Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A lil ML History...

After seeing this...

I decided to see if I could find any interesting tidbits on Colt. I came up short on that end, but did find another interesting read here.

Below is my favorite passage...

The leading malt liquor brand at the time was Olde English, which was kind of Olde School, and Wessinger sought a way to appeal to drinkers who wanted something other than their father's malt liquor. He created St. Ides. Tropical breezes blew the palm trees pictured on the St. Ides label and gave it a kind of St. Barts, St. Kitts, West Indies attitude. (In addition, the name held meaning for the devout; St. Ides was a fifth-century Irish nun who worked miracles and foretold the future, although probably not this one.)

In the late 1980's, Wessinger heard Hip Hop artists singing about malt liquor in their songs. Singing about Olde English, "O E," now several owners away from its birthplace in Duluth, and about his own St. Ides, "the S.T. Crooked I." But Wessinger did not succumb to corporate thinking, which would have said, "Let's have our ad agency produce radio commercials that sound like this Hip Hop." Wessinger was smarter. He commissioned real Hip Hop stars to create the spots, from the sidewalk up.

The resulting songs, recorded and played in the early 1990's, are the stuff of legend. As one writer noted, they "blew the funk up." Artists included King Tee, DJ Pooh, E-Swift and Snoop Doggy Dogg. The work increased St. Ides sales by 25%, and incidentally made St. Ides the malt liquor of choice among white college students. But black and white malt liquor drinkers were not the only listeners. Almost from the beginning, community leaders and public health advocates were outraged by the lyrics. O'Shea Jackson, rapping as Ice Cube, urged his listeners to, "Get your girl in the mood quicker, get your jimmy thicker, with St. Ides malt liquor."

What a product promise! The community could only stand about four more years of that. At one point, public outcry led to the federal government's suspending all St. Ides advertising for three days. That showed 'em! The campaign ended after production of 30 radio spots. The use of sex to sell malt liquor would continue, but Ice Cube had planted the flag on a peak that might never be scaled again.

(Lost in the hue and cry was the fact that Ice Cube's lyric was clearly a lettered homage to poet Ogden Nash, the 20th century American master of light verse, whose poem "Reflections on Ice-Breaking" reads in its entirety:

Is dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.
For bringing a 1940's New Yorker magazine feel to the malt liquor milieu, we bid hail to thee, Ice Cube.)

While some Hip Hop artists were getting paid to sell St. Ides, others were not amused. Carleton Ridenhour, rapping as Chuck D with the group Public Enemy, denounced malt liquor in his song ''One Million Bottlebags.'' His very public stand against malt liquor made the appearance of his voice in a 1992 St. Ides radio spot all the stranger. The producer of a St. Ides ad had sampled a snippet of Chuck D from ''Bring the Noise.'' Even though the spot was withdrawn from airplay as soon as the sampling was protested, Mr. Chuck filed a $5 million lawsuit against the McKenzie River Corporation. ''It's unconscionable,'' noted the rapper's attorney, Lisa Davis. ''He has taken a very strong position against malt liquor, and these ads make him look like a hypocrite.'' In the end, a seven-figure settlement smoothed Chuck's ruffled feathers.

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