Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mel Farr and Old Commercials

Mel Farr recently passed away. He was a former Detroit Lions football player who was a little before my time. I never saw him play football. He also sang backup on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On". Returning the favor to his friend, Farr helped to arrange a Detroit Lions tryout for Gaye.  
After the recording, Gaye, 31, told Barney and Farr that he wanted to try out for the Lions. The article quotes Gaye from "Marvin Gaye, My Brother, a book by his brother Frankie: "You know what? I'd rather catch a pass and score a touchdown in Tiger Stadium than rack up another gold record." Gaye started working out with his buddies and Lions great Charlie Sanders, and bulked up by 30 pounds. Then-Lions coach Joe Schmidt, also a fan, agreed to take a meeting with Gaye. But when he found out he had never played football, even in high school, he said no to a tryout. But he changed his mind before training camp and agreed to give Gaye a look during a LIons workout at Michigan.  Gaye looked "decent," but Tinsley writes: "Privately, Schmidt imagined the wood-layers of their day — Deacon Jones, Chuck Howley or Dick Butkus — violently greeting one of America's foremost musicians running across the middle. Marvin would've been a moving target. That was too much burden for any coach's conscience."

But it was only in later years that I learned that Farr was a former Lion great. My primary memory of Farr was as the owner of an auto dealership group who tried to ensure that he and other black dealers got fair treatment from the auto companies. He was one of the first if not the first black auto dealers for Ford. He also tried his hand in other business ventures, some of which worked and some of which didn't. I also remembered Farr as the star of some cheesy hard sell commercials. Later on I also learned that he had a reputation as something of a sharp dealer who didn't mind taking advantage of unwary or low credit/impoverished buyers. But that's normal among auto dealers and scarcely bears mentioning. It's not a business which encourages leaving money on the table. I don't think such a business exists. No it's the commercials which are the first thing that came to my mind. And I could not remember the Mel Farr commercials without also recalling some of the other local commercials of note from back in the day, especially the Highland Appliance and WRIF remarkable mouth ads. Those were good times. It's funny how some commercials can instantly transfer you back across decades. I don't watch a lot of television any more and in particular not a lot of local television. But these local television and radio ads bring back fun memories. I also enjoyed the Angels With Dirty Faces Highland Appliance parody and obviously the Faygo commercial. If anyone should ever ask you the best Faygo flavor is Moon Mist.

Mel Farr Superstar

Mel Farr Flying with Billy Sims

Highland Appliance Rocky Sullivan

You have a remarkable mouth

Faygo (Remember When)

Highland Appliance Bully (Radio)

Detroit Zoo

Highland Appliance Fur Elise

Highland Appliance Fifty Watts Per Channel

Colonial Merchandise Mart

Highland Appliance Rumors (Radio)

You gotta have art

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