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Not Thurl

Thurl sang or spoke in many commercials over the years. Of course, he is best-know as the voice of Tony the Tiger, but his voice helped sell all sorts of products from cereal and hot dogs to beer and cigarettes. Here are just some of the many advertisements that have used Thurl's remarkable voice.

Kellogg's Cereals
In the early 1950s the Mellomen recorded commercials for Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Sugar Corn Pops. These cereal commercials let to Thurl's most famous role, Tony the Tiger (0:20). When Kellogg's introduced Sugar Frosted Flakes, there were four characters proposed to market the cereal: Tony the Tiger, Katy the Kangaroo, Newt the Gnu, and Elmer the Elephant. Both Katy and Tony actually appeared on boxes of Sugar Frosted Flakes and in commercials, but Katy was soon retired.

This is what Thurl had to say about how he got to do Tony's voice, from an 2002 interview with Steve Pastis in Issue #23 of Cool and Strange Music Magazine:

We [The Mellomen] did some Kellogg's spots for Sugar Corn Pops on the Andy Devine show. The account man who handled the Kellogg account knew us and knew me. When they came up with this new cereal, they decided they wanted to have either Tony the Tiger, Elmer the Elephant or some other animal. He said, "Why don't we get a drawing of Tony and a sample script and send it out to Thurl and see what he'll do with it?" So they sent it out to me and I went into a studio. 

The payoff line was that somebody would ask, "Are Sugar Frosted Flakes any good?" and Tony would say, "Good? They're great." I said, "We've got to do something with the word 'great.' It's got to explode when you say it. So we messed around with it and I finally came up with Gr-r-r-r-r-r-reat!" We sent that back to Chicago. They played it for the agency and for Kellogg's and I've been doing him ever since.

Beginning in 1952 and for the next 53 years, Thurl was the sole voice of Tony the Tiger. Several men have been credited as Tony's "original" voice, including Roy Glenn, Tony Marvin, and Dal McKennon. After Thurl's death in 2005, Lee Marshall was selected to provide Tony's voice.

Mr. BohFood and Beverages
At one point the Mellomen were doing commercials for 28 different beers. Some of the brands they did were Brew "102", Busch Bavarian, Grain Belt, Griesedieck, Pale Dry Grand Prize, and Budweiser (0:18). The quartet was also part of a larger group that also sang on another ad for Budweiser (0:54).

Thurl's voice was featured in a spot for National Bohemian Beer (0:57). Pictured at right is Mr. Boh, Thurl's character, who says, "Oh boy, what a beer!"

Thurl recorded a commercial for Kool-Aid (0:56).

Here is an ad for EZ-Pop popcorn (0:58) featuring Thurl.

Oscar Mayer commercialThe voices of the Mellomen were included on an animated commercial for Oscar Mayer (0:54). The character pictured to the left is voiced by Thurl.

Listen for Thurl at the end of  this famous jingle for Sara Lee (0:28)

The Mellomen also backed up Robie Lester on a commercial for Hills Bros Coffee. 

Thurl was heard on a Coca-Cola commercial  in the mid-1950s on which he spoke the line--"What you need is a Coke!"

Automotive Products
Thurl and the Mellomen even recorded commercials for gasoline. Thurl was also heard on an ad for a car dealer in Chicago.

The Mellomen sang on an ad for Speedway Power Fuel (0:59).

Thurl's voice is well-known to Chicago radio listeners because of this commercial for Z-Frank Chevrolet (0:54), which aired for over 20 years.

Here is another commercial heard on Chicago radio for a gasoline additive, Standard Oil's De Icer (0:29).

Other Commercials
In the early days of television, the commercials were often done by the cast of the show. One example was a commercial for SOS scouring pads (1:19). The commercial featured Garry Moore, host of I've Got a Secret, along with two other actors dressed as Vikings. Their singing voices were dubbed, one of them by Thurl another by Loulie Jean Norman.

Thurl as a Marlboro Man

Thurl as a Marlboro Man
(note the cigarette in his right hand)

The Mellomen did a lot of commercials for Gillette Blue Blades (0:40). Here's another Gillette (0:25) commercial with the Mellomen.

One of the only commercials to actually show Thurl on screen was an ad for Marlboro (0:25). In this ad, Thurl is walking down the street at night on his way to mail a letter. In addition to being seen in the  commercial, he sings and does the voice over.

Thurl also provided the voice for Rocky the mountain goat the mascot for the Great Northern Railway. 

There are certainly many more commercials on which Thurl or the Mellomen worked, but this page covers many of the most important.

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Brian E. Jacob

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