Chili's Iconic 'Baby Back Ribs' Jingle Used To Be Completely Different

Drive by a Chili's restaurant, and you're likely to hear in your head — if not sing out yourself — the jingle that just won't die. You know, the one for the restaurant's baby-back ribs, with the funkily repeated "I want my baby back, baby back, baby back" phrasing under the soulfully sung "Chili's baby back ribs." The still-catchy jingle was written in 1995 by Guy Bommarito, then the creative director for GSD&M, an advertising agency in Austin, Texas. The jingle was a near-desperate attempt to keep Chili's business after an earlier GSD&M campaign for the chain had bombed to the point that the company was ready to fire the agency (via Daily Mail). In a 2017 interview with Vice, Bommarito said he wrote the jingle "in like, five minutes."

According to AV Club, Chili's management strongly hinted, at least to Bommarito's hearing, that they wanted a jingle. "They said, 'We need a spot for baby back ribs, and we want it to be music in the restaurant,'" Bommarito told AV Club. Bommarito, embarrassed to assign a jingle to anyone else. "The feeling at the time," he told AV Club, was that "jingles were the lowest form of advertising." So he did it himself. "I presented it to the client, I just sang it to them, and they said, 'Yeah, that sounds fine," Bommarito told Vice. 

In 2017, on the now-defunct Great Big Story, Bommarito expressed surprise at the jingle's staying power. "I thought it would be gone after six weeks."

'Back' for the second time

An earlier musical attempt by Chili's to get customers to try their "baby, baby, baby back ribs" did just fade away, despite some similarity to Bommarito's jingle. In the 1980s, according to Mental Floss, the chain ran an ad that included the tagline "I love my baby, baby, baby back ribs" to close out a vampy piano, guitar, and saxophone-fueled blues and spoken-word commercial. Forgettable for its all-too-standard blues riffs, the ad opens with the obviously forced rhyme "I love my baby, my baby back ribs, they're here at Chili's, now I wouldn't fib." From there, the commercial goes into a voiceover telling viewers about the ribs by noting "we smoke 'em, charbroil 'em in our own sauce" before insisting "you're gonna love 'em right down to the bone."

It's unclear whether Bommarito took any inspiration from Chili's first "baby back ribs" commercial in writing the jingle now inextricably tied with the restaurant. And in terms of its staying power, one thing Bommarito's jingle includes that wasn't part of the original 1980s tune is the deep bass phrase "barbecue sauce" intoned by the late Willie McCoy, known professionally as Wolf Johnson. No doubt frustratingly, as suggested at AV Club, those two words likely continue to reverberate between the ears of anyone who has ever served tables at Chili's and been subjected to people intent on trying to imitate McCoy's distinctive voice to order extra barbecue sauce, whether they need it or not.