By Jack Hackley
The Hadacol Caravan was coming to Riverside Stadium, a race track in North Kansas City. My buddies and I immediately headed to MacKay Drug Store to get our tickets, which cost exactly two Hadacol box tops.
We figured that would make it easier for whoever bought the stuff to get the bottle out of the box if we took the top off.
Hadacol had dozens of enclosed trucks going across the country with the greatest stars from Hollywood and Nashville – Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and even Jack Dempsey.
We got to Riverside early and got to talk to Jimmy Durante and Carmen Miranda, who were sitting on the tailgate of the Hadacol truck.
Hadacol was the last of the snake oil medicine shows. Hadacol was a horrible tasting brown liquid containing B1, B2, Iron, Niacin, Calcium, and everything you can think of including an acid that got it in the bloodstream immediately.
You were supposed to take four tablespoons a day, but since it contained 12 percent alcohol, it made people feel so good a lot of them would drink the whole 8-ounce bottle at one time. It cost $1.25 a bottle.
The owner, a state senator from Mississippi, Dudley LeBlanc, was asked by Groucho Marx what Hadacol was good for. He replied, “Five and a half million last year.”
Dudley spent a million per month advertising in 5,000 newspapers and over 500 radio stations. Other than Coca Cola, Hadacol was the largest advertiser in the United States.
The $75 million in annual sales were greater than Bayer Aspirin. Dudley, the owner, also wrote “The Hadacol Boogie,” which was No. 1 on the Hit Parade. It was recorded by several performers, but my favorite was the version by Jerry Lee Lewis.
I loved their advertising because it always had a testimonial from some goofball who said it cured his arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, gall stones, or asthma.
One of the ads was a guy who said he had been on crutches for 10 years, but after taking only six bottles of Hadacol, he threw his crutches away and could dance all night.
But my favorite was the guy that said, “Two months ago I couldn’t read or write. After taking four bottles of Hadacol, I am now teaching school.”
Editor’s note: You can see Jerry Lee Lewis perform “Hadacol Boogie” Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy45wq9SX_A. Or you can search for it using the song title.