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11 Energizing Facts About Mountain Dew

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No matter how many cases of the bright green soda you’ve gulped, you would probably still be surprised to learn about its mountain heritage, early career as a bourbon mixer, and audacious marketing plans. 

1. THE GREAT DEPRESSION MADE IT POSSIBLE.

If everything had gone according to plan, Ally and Barney Hartman would never have become linked to everyone’s favorite fluorescent soda. They originally wanted to be orange soda moguls. In 1926, the brothers were part of a group that began bottling Orange Crush in Augusta, Ga. While Orange Crush was a hugely successful soda in those days, the Great Depression hit the Augusta plant particularly hard, leading the business into bankruptcy in 1932. The Hartman brothers then moved to Knoxville, Tenn. to join an Orange Crush franchise there. 

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY A MIXER FOR BOURBON. 

While market conditions were rosier in eastern Tennessee, the Hartman brothers had a serious problem with their new home. During their stay in Georgia, they had become fond of a lemon-lime soda called Natural Set-Up, which was the perfect companion for their other favorite beverage, Old Taylor bourbon. 

Luckily for the Hartmans, they had a bottling plant at their disposal. According to Dick Bridgforth’s Mountain Dew: The History, the brothers began bottling small runs of a lemon-lime soda for their own use. At first they called it “Personal SetUp,” but it was later dubbed “Mountain Dew,” a joking reference to moonshine. Rather than a commercial drink, the Mountain Dew was a novelty that the Hartmans used to mix drinks for themselves and guests. 

3. THE INITIAL LAUNCH OF MOUNTAIN DEW WAS A JOKE. 

In Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, Tristan Donovan recounts the first launch of Mountain Dew at a 1946 soda convention. As a joke, the Hartman brothers decided to have their friend John Brichetto draw a cartoon label featuring a rifle-toting hillbilly. They then “announced” the launch of the new soda that they had been brewing in stills back home in Tennessee. To their surprise, a bottler from Johnson City, Tenn. asked about the bottling rights for the private soda, and by 1951, the commercial Mountain Dew was ready for store shelves.

4. THE ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN DEW DIDN'T TASTE LIKE TODAY'S VERSION.

If mixing today’s green Mountain Dew into a glass of bourbon sounds gross, you’ll be happy to learn that the Hartmans’ original recipe was much closer to today’s 7UP or Sprite. This version of the soda never truly found a niche in the marketplace, and in 1957, the Marion, Va.-based Tip Corporation bought the Mountain Dew brand from the Hartmans. In 2001, Ally Hartman’s son revealed to the Associated Press that he had turned down the opportunity to buy the brand for $1500 when he was just 19 years old, so his father and uncle sold out to the Tip Corporation instead.

5. THE FLAVOR WE NOW KNOW IS MORE A "CITRUS LEMONADE."

By the early 1960s, Mountain Dew was still struggling to take off. Around the same time, the Johnson City bottling plant that had helped commercialize Mountain Dew was busy formulating an alternative to the popular “citrus fruit beverage” Sun Drop.  Once manager Bill Bridgforth had settled on a flavor he liked, he hit on the marketing coup of packaging his “Tri-City Lemonade” in Mountain Dew bottles, a move that would forever change the flavor of Mountain Dew.

6. THE NEW FLAVOR PUT THE BRAND ON PEPSI'S RADAR. 

This flavor tweak finally gave Mountain Dew a real shot at competing with larger brands. Thanks to its memorable hillbilly marketing gimmick and its tastier new formulation, Mountain Dew started to grab enough of the regional soft drink market that in 1964 Pepsico acquired the Tip Corporation and Mountain Dew brand with plans to roll the regional favorite out nationally. As Donovan notes in Fizz, hillbillies were having a pop culture moment in the mid-'60s with the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, so Pepsi could even afford to keep the backwoods branding as it expanded Mountain Dew’s territory. 

