Monday, January 30, 2012

The "Mountain Dew" Mystery Exposed!

Last evening while correcting papers I was listening to my Bluegrass Station on Pandora and a tune performed by Roger Sprung, Hal Wylie and The Progressive Bluegrassers came on. Though I had not heard the song previously, upon hearing the chorus, synapses began crackling and dots started connecting and a few random thoughts came into focus. The song entitled "Mountain Dew" made me think immediately of the sugary sweet soda beverage favored by many of my students.

Some key lyrics were later found on the Virtual Songbook:
They call it that good old mountan dew,
And them that refuse it are few.
I'll hush up my mug if you'll fill up my jug,
With that good old mountain dew.
Why in the world would the carbonated beverage share the same name as this old bluegrass classic (performed in the clip above by The Stanley Brothers)?

After listening intently to the song a second time, I recalled a recent visit to the local supermarket during which time I had taken note of  a soft drink display of recently released "throwback" cans. I further recollected that on the Mountain Dew throwback packaging was depicted what can best be described as a "hillbilly" holding a "moonshine" jug. As is often the case, Wikipedia filled in the gaps.

Come to find out that the name "mountain dew," first trademarked by Ally and Barney Hartman in the 1940s, was coined from a colloquial term for moonshine whiskey. That is why early bottles and signage carried the reference forward by showing a cartoon-stylized mountaineer or or, as I saw it, hillbilly. In recent years, the marketing has changed significantly to attract a younger, and presumably more spendthrift, demographic.

Now, what was previously deemed unhip (the hillbilly logo), is ironically cool again by virtue of his (its?) being old. In an age of affection for all things nostalgic, images, products and just plain "things" that are dubbed "throwbacks" (the same lingo applied to the reissue of out-of-date sports jerseys), are once again desireable--in a way, everything old really is new again.

Well, that and apparently there is not much of a market for non-alcoholic moonshine among most older mountain folk.

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