Friends, many of you might recall during the height of the cola wars – between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, all manner of tactics were brought into play like taste tests to employing a large group of celebrities in commercials and print ads. Elton John, Paula Abdul, Don Johnson, Vanna White, Sugar Ray Leonard, and even Leonard Nimoy were brought in to help sell Coca-Cola products. With celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Ray Charles (Former Coca-Cola spokesman), Billy Crystal, and of course Michael Jackson hawking Pepsi cola – among many others for both companies. However there was at least two celebrities before that who were charming customers with their song and dance number – that was David Naughton and Popeye who sang and danced for Dr. Pepper in a 1979 TV commercial.
Now then, David Naughton is probably best remembered for his role as David Kessler from 1981’s horror comedy An American Werewolf in London. But the truth of the matter is that four years earlier, Naughton had been cast as the spokesman for Dr. Pepper as the ‘Pied Pepper’. A charismatic singer and dancer who delivered the incredibly catchy jingle proudly proclaiming ‘I’m a Pepper’ seemingly all over the United States in the commercials. At the time of the David Naughton and Popeye commercial – the actor had appeared in the short lived 1979 ABC series Makin’ It – in addition he recorded the main theme and it became a hit single, making it to the fifth spot on Billboard’s Top 40 charts.
You might be wondering what being a Pepper was all about back in the day – we know now thanks to the Dr. Pepper Museum who quote the Dr. Pepper Company response:
“A Pepper is a person who loves Dr Pepper. So a Pepper can be anyone. And any age. Because being a Pepper is really more a state of mind than a counting of years. The only thing about a Pepper that’s sure is their absolute craving for originality. Even what they drink must be unique. Peppers aren’t weird, strange or oddball. They’re positive, self-confident, bold and willing to try something new. Peppers are proud. And Peppers are popular. So wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?”
I will admit my days of guzzling soda are long gone but when I do indulge in that tasty treat I do count myself as a Pepper. Whether the years of television commercials had anything to do with it I can’t say for sure but there is probably a reason I can break out in the jingle at the drop of a hat… or Dr. Pepper bottle. Fun fact about the David Naughton and Popeye commercial below, it features the voice talent of Jack Mercer as everybody’s favorite Sailor Man!