7. PHILADELPHIA'S INTRODUCTION TO MOUNTAIN DEW WAS BRILLIANT.

As Bridgforth writes in Mountain Dew: The History, Philadelphia’s Pepsi bottler sprang Mountain Dew on the city with an incredibly involved hoax and publicity stunt. Just as Mountain Dew was entering the market, the Philadelphia License Commissioner received an odd request from “Herbert Eugene Walton,” who described himself as a hillbilly from Turkeyscratch, Tenn. Bridgforth writes that Herbert wanted “permission to build a series of wooden outhouses on all of the downtown parking lots.” 

With the letter setting the stage, an actor playing “Herbert the Hillbilly” rolled into Philly in a red 1929 Model A loaded with jugs and distilling equipment. Herbert slowly drove down Philly’s main drags, causing traffic jams until he eventually reached City Hall. Once at City Hall, he revealed the “reason” for his visit: Overturning a 1911 ordinance that banned outhouses, which could have been useful for distilling delicious Mountain Dew. The actor went on to cause a local sensation by picketing the IRS to ask for a tax license to brew Mountain Dew and setting up a “still” that enabled him to offer pedestrians samples of the Mountain Dew.    

8. PEPSI EVENTUALLY RETIRED THE HILLBILLIES. 

Backwoods society may have been a winning pop culture formula in the 1960s, but it didn’t do much to move soda. Mountain Dew struggled to find a foothold in the national soda market, where drinkers were apparently skeptical of slogans like “It’ll tickle yore innards!” In 1969, Pepsi sent the entire marketing plan back to Turkeyscratch.   

The move turned out to be brilliant. As Donovan notes in Fizz, although Pepsi all but gave up on marketing Mountain Dew, the drink gained steam on its own, with sales increasing by 300 percent leading into 1976. When the brand eventually settled on a marketing strategy in the 1980s and 1990s built on sports and an irreverent personality, it developed into a juggernaut. 

9. IT COULD HAVE BEEN EVEN MORE CAFFEINATED. 

Mountain Dew’s caffeine content is legendary, and with 55 mg of the compound in every 12-ounce can, it’s over 50 percent more caffeinated than Coca-Cola Classic. At one point during the early formulations of today’s popular version, it was amped up to an even greater degree. Tip Corporation executive Hugh Slagle reminisced to author Bridgforth that one prototype recipe “had so much caffeine in it that when bottled, the caffeine crystallized forming what looked like ‘slivers of ice or glass.’”

10. NOBODY HAS BEEN ABLE TO KNOCK IT OFF OF ITS PERCH.

Dosionair, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Since Pepsi began marketing Mountain Dew at active young drinkers, Mountain Dew has soared to a lofty place in the soft drink space to claim the fourth position on the U.S. sales chart behind Coca Cola, Diet Coke, and Pepsi. Coke has made several attempts at dethroning Pepsi’s citrus workhorse, but to no avail. Mello Yello, introduced in 1979 with a $10 million ad campaign that dubbed it “the fastest soft drink in the world” has been reduced to a regional offering. In 1996 Coca-Cola introduced Surge with a Super Bowl ad and a $50 million push, but it washed out of the market by 2003. However, Coke’s not ready to wave the white flag just yet—after a limited 2014 revival on Amazon sold well, Coca-Cola has just reintroduced Surge to store shelves. 

11. THE HILLBILLY MARKETING CAN STILL MAKE THE OCCASIONAL APPEARANCE.

Mountain Dew’s flagship soda may no longer be a rural delicacy, but the company made a nod at its mountain heritage earlier this year when it introduced Dewshine, a “throwback” craft soda made with real sugar and packaged in clear glass bottles. If high-end Mountain Dew sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, just know that Pepsi has never been shy about extending the product line—in 2012 it introduced Mountain Dew Kickstart, a variant that you could drink with breakfast

Additional Sources:

Mountain Dew: The History by Dick Bridgforth

Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donovan

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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