Long before Sam Breakstone sold cottage cheese for the Breakstone company, before Fred the Baker sold donuts and dedication for Dunkin' Donuts and Frank Perdue created branded chicken for Perdue, "The Beloved Herring Maven" roamed the radio airwaves of New York, exhorting listeners to "Make your day a little brighter with a little herring from Vita."
Some years ago, a friend and I got to talking about "the Beloved Herring Maven." He was played by the unparalleled voice-actor Allan Swift and written by the great Marty Solow for the Vita Herring Company. And if you listened to the radio in New York in the mid-60s, he became a crazy, funny friend with a Runyonesque turn of a phrase. The Beloved Herring Maven is credited with bringing the Yiddish word maven into the linguistic mainstream.
As we were talking about the spots my friend said, "I know Marty's son Michael."
I said, "Give me Michael's email address, I've been trying to find those old Herring Maven spots everywhere."
In November, 2009 I wrote to Michael and told him of my quest to find scripts or recordings of his father's spots. He promised me he'd find some and mail them to me. Just today "the Complete Herring Maven" arrived on two-CDs. An hour compilation Solow created for The Museum of Broadcasting and a separate CD of 36 :60 second spots. I've spent the last two hours listening to radio commercials for pickled herring products.
They are every bit as funny as I remember them.
Full of silliness, wisdom, ethnic humor and sales spiel.
I hate herring but I started thinking about going out to buy some.
I'm going to ask a producer friend to re-dub the MP4s to a video format so I can post a few. And over the next couple of days I will post some of the maven's bon mots.
By the way pasted below is part of the Wikipedia entry for Herring Maven.
"The word comes to English through Yiddish, which in turn derives from the Hebrew mevin (מבֿין), meaning "one who understands," and relates to the word binah, which denotes understanding or wisdom in general. It was first recorded in English around 1952, and popularized in the United States in the 1960s by a series of commercials created by Martin Solow for Vita Herring, featuring "The Beloved Herring Maven." The “Beloved Herring Maven“ ran in radio ads from 1964-1968, and was then brought back in 1983 with Allan Swift, the original voice of the Maven.
"Many sites credit Vita with popularizing the word Maven. An example of print advertisement including the Maven: "Get Vita at your favorite supermarket, grocery or delicatessen. Tell them the beloved Maven sent you. It won’t save you any money, but you’ll get the best herring"."