Friday Five: Country Singer Shilling Food Products

Juli Thanki | October 8th, 2010

Whether it’s George Jones hawking his own brand of country sausage, Martha White’s longtime sponsorship of bluegrass acts, or Darius Rucker singing about the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch, country singers and food endorsements go together like biscuits and gravy. Here are a few old school commercials that I hope you get a kick out of, whether you were around to remember the originals or not.

  • 5. Budweiser – Hank Williams, Jr.

    Who wouldn’t want Bocephus to use his magical beer fax machine and send a six pack your way on game day?

  • 4. Lean Cuisine – Barbara Mandrell

    If you’re going to get the wonderful Barbara Mandrell in all her teal-jumpsuited glory for your microwave pizza commercial, why get some other dude to sing the song? Not cool, Lean Cuisine.

  • 3. Crisco – Loretta Lynn

    Over the years, Lynn did several commercials for “digestible, all vegetable Crisco.” Mmm! You just can’t resist a slogan like that.

  • 2. Taco Bell – Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash

    These early ’90s commercials featuring Willie and a miniaturized Johnny Cash are pretty dang good, as far as catchy jingles go. And if the cash helped Willie ease his IRS woes, that’s even better.

  • 1. Whataburger – Mel Tillis

    These burgers—and Tillis’ assertion that you don’t have to pay extra for lettuce and tomato—don’t seem particularly special in this commercial. But Tillis and the plaid-clad Whataburger employees are cute as buttons.

  1. Cutting the Treacle
    October 8, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Jimmy Dean sausage? Minnie Pearl fried chicken? Natalie Maines kotex?

  2. Paul W Dennis
    October 8, 2010 at 7:21 am

    On the old radio shows, country artists wouyld read the commercials – I’ve got a recording of Eddy Arnold doing a cattle feed commercial.

    In the world of television, Bill Anderson and Faron Young did commercials for headache powders

  3. Vicki
    October 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I remember watching Loretta with Crisco when I was little and thinking she must be the best cook in the country! : )

  4. Ben Foster
    October 8, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Loretta Lynn’s Crisco commercial had to be on here somewhere. And I’m with you on the Barbara Mandrell thing. Why did they not have her sing the jingle?

  5. Sam G.
    October 8, 2010 at 8:46 am

    The fact that Darius Rucker’s career survived that Burger King commercial is still baffling.

  6. Russell
    October 8, 2010 at 9:10 am

    No Johnny Cash singing Folgers?!?!?

  7. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 9:25 am

    No Rodney Atkins, who was already the king of cheese before Velveeta? Damn, I’m all busted up over it.

    Everybody’s got the right to do what they have to to make a buck, but I’d be embarrassed. Unless the commercials were really funny, of course.

  8. Ken Morton
    October 8, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Juli and I talked about this earlier in the week and we decided we both need one of these on our holiday gift lists…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEPfxI0BO98&feature=player_embedded

  9. Rick
    October 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Don’t forget that Kenny Rogers had his own fast food restaurant chain that lasted for awhile.

    As much as I like Willie and Johnny, the Taco Bell talking chihuahua commercials that followed were a lot more fun. Unfortunately political correctness took care of that as the dog was branded racist, bigoted, and probably homophobic and misogynistic as well…

  10. Lewis
    October 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton doing Breeze detergent commercials on Porter’s show.

  11. timeo
    October 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I was sure you would include Bill Fries’s commercials for Old Home Bread. They were quite popular when I lived in the Great Plains in the early 1970s. You may know Fries better as “C.W. McCall.” McCall was actually a character created by Fries, an Omaha-based ad copywriter, for Old Home. He subsequently became the voice of McCall when they couldn’t find a narrator who sounded right for the commercials. “The Old Home Filler Up and Keep on Trucking Cafe” was his first country hit, and was based on the commercials. Of course, his big hit was “Convoy.”

    You can see an example on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyOdodH9LN8

  12. Lewis
    October 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Oops, I forgot that we were talking about food here.

  13. Lewis
    October 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Flatt and Scruggs did some commercials for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes when they were guesting on The Beverly Hillbillies.

    Seems like I remember Lynn Anderson doing commercials for Nabisco crackers in the late 1970′s.

