Friday, June 06, 2014

Trade and Mark

 It wasn't in all their advertisements but it was on most of them. It was more of a layout or design error than anything. Smith brothers cough drops were first made by their father, James Smith in 1852. The boys inherited the business in 1866. The Smith brothers real names were William and Andrew.  Andrew Smith died in 1895, and William continued as company president until he died in 1913. But under their heads on their packages were the words "Trade" and "Mark."  This was only intended to indicate that the Smith Brothers brand was trade marked. Something that today we'd indicated with a Unicode U+2122 character ™.  But the design stuck, and even after death, they are still known incorrectly by those names.

From 1925-1934, the Smith Brothers company decided to exploit those branded and bearded faces and sponsor a radio program on WEAF-AM. Harold "Scrappy" Lambert and Billy Hillpot played the parts of Trade and Mark Smith, the fictional personas of the real Smith brothers. The book Sold On Radio by Jim Cox list Smith Bros under it's advertiser index selling their cough drops on the radio with just the one program.  Radio was new to Smith Bros, but it was just as new to Scrappy and Billy.

Scrappy Lambert and Billy Hillpot actually met in college at cheerleaders at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.  Scrappy was born in 1901, and while Hillpot's date of birth is unknown, he graduated in 1926 so he might have been just a tad younger than Scrappy.  Regardless they were both in their early 20s at best and by all reports it was a gig they got right out of college.
Scrappy actually sang for a number of groups in that era, and under a number of pseudonyms: He used other names besides his own: Burt Lorin, Glen Burt, Buddy Blue, William Brown, Harold Clarke, and probably others. Hillpot also shows up on a number of recordings including with Nat Shilkret, Ben Bernie, and Jack Pettis. More here.

In 1943, MCA offered Lambert an office job managing various artists and productions for radio. The year before, Hillpot left the NBC Artists Bureau. Shortly thereafter he got an even bigger job as a 'radio executive' for OCIAA  (formerly OCCCRBAR) but aka (The Office of the Co-ordinator of Inter-American Affairs.) It was a WWII propaganda department. Both had gotten out of singing by the late 1930s. Lambert stayed at MCA until 1948 when he went solo as a talent. True to the spooks he worked with, Billy Hillpot more-or-less vanishes at OCCIA. An August 1942 issue of Broadcasting names him as Director of their New York Office.  The group was renamed (OIAA) the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) in 1945... but Hillpot has already vanished.