Harry (the Hipster) Gibson blends jive & barrelhouse as he pounds out his boogie woogie like Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out rock n roll. A hipster poet precursor to the Beats & even the hippies, his daring lyrics occasionally got him into trouble. "Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?" is an updating of an old Irish folk song "Who Put The Overalls In Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" that ended up getting Harry "The Hipster" Gibson blacklisted from radio play, and put his career on a downward slope it wouldn't recover from until the seventies.
I originally posted this back in Oct 2012, but I was recently contacted by Matt Nolan who informed me that the info in the post wasn't entirely accurate. 'Felix Barrel' was actually the tongue-in-cheek stage name of François Baschet, who was granted both a French and US patent for his invention. Also, he invented it in 1952, not 1955.
The picture of Baschet with his guitar can be found on the website of the Baschet Association, which explains that its invention was just the start of Baschet's long career as a creator of unusual instruments, particularly ones that involved "folding metal sheets into geometric shapes".
Thanks to Matt for the info!
Back in 1955 1952, French musician Felix Barrel invented an inflatable guitar. His idea was that it would be easier to travel with because it wouldn't take up much room when deflated. But his invention evidently didn't catch on with other musicians. Today, you can buy inflatable guitars, but they all seem to be marketed as kids' toys.
The 1959 "Lonely Man" TV ad for Strand cigarettes is rumored to be the greatest advertising flop in UK history. Because it seemed to say, "If you smoke our cigarettes, you may become a lonely sad sack wandering the streets at night."
In extreme cases, ill-judged advertising can kill a brand stone dead — even if the ad is well-made and memorable. Such was the fate of cigarette brand Strand back in the long-ago days when tobacco products could be advertised on UK television. In 1959 Imperial Tobacco's subsidiary W.D. & H.O. Wills, a firm able to trace its roots in the business back to a tobacconist's shop in Bristol in the 1780s, launched Strand with a high-profile TV advertising campaign supported by posters, press advertising and coupons that could be redeemed for free packs. The TV commercial, devised by copywriter John May at British agency S.H. Benson, saw actor Terence Brook smoking while roaming the rain-drenched strees of London in stylish trench coat and trilby hat...
The style of the protagonist and soundtrack to the commercial appealed to the public. Once it went on air people began getting in touch to find out if the theme tune was available to buy as a record. Sensing an opportunity, Cliff Adams and His Orchestra booked some recording studio time and laid down the track, The Lonely Man Theme, for release as a single. In 1960 The Lonely Man Theme broke into the Top 40...
Undeniably, the advertising campaign earned Strand tremendous recognition. As Winston Fletcher writes in his book Powers of Persuasion: The Inside Story of British Advertising 1951-2000, 'Public awareness of the brand and its advertising rocketed to over 90% within weeks. This was unprecedented and has rarely if ever been surpasssed.' It was a brilliant achievement, but one with a fatal flaw. Despite the high awareness levels delivered by the campaign, hardly anyone was buying the product.
The reasons why revolved around how the Lonely Man was perceived. Many viewers found the focus on loneliness uncomfortable. If the man was reliant on a packet of smokes for company, did this mean he was a bit of an oddball unable to sustain friendships? Was he an addictive personality, craving nicotine above human company? Could he be on his own because of a failed relationship or even due to bereavement? Might he be depressed?...
trying to position a new tobacco brand around loneliness — rather than something much more positive and aspirational, such as individuality — was doomed to failure. With sales failing to take off despite the high level of standout the advertising achieved, Strand was soon withdrawn from the market.
These 1987 TV ads for Doxidan laxative, featuring the 'Doxidan Cowboy,' seem to inspire both love and hate. A lot of people on YouTube remember them fondly, but in newspapers from the time they were often cited as being among the most annoying commercials on TV.
Soundblast was a 1956 album by the duo Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher who met while studying at the Juilliard School of Music. It was marketed as space-age music representative of the kind of music that inhabitants of the "remotest worlds" might listen to.
But the real gimmick of the album was that all the sounds on it, including the percussion, was produced by pianos. Details from the Miami News (Nov 17, 1957):
They perform their hi-fi-jinks on two "gimmicked" Steinways by alternately muting, plucking, strumming and beating on the strings. What comes out they describe as the "sound of tomorrow."
Nor does either of them hesitate to use his elbow, forearms or knuckles to elicit a desired chordal effect—not to mention an assortment of wooden and metal gadgets designed to give the pianos a new personality...
Their goal always is to achieve the maximum tonal contrasts and to simulate orchestral color as vividly as possible within the limitations of pianistic dynamics.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.