“Oh, they call it that good ol’ mountain dew and them that refuse it are few. I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug with that good ol’ mountain dew.”
The Mountain Dew soft drink is a sugary sweet, caffeine-powered concoction that has its roots in Appalachia. The lyrics above originally referred to a more potent “mountain dew” than the popular soft drink but the song was altered for use as a jingle in an ad campaign in the 1960s. As a recovering former addict of Mountain Dew, I can vouch for just how applicable the words are to the non-alcoholic drink. The early ads also featured a barefoot, rifle-toting character known as “Willy the Hillbilly” and carried the slogan, “Ya-Hoo! Mountain Dew. It’ll tickle yore innards.”
The original Mountain Dew formula was created in Knoxville, TN, by two brothers, Barney and Ally Hartman, in the early 1940s. The Hartman brothers owned the “Hartman Beverage Co.” bottling company and initially created Mountain Dew as a lemon-lime flavored mixer for hard liquor. They used the name “Mountain Dew” as a nod to the nickname given to homemade moonshine brewed in the mountains.
In 1954, the Hartman Beverage Co. worked out a deal with Charles Gordon’s Tri-City Beverage Corp. of Johnson City, TN, to partner in marketing Mountain Dew commercially for the first time. Charles Gordon had been instrumental in getting the Dr. Enuf brand bottled and marketed in Johnson City. The Dr. Enuf brand had been wildly successful in East Tennessee and that track record had put the Tri-City Beverage Corp. on the map as a viable partner in launching the drink publicly. Another deal was made with the Tip Corporation of Marion, VA, to become a partner in marketing Mountain Dew.
The manager of Tri-City Beverage, Bill Bridgforth, began to use a flavor known as Tri-City Lemonade in the Mountain Dew formula replacing the 7-Up flavor previously used. In 1961, William H. “Bill” Jones of the Tip Corporation worked with Bridgforth in tweaking the formula for a final time in what would become the flavor of Mountain Dew that is still used today. In 1964, Pepsi bought out the Tip Corporation along with the rights to Mountain Dew allowing the drink to become a national brand. Pepsi began to slowly shift away from the hillbilly image associated with the drink instead opting to market it as more “younger” and “outdoorsy” than Appalachian.
Mountain Dew was always my drink of choice growing up but I have managed to wean myself down from the ridiculous amount I used to drink. I have learned over time that virtually everything that originates in large supply in Appalachia is thought to be bad for you: coal, tobacco, moonshine, and, unfortunately, the other good ol’ Mountain Dew. I will admit that I consumed the bottle that is pictured in this post shortly after the photo was taken, however, I did it in the name of research – just taking one for the team to see if it really would tickle my innards… – Shane
Please consider supporting us by purchasing from our store at this link http://www.appalachianproject.org/shopping/. All proceeds go back into TAP’s efforts to promote Appalachia.