Monday, January 31, 2011

The Clicquot Club Eskimos

The Clicquot Club Beverage Company was bought and dissolved by Cott Beverages in 1960, then Cott by Canada Dry in 1965. Nobody born after that seems to remember who they were.  They were founded in 1881, in Millis, MA by Henry Millis with a little family money. The name "Clicquot" probably was trying to absorb some of the respect and brand recognition that the French champagne Veuve Clicquot already had. But the Clicquot Club Beverage Co focused initially on the more pedestrian hard cider, but branched out into ginger ale, root beer and other soft drinks. Millis sold off the company in 1901. In 1938 the company became the first to sell its beverages in a can. We know them at Arcane Radio trivia because they sponsored a radio show in the 1920s. More here.

Since at least 1913 The Clicquot Club Beverage Co. has used a cherubic cartoon Eskimo boy as their mascot. It was really just a Caucasian Rockefeller painting-looking kid in a furry parka but that was enough to work in Massachusetts apparently.They used other advertising with random women, patriotic eagles, bucolic scenes and at one point, deriding the ingredients of their competitors. They were aggressive advertisers. But in that era advertising was not permitted on the radio, but sponsorships were.
The Clicquot Club Beverage Co. ended up with a variety show on WEAF hosted by Harry Reser. WEAF production manager George Podeyn to approach the Clicquot company about sponsoring a band led by Reser. Podeyn envisioned it as a gimmicky banjo orchestra. A two-sided color advertisement itemized the banjos as follows: Paramount tenor banjo, two Paramount Plectrum banjos, Paramount Melody banjo, Paramount B-Flat Melody banjo,saxophone, Piano, Tuba Bass, Drums, and Paramount tenor harps. You might have guessed already, but they had a sponsorship from Paramount banjos.

It's hard to get firm dates but the first program could have been as early as 1923 or as late as 1925. According to one source  It launched on January 23rd 1933,on the NBC Blue Network, Mondays at 8pm and held that slot until that July. Then went off air for two years. It returned December 21, 1935 but this time on CBS running on Saturdays at 8pm. Continuing on CBS until January 4, 1936 when it returned to NBC running Sundays at 3pm finally ending on April 12 of that year.This does line up nicely with the discography, but I can find no citation for this history.

Whether it started in 1925 or 1923, Reser had already been performing banjo music on WEAF for a few years to mixed success. So maybe it was the banjo orchestra, or maybe it was the brand recognition, but the Clicquot Club Eskimos were signed to Columbia records and began releasing 78s in 1926. The first of these was recorded on 12/24/1925. Their discography included over 50 sides, the last of which were recorded on 02/11/1931. (Some of these were later re-released on Perfect, Banner, Conqueror, Regal and other labels.) For this reason I doubt that the program ran much later than 1931, that it's full duration was at least  6 years. You can see their discography here. Sometimes Harry led the same band under the name the "Goodrich Zippers."