12/1/2010

item 1 >>> OK, I blew it…my bad. Right on the front of the Absorbine Veterinary Liniment container it says “Spearmint.” So who reads the front? I don’t dip into the mints very much these days, what can I say? Haven’t chewed gum in ages. Never eat candy except at Hallowe’en…well, Christmas too, but then everything’s peppermint, right?  Still, that’s a neat smell, boy…and speaking of mints…

item 2 >>> Teaberry gum was wintergreen flavored, and that’s on the level…see today’s Wicked Ballsy. And “teaberry” wasn’t dreamed up in some advertising agency, it’s a real name, one of many for what’s called American wintergreen, to distinguish it from the other kinds of wintergreen…with plants, there’s always a zillion different kinds. The particular species Clark’s used is also called checkerberry, deerberry, mountain tea, partridge berry, and spiceberry. But yes, it was most popular as a tea, until the gum came along.

item 3 >>> And it really saved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. After the initial success of “The Lonely Bull” single and album, their next LP got lukewarm response, and it looked like with their third LP they might have run out their string, despite Herb’s moving to a more pop style from the original “ethnic” sound, altho in truth he never did any real mariachi, and he admitted it. But when Clark’s Gum wanted to use “The Mexican Shuffle” for their “Teaberry Shuffle” campaign, sales exploded. I was going to try to describe how the track used for the TV commercials differed from the original LP version, when I realized I’d already done it, and you can hear it! Just go to stolfpod.podbean.com and check out # 5.1, “teaberry update.” BTW, that bonus track…Big Bear Lake is the name of a town and also naturally a lake, in the San Bernardino Mountains, in Southern California. It was a favorite spot for filming movies, and both Mel Blanc and Roy Rogers were among the celebrities who had homes on the shore.

item 4 >>> Getting back to Teaberry Gum, you can still buy it…I was gonna say from “vintage” candy specialty companies, but also from Amazon no less. Who knew, altho it still appears to be just a niche item. The Clark Brothers Chewing Gum Company was spin-off in 1921 from the D.L. Clark Company, makers of Clark Bar, Zagnut, and others. They’re now owned by NECCO. But re the gum people, today it’s shortened to Clark Gum Co., in Buffalo, with no corporate presence on the net that I can find.

item 5 >>> Not to toot my own horn, but if I don’t, who will? You’ll find links to my 2 podcasts down below with the shameless plugs. Stolfpod contains old radio & TV commercials, each episode is 5-7 minutes long, and while I haven’t done many recently, due to the switch from Windows to Apple, there are still more than 40 podcasts there, and heck, even I enjoy listening to them. The other one, The Whole Thing, these are longer, only a couple done, and gets deeper into commercials and their music….altho, I will be doing a Christmas one in the next few days, called “No L”, which actually won’t be on commercials, but Christmas music, with a twist…

item 6 >>> And that twist is, it’s Christmas music that isn’t Christmas music. What I mean is, instrumental music that has a definite Christmasy sound to it, but clearly wasn’t intended as such. But then again, who knows, maybe it was, but for whatever reason was ultimately released as non-seasonal music. There will be 4 selections: “Picasso Summer” by the Baja Marimba Band, “Highway at Night” by Horst Jancowski, “Aliki” by John Barry, and a cut from the soundtrack of Roger Moore’s old TV show “The Saint,” called “Sraten Island Ferry.” Titles don’t sound too festive, do they, but that’s just the point. Give a listen…by Friday it’ll be up, at thewholething.podbean.com.

item 7 >>> But coming full circle, Absorbine is still made by W.F. Young Inc. of East Longmeadow, Mass, a suburb of Springfield, near the Connecticut border. Where have I heard that town before? Oh yeah, the actual location of Milton Bradley (now owned by Hasbro),  altho they always said “Springfield.” WIlbur Young started his business in 1892 with the horse liniment, then developed the people version Absorbine Jr. in 1903. I almost said East Longmeadow was the home of Ocean Spray, but that straddles Lakeville and Middleboro, Mass. Everything good comes from New England? Pretty much, yeah…

item 8 >>> Along the lines of Teaberry Gum, another product that used to be a major player but is now sort of a “legacy” brand is Yuban coffee, my personal brew. But once upon a time, the Arbuckle Brothers, John and Charles, were the largest coffee roasting and shipping firm in North America. Arbuckle coffee was called “The Coffee that Won the West” because of a glaze John developed for the bean to retard spoilage when shipping long distances. After his death in 1912, the company came out with a coffee based on the blend John used for his annual Christmas parties, hence Yuban for YU-ltide BAN-quet. It’s made today, like everything else, by Kraft.

item 9 >>> Sharp-eyed readers might wonder if there’s any connection to Jon Arbuckle, Garfield’s owner. Indeed, cartoonist Jim Davis said he heard the name on a coffee commercial and it stuck with him. The cat was named after his grandfather James A. Garfield Davis. Davis’ first strip was called Gnorm Gnat, but it never got beyond local Indiana newspapers…the syndicates told him: good art, good gags, lose the bug.

item 10 >>> But no connection I can find to early comedy actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, altho world-renowned cowboy sidekick Al “Fuzzy” St. John was Fatty’s nephew, and they appeared together in numerous films. BTW, St. John got his nickname from John “Fuzzy” Knight, whom he replaced in a cowboy picture, but apparently, in those days, there was room in Hollywood for two Fuzzy’s.

Wicked Ballsy


Teaberry wrappers thru the years…you’ll notice the earliest (top) ones illustrate their motto “It’s on the level” with, well, a level…which morphed into to the simple bar of color that was the corporate style in the 50s-70s.

shameless plugucopia…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Daily blogs at http://stolf.wordpress.com and  https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com

More bloggage at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi

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