Saturday, August 13, 2016

"La Valse De Hadacol" - Happy, Doc, & The Hadacol Boys

During the 1940s, after a lengthy stint recording for RCA Victor, Leroy "Happy Fats" Leblanc and his group disbanded, no doubt because the members were drafted for service. RCA had already quit marketing traditional Cajun music and by 1946, Happy's group was one of the only remaining Cajun-influenced groups to keep recording with a national label.  His star vocalist, Al Terry, who was gaining attention with his own solo work, had released a song the previous year called "H-A-D-A-C-O-L" for Bill Quinn's Goldstar label.  The song was an ode to a popular drink which Happy spent years marketing.  So much that Feature Records producer J.D. Miller changed the name of the band to the Hadacol Boys on this particular label.
Mon 'tit garçon a plus des crises,
Ma vieille a plus des rhumatismes;
Sont plus malades "at all, at all",
Depuis ils ont pris le Hadacol.

Sois garanti, tu prends quelques doses,
Tes yeux sont claires, tes joues sont roses;
Prends quelques bouteilles et je te promets,
Tu vas jongler pour courtiser.

J’ai fait serment dessus la Bible,
Me sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui te dis j'peux remercier,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley.

Si t’as des douleurs mais tout partout,
Dans tes jambes et dans ton cou;
Si t’as besoin des vitamins,
Le Hadacol peut l'mettre "within".

Si les docteurs t’ont décomptés,
Y a une chance pour t’as cassé;
Y a une chance pour t’as santé,
Le Hadacol peut t'le donner.

Advertisement in Lafayette, LA
Viens faire serment dessus la Bible,
Te sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui dis qui a remercié,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley.

"Pendant longtemps j’ai miséré
Sus juste du lait et du pain grillé
Asteur, c'est bien, je m'bourre des huitres," 
Say Nonc Ignace a L'Anse la Butte.

"J’ai pris l'tonique à Nonc Dudley,
C'est ça ça pris pour m’engraisser;
Asteur, ma vieille me trouve si mieux,
Ces prend pareil qu’un amoureux."

J’ai fait serment dessus la Bible,
de m'sentir mieux, c’est pas possible!
Moi qui dis j'peux remercier,
Le Hadacol à Nonc Dudley!

Happy Fats, Al Terry,
Dudley Leblanc, Oran "Doc" Guidry
Two years later, the boys (not anymore the Rayne-Bo Ramblers) were on Jay D. Miller’s Feature and Fais-Do-Do labels in Crowley, Louisiana. They had here the song called "La Valse de Hadacol" (#1020) listing the group as Happy & the Doctor and the Hadacol Boys.   His talented fiddle player was Oran Guidry which Happy referred to as "The Doctor".  One reason for the nickname was because he always dressed so nice.   In the song, he reminisces having relations with his wife.  After drinking it, maybe she'll want to "take him" as a lover.

Dudley has spent time marketing the drink everywhere. His advertisements usually promoted the mixture as one that would help relieve nervousness, irritability, indigestion, chronic fatigue, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, loss of strength, and a slew of other ailments. The only disclaimer he ever made was during a speech in Chicago in which he denied that Hadacol could be used as antifreeze in automobile radiators.
My little boy has many problems,
My wife has a lot of rheumatism;
No longer sicker at all, at all,
Since they took the Hadacol.

Be guaranteed, if you take a few doses,
Your eyes are clear, your cheeks are pink;
Take a few bottles and I promise you,
You'll reminiscence having quality time with me.

I swore over the Bible,
Feeling better is not possible!
I'm saying "Thanks!" to,
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

If you have pain but everywhere,
In your legs and your neck;
If you need vitamins,
The Hadacol can put it within.

If you paid the doctors,
There's a chance you are broke,
There's a chance you are healthy,
The Hadacol can handle that.

Come swear over the Bible,
You feel better? It's not possible!
Me, who to say "Thanks"?
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

"For a long time, I was miserable,
Was just on milk and toast,
Now, it's good, I stuff myself with oysters."
Say Uncle Ignace of L'Anse La Butte.

"I took the tonic of Uncle Dudley,
That's what it took to fatten me;
Now, my wife finds me better,
She takes me like a lover"

I swore over the Bible,
Feeling better was not possible!
I'm saying "Thanks!" to,
The Hadacol of Uncle Dudley.

Dudley's Advertisement for Hadacol
It’s hard to imagine now the vast popularity of this stimulating drink launched by politician Dudley LeBlanc (no relation apparently). Hadacol was a patent medicine marketed as a supplemental "vitamin". Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained 12 percent alcohol (listed on the tonic bottle’s label as a "preservative"!), which made it quite popular in the southern dry counties.  Apparently, there were places you could go, "health bars" I guess you could call them, where this tonic was offered in shot glasses.

By 1950, Dudley stepped up his advertising expenditures to more than $1 million dollars a month and sales were averaging four times that amount. There seemed to be no end to the phenomenon.   He finally hit upon the idea of creating the greatest medicine show caravan that the nation had ever seen, with Hollywood stars and international stars as well.  As he was lying in bed at his home in Abbeville, he had an idea.  The entire show would operate as a great financial write-off because it would be "free" since admission would be by Hadacol box top only.  He was so excited, he jumped out of his bed at 4 am and raced to his Lafayette office to begin work on formulating the complete scheme.

The Hadacol caravan became a phenomenon, consisting of seventy Hadacol trucks, twenty-five automobiles, buses, photo lab truck, sound trucks, beauty queen floats, airplanes, and two calliopes.   Some performers were George Burns, Mickey Rooney, Carmen Miranda, Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and more.  According to musician Weldon "Big Bill" Lister, who performed in the Hadacol Caravan, 

"The only way you could get into that show was with a Hadacol boxtop, And believe me, we played to crowds of ten, twelve thousand people a night. Back in those days there wasn't many auditoriums that would hold that many people. We played ball parks, race tracks - you know anywhere where they had enough big bleachers to handle those kind of crowds."
Dudley in Mamou, LA

Everywhere, the show was a success. By 1951, he planned an even bigger show and confidently predicted sales of $75 million. But after attempting to get doctors to vouch for his drink, the AMA began investigating his claims.  Earlier, the FTC had launched their own investigation on his claims as well, ordering him to stop proclaiming Hadacol "assured good health, restoring youthful feeling". It was discovered all too late that Dudley was spending more for advertising by that point than he was taking in as receipts had concealed both $2,000,000 in unpaid bills and a $656,151 tax debt, and another $2,000,000, listed in the ledgers as "Accounts Receivable", were cases of the tonic out on consignment, much of which was being shipped back. The ensuing bad publicity played a contributing factor to Dudley losing a gubernatorial election in 1952 and effectively halting his future statewide electoral chances.

The drink's name spurred Bill Nettles, and later Jessie Rodgers, to record a song called "Hadacol Boogie" in 1949. Basin Street Six ended up recording a jazz version on for Mercury records called "Everybody Loves That Hadacol" in 1951. In 1952, when Groucho Marx asked him what Hadacol was good for, Dudley gave an answer of startling honesty:
"It was good," the senator said, "for five and a half million for me last year."
Dudley Leblanc

  1. Vermilion Parish By Warren A. Perrin
  2. Coozan Dudley LeBlanc: From Huey Long to Hadacol By Clay, Floyd Ph.D.
  6. Lyrics by Christian Landry, Daniel Blanchard, and Neal P
Fais Do Do Breakdown - Volume One - The Late 1940's (Flyright, 1986)
Acadian All Star Special - The Pioneering Cajun Recordings Of J.D. Miller (Bear, 2011)

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