Come listen to a story ‘bout … intellectual property. In what may prove to be yet another shot in the arm for bluegrass music, the owner of The Beverly Hillbillies TV series has hired a licensing firm to develop products and services inspired by the show’s characters and themes. Announcement of the move came Tuesday, May 29 in a news release from Leveraged Marketing Corporation of America, the New York-based company that has been retained to carry out this work.
Rights to the Hillbillies are now owned by Max Baer Productions, the company founded by actor Max Baer Jr., who starred as Jethro in the series. The Beverly Hillbillies, whose theme song was played by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys, aired from September 1962 to September 1971. Its 274 programs have since been syndicated and rebroadcast in 61 countries. Playing themselves, Flatt and Scruggs appeared in episodes in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968.
Flatt & Scruggs’ recording of the theme, dubbed "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," entered the country singles charts in December 1962 and soon rose to No. 1, where it remained for three weeks. The song also went to No. 44 on the pop charts. Flatt & Scruggs disbanded in 1969, and Flatt died 10 years later. Bela Fleck, the innovative banjoist who first became famous as a member of New Grass Revival, credits the Hillbillies theme with sparking his interest in the banjo.
LMCA says its aim is to establish a Beverly Hillbillies brand which, in turn, will be used to mark restaurant products and themes, juices, liquors, confections, baked goods, carbonated beverages, processed meats, cereals, soups, cosmetics, pet foods and vitamins.
Tim Orenbuch, LMCA’s director of licensing, says his company is not involved in the musical side of the Hillbillies but conceded that Hillbillies-themed restaurants may be created eventually that will feature appropriately rustic music.