2003 MAY 1 #121
Aside from the Camp Bryn Afon album (April 17, #107), perhaps my most treasured "unique" item in my collection is a group of four reel-to-reel tapes marked "Star Ads". They came to me through the collection of my Uncle Stu, who had, at some point in the late 1960's, been a salesman for this East Coast-based company.
In 1975, my uncle asked me to sort through a box full of his reels to find out what was on them. There were perhaps 50 tapes in the box, all but four of which were store-bought blanks, which he had recorded on, some of which had notes, but what caught my eye was those four demo reels. The contents of those tapes (each about 30 minutes long) was pure magic.
Even at this late date, when I've heard hundreds of radio ads, from every decade, there is something oddly off-kilter about these ads, which seem to have been produced from a very unusual mindset, even in comparison with other ads from the era (late '50's through late '60's).
I never did finish the project for my uncle, and returned the tapes to him, after asking him if I could keep the four Star Ads reels.
The medley I've put together features six ads, beginning and ending with my two favorites, both of which feature the guy who seems to have been the "voice" of Star Ads. Anyone knowing who this pitchman is or was is kindly begged to both share that information with me, and to send me more of his material.
First up is an ad from a series of "recipe" ads, filled with items to make for eating with "National Beer", which appears to have been a regional product, brewed, we are told "on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. My Star Ads tapes have about ten ads for this product - it may have been their biggest account. I love the dumb guys with their interruption in the middle, which is made all the funnier by the fact that they give the wrong "recipe" for Roux, which is not exactly a hard item to make.
Next is a classic ad for K Mart, the only ad on any of the four tapes that I can personally remember hearing on the radio, as a child. The "music bed" in the middle sure swings, doesn't it? Most of the items mentioned in the ad still exist today. On the other hand, K Mart isn't doing so well. After this is one of Star Ads' "personality" ads, a wonderful number featuring Tex Williams, several years removed from his biggest hits, but still sounding good.
I have a hard time believing the next ad ran, it is so poorly conceived (although after almost 30 years, it still cracks me up). The later tapes in the series are dedicated to specialty and regional ads, and I suspect this was either a demo or a very local ad, despite being for the Yellow Pages. A woman sings out of tune about using the yellow pages, then a male chorus sings, double time, about all the things you can find in the book. Then, for perhaps the only time in advertising history, the producers of this ad chose to attempt to use the complicated and distracting musical feature of "counterpoint", and have both sections sung at once.
For a complete change of pace, next we have an immensely successful ad for Big Boy Restaurants. This one may have run nationally. Love that big band "music bed" in the middle. Finally, we have another regional ad, featuring the same guy heard on the first commercial. This time, he's again giving a recipe, talk-singing for "Puritan Meats", in an ad which I love as a real song almost as much as a commercial.
I have over 90 minutes of this stuff, and have never seen any reference to this company, or these ads, anywhere else. I'd love to hear what anyone thinks about it.
- Bob Purse
TT-6:20 / 5.8MB / 128kbps 44.1khz
The National Brewery was in Baltimore, and "National Bohemian" was a long-time radio sponsor of the original 1901-1960 Washington Senators. In some pictures of Griffith Stadium, the Senators' home park, there's a National sign above the scoreboard. In the 50s, the team, still officially the Senators, was called the "Nationals" or "Nats" in game stories, more likely for their location in the "national" capital - but the nickname did provide a handy link to the brewery. Even the expansion 1961-71 Senators, in their early years, were called the "Nats" by some sportswriters. I also remember hearing that K Mart commercial on Detroit and Flint (MI) top-40 stations around 1964 or 1965. K Mart was based in Troy, a suburb of Detroit, and the first store was in Garden City, another suburb - so we heard K-Mart spots before other parts of the US did. This one was meant to upgrade the chain's image as sellers of cheap, off-brand merchandise.