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In the Spotlight

Express Oil change uses the power of song to bring customers and the media to their centers.

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Somehow, Joe Watson, the president of Express Oil Change LLC, came up with the unlikely pairing of a barbershop quartet and an oil change. And so The Express Oil Singers was born.

The group visits Express Oil locations on designated Ladies' Days, serenading female customers getting their oil changed. Debuting this May at a Birmingham-area center, the singers performed "I've Been Working in the Oil Change," their rendition of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Customers are asked to honk their car horn at the song's end.

"We had a very warm reaction from 99 percent of the people," says John Ziegler, vice president of advertising, as well as a singer and guitar player with the group. "There was one lady that was a little embarrassed. She just sat there and gripped the steering wheel and stared straight ahead."

For Ziegler, the group displays the fun, close-knit attitude of Express Oil, which has centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. Watson recruited Ziegler and Ronnie Nelson, customer service supervisor and a church music director; Nelson in turn called on franchisees Vern Tuttle, a church choir member, and Jeff Johnson to round out the quartet.

The gimmick seems to be working. The quartet has been featured in local newspapers and TV-the added attention helps franchisees attract customers. "Sometimes car accounts don't rise as fast as we want them to, so the singing oil-change guys go over there and it gets them media coverage in their community," explains Ziegler. "I'm sure we will continue to use the group as a form of franchise support."

In fact, the group is having trouble fulfilling all the requests they've received from franchisees. The company is considering forming a second group to meet demand. "We're in five states, so it's difficult to get around to all the stores," Ziegler says. "We have a couple of guys in Atlanta interested in spinning off a group. I'm sure they will be as appreciated as we are."

Until then, the original singers are happy to visit centers for Ladies' Days and grand openings. For an upcoming opening of a Birmingham store located on Hollywood Blvd., the quartet will dress up and perform Beatles' songs.

While Ziegler is enjoying his time with the group, he's a little nervous about what they'll do next. "I don't even want to think about Christmas," he says. "We'll probably be little elves. But I hope not."