Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flour power

The invention of flour predates the wheel. Today there are fewer than 5 national brands of flour. It was not always that way, and every brand of flour had a studio band and a radio show tie-in. I looked up a few who';s names no longer grace our grocery store shelves. My own Kitchen is currently stocked with Creosota Flour.

In Fort Worth, Texas, The Light Crust Doughboys were assembled by a local flour mill. Their purpose is to advertise Light Crust Flour on KFJZ. It was also carried on the The "Southwest Quality Network." That included KTAT, WOAI, KPRC and KOMA stretching from Ft. Worth to Oklahoma City. The band included Hank Thompson, Bob Wills, Slim Whitman and none other than the man who would eventually become Texas governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel. While some of these men are famous now, were then only dock loaders, truck drivers, and salesmen for Light Crust Flour. More here.

Five years later Pappy O'Daniel started his own flour company Hillbilly Flour, complete with it's own backing band: The Hillbilly Boys. You can hear a more audio here if the sample isn't enough for you.

Bright Star Flour Radio Show on KFFA in the afternoons competing with The King Biscuit Hour. it was hosted by Robert Nighthawk. In 1942 he scored the gig advertising their flour backed often by guitarist Joe Willie Wilkins and Pinetop Perkins on piano. More here.

Martha White Flour sponsored probably the most famous bluegrass band of all time from 1948 until 1969. In those years Flatt & Scruggs hosted a regular Opry segment underwritten by Martha White Flour. They'd recorded for Mercury record before that, but it was their single One of their first singles for Columbia, "'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered," hitting the Top Ten in 1952, that got Martha's attention. So the Flour company sponsored them on WSM. Their growing popularity led them and their sponsors to the Opry in 1955.

King Biscuit Flour had the infamous King Biscuit Hour. It became the (supposedly) longest running daily radio show in history continuing to this day. It's still carried on 1360 KFFA-AM from Helena, AR. It's early broadcasts in the 1940s featured Blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Jr. Lockwood and other legends.

In 1950 Purity Flour signed the Mark Kenney orchestra to perform a 30-minute programs on the CBC network to be carried across Canada. This move possibly predates the American flour-sponsored programs that seem to start on KFJZ.

Bewley Flour Mills, sponsored a band called the Chuck Wagon Gang, who sang on the WBAP-AM and traveled throughout Texas to advertise flour and feed. It worked well enough that they hired a second band to be the Chuck Wagon Gang in studio so the originals could do promotional tours. In the 1940s Bewley Flour offered a free group photo with a coupon sent in off the flour sack. They received over 100,000 coupons! More here.

General Mills' Red Star Flour sponsored Johnnie Lee Wills & All The Boys recordings to transcription discs. These were syndicated all over the country. On WRNL Red Star continued to sponor other acts including June Carter to voice their commercials and Chet Atkins on KWTO.

Mother's Best Flour in 1950 and 1951 had none other than Hank Williams singing their praises on WSM. The short 15 minute program ran daily but in between songs Hank and announcer Louie Buck would pitch the flour. Hank even wrote a theme song for the show.

"I love to have that gal around
Her bicuits are so nice and brown
Her pies and cakes beat all the rest
Cause she makes them all with Mother's Best"