects of sales programmes and marketing. During World War II, A. C. Nielsen Jr. served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Among his missions during the war was to erect a building to house a computer that would generate tables to calculate the measurements necessary to accurately fire artillery. It would be Mr. Nielsen's first exposure to computers, which would play a large role in his future career.

After being demobilised in 1945, Mr. Nielsen joined A. C. Nielsen Company. In 1948 that A. C. Nielsen Company invested in the construction of Univac, the first general purpose computer. It would be A. C. Nielsen Jr. who would expand the company into news areas such as a clearinghouse for coupons, tracking subscriptions for magazines, and even tracking oil and gas wells.

While A. C. Nielsen Jr. led the company into new arenas, it would remain best known for its ratings for radio and later television. A. C. Nielsen Company started measuring the size of radio station audiences in 1936 and went nationwide in 1942. In 1950 A. C. Nielsen Sr. led the company in the creation of the first television ratings. In A. C. Nielsen Jr. became the president of the company and in 1975 its chairman. During his tenure the company went from making $4 million a year to more than $680 million a year. And while the Nielsen ratings are the best known means of measuring audience size, over the years the A. C. Nielsen Company would have to fight off some very viable competitors. With the growth of cable television, the A. C. Nielsen Company would expand to provide ratings for cable channels as well.

A. C. Nielsen also supported the Chicago Food Bank, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and many other charities.

While the Nielsen ratings have been often been criticised over the years for their accuracy and the possible response bias of Nielsen viewers, the company would seem to have developed the best television ratings system. Indeed, A. C. Neilsen Company's primary rival throughout the years, Arbitron, was never as well respected nor their ratings regarded as accurate (here I must not Arbitron left the arena of television ratings many years ago).  And while there are those who would question the need for television ratings, it must be pointed out that television is a business based on income from advertising, that income being based on the the size of any given show's audience. 

Like his father before him, A. C. Nielsen Jr. always strove to insure that the ratings his company provided for the various television outlets were as accurate as possible. Indeed, it must be pointed out that the A. C. Nielsen was using computers and other technology in determining the ratings of TV shows at a time when only the government, universities, and the largest corporations were using the machines. If the networks have used the Nielsen ratings as an excuse to cancel many fine programmes, then the fault does not necessarily lie with A. C. Nielsen Company, but instead with the networks themselves and the audience for not tuning into the shows. A. C. Nielsen is only the bearer of bad news at times, not its creator. And A. C. Nielsen Jr. always strove to insure the company measured television ratings and other marketing accurately.

Marv Tarplin
Marv Tarplin, guitarist for Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and a songwriter in his own right, died on 30 September 2011 at the age of 70.

Marvin Tarplin was born on 13 June 1941 in Atlanta, Georgia. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his mother enrolled him in piano classes. Eventually Mr. Tarplin would take up the guitar, which became his instrument of choice. He began his professional career after walking into the Flame Show Bar in Detroit and he was recruited as the guitarist for the girl group The Primetttes (two of who went to school with Mr. Tarplin). He played at their early gigs, and it would be when he played at their audition for Motown that his life would be changed forever.  The audition was seen by Smokey Robinson, who recruited him as one of The Miracles. The Miracles released their first single, "It," in 1959. They released three more singles in 1959 and 1960, none of them doing very well on the charts. It was with "Shop Around," released in 1960, that The Miracles would have their first hit. The single went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard R&B chart. 


The Miracles would go onto become one of the most successful R&B groups of all time. Much of their success would be due to Marv Tarplin's unique playing style, which was a bit reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield. In addition to playing guitar, Mr. Tarplin would also have success as a songwriter. He co-wrote several of The Miracles' hits, including "I Like It Like That," "Tracks of My Tears," "Come On Do the Jerk," and "Going to a Go-Go." He also wrote hits for Marvin Gaye, including "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone," and "One More Heartache." 


In 1972 Smokey Robinson and his wife Claudette left The Miracles. Marv Tarplin remained with The Miracles until 1973, when he joined Smokey Robinson in his solo career. Mr. Tarplin would continue to collaborate with Mr. Robinson, co-writing several of his solo hits. Among the songs which Mr. Tarplin co-wrote were "Cruisin'" and "Being With You." He would continue to play guitar with Smokey Robinson until 2008, when he retired from touring.


Marv Tarplin was often referred to as "The Miracles' secret weapon" and there can be no reason to doubt that his guitar work was much of the reason for the group's success. The combination of Smokey Robinson's powerful vocals and Marv Tarplin's singular guitar work gave The Miracles a sound unlike any other R&B group at the time. Indeed, Marv Tarplin is often counted as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. As a songwriter he was also very talented, winning the BMI award for Songwriting multiple times. Indeed, it was Mr. Tarplin who created the distinctive three chord riff that formed the backbone of the song "The Tracks of My Tears." A great guitarist and a great songwriter, Marv Tarplin was an immensely talented man.


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