Tasted bad, but had great effects: The Hadacol Caravan shows

The Hadacol Caravan was coming to Riverside Stadium, a racetrack in North Kansas City.  My buddies and I immediately headed to MacKay Drug Store to get our tickets, which was 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 suppose 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 LeBlance, was asked by Groucho Marx what Hadacol was good for. He replied, “five and a half million last year.”

Dudley spent a million dollars per month advertising in 5,000 newspapers and more than 500 radio stations. Other than Coca Cola, Hadacol was the largest advertiser in the United States. The $75 million annual sales were greater than Bayer aspirin.

He also wrote “The Hadacol Boogie,” which was No. 1 on the Hit Parade. It was recorded by several, but my favorite version was by Jerry Lee Lewis.

I loved their advertising which always had a testimony from some goof ball 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 a guy who said, “Two months ago, I couldn’t read or write. After taking four bottles of Hadacol, I am now teaching school.”

If you know of any one who attended a Hadacol Caravan Show back in 1950 or 1951, please contact me.

Jack can be reached at P.O. Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075, or  Visit

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