  14. timeo
    October 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    @Lewis: You jogged another rememory: Homer & Jethro for Corn Flakes…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T91X2c3jL7o

  15. luckyoldsun
    October 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I recall that near the end of his life, Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter, tried to license the song for a Preparation H commercial. Rosanne Cash(in an act that Johnny’s fans can be forever grateful for) managed to step in and block the deal.

  16. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I remember that!

    I’m not into artists being “spokespeople” for this or that product, and I’m even less a fan of licensing songs for commercials. Take a song like “Bad To The Bone.” Just to hear the song, and to see the video, with the scruffy-looking band hanging out in a pool hall, the song had such a sleazy vibe to it. Now it’s in truck commercials and jeans commercials, and it’s just lost all of its edge and become just another jingle.

  17. sam (sam)
    October 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I think a Preparation H commercial with “Ring of Fire” could have been hilarious. Its a pretty silly song to begin with and it could have brought some levity and comic relief to a serious and embarrassing issue that many Preparation H users might face! Too bad it never saw the light of day, could have been good.

  18. Cutting the Treacle
    October 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    luckyoldsun: “Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter, tried to license the song for a Preparation H commercial.”

    Me: funniest thing I’ve read all week. My only question: what would have replaced “Love” at the beginning of the song?

  19. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Roids, are burning things, adn they make, a firey ring. Boooound, by one desire, I need to escape, this ring of fire … I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire, I went wipe, wipe, wipe, adn the flames went higher, and it burns, burns, burrrrrns, the ring of fire , the ring of fire

  20. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    It’s been, for the past three weeks, this paiiiin, between my cheeks, make my salsa, extra mild, ooooooh, but the fire runs wild …

  21. Barry Mazor
    October 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Flatt & Scruggs also sang various versions of the Martha White song, of course, on all of their own TV shows..

    But only George Jones could succeed in selling his own brand of water–and did commercials for it–since everybody, as he understands, figures it’s a mixer.

  22. Jon
    October 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    There were, of course, not just various versions of the Martha White song, but various versions of *each* Martha White song – the first itself a rewrite of “How Many Biscuits,” the second the more widely known original (“Now you bake right/with Martha White”). And Jim & Jesse also had various versions of the latter during their period of sponsorship, too.

    Flatt & Scruggs also did shows for Pet Milk on WSM, and for a different sponsor (peanut butter? CRS strikes again) when they were on WSAZ in Huntington.

  23. Lewis
    October 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Completely forgot about Dottie West and her Coca-Cola Country Sunshine commercials.

    T. Graham Brown also did some Taco Bell commercials too.

    Roy Rogers and his restaurants.

  24. Noah Eaton
    October 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    (stomach turns with discomfort)

    I just read about Luke Bryan’s latest “Farm Tour”, which is co-sponsored by Monsanto. Needless to say, that made me lose my appetite.

  25. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    It’d be like Justin Townes Earle doing a tour of AA meetings, sponsored by Wild Turkey.

  26. kevin w
    October 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Tennesee Ernie Ford shilling for Martha White.
    Roy Clark did commercials for Heinz Ketchup in the late 80′s.
    And then there’s Johnny Cash hawking an ATM machine and a electronic pocket Bible….

  27. Matt Bjorke
    October 9, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Noah, Luke Bryan’s Farm tour was sponsored by a Cotton company called Deltapine and “NRA Country.”

  28. Landon
    October 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Ugh I sure hope Luke Bryan isn’t becoming a shill for one of the most evil companies ever unleashed upon humanity! Say it ain’t so Noah!

  29. Occasional Hope
    October 9, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I believe Deltapine is a subsidiary of Monsanto.

  30. Occasional Hope
    October 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Back on topic: Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again is curently being used in a MacDonalds commercial in the UK.

  31. SHORESLADY
    October 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    When Loretty was selling Crisco I wrote in and got a set of Loretta Lynn recipe cards for those deprived of a family fried chicken heritage. Of course, I was too stupid to put them in a safe deposit box so they’re long gone now. However, I savor the memory.

  32. Noah Eaton
    October 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Yes, Deltapine is indeed a subsidiary of Monsanto.

    They purchased the Delta and Pine Land Company in 2007, and then merged the name as Deltapine.

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