When people think of LISTERINE® Antiseptic, probably the last thing they think about is electric guitars. But they should, because LISTERINE® and the electric guitar go back more than half a century together. What was the connection? It was through Les Paul (1915-2009), one of the inventors of the solid body electric guitar, who passed away this summer at age 94. The LISTERINE® Brand sponsored his groundbreaking television show in the 1950s.
This on-screen sponsorship ID appeared at the beginning of every episode of Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home
Starting in 1952, the LISTERINE® Brand sponsored Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home, a five-minute long network television show broadcast from Les Paul’s home in Mahwah, New Jersey. (That’s not a typo — the episodes were only five minutes long!) Each episode featured Les Paul and his wife Mary Ford, and some absolutely amazing, incredible guitar playing. The show ran for 170 episodes.
Guitar Legend Les Paul and Mary Ford, 1952
The story goes that Les Paul relocated from Hollywood, California to New Jersey specifically to do the show because Mahwah was close to the headquarters of the Lambert Company, which made LISTERINE® Antiseptic in the early 1950s. (The merger that would make them into Warner-Lambert happened in 1955.) Apparently, the Lambert Company president had heard Les Paul and Mary Ford’s hit song “How High the Moon?” and loved it so much that he came up with the idea for a LISTERINE® – sponsored TV show broadcast from the couple’s home five days a week. Les Paul accepted, and moved to New Jersey. You can read the whole story on the Jazz Times website.
Here’s one of the episodes of Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home. Be sure to check out the vintage glass LISTERINE® Antiseptic bottle at the beginning:
And here’s an episode in which Les Paul tries to fix their refrigerator…by serenading it! This episode also features a vintage LISTERINE® commercial in the middle of the show.
The LISTERINE® Brand became a part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in 2006, so we can’t take credit for the idea of sponsoring Les Paul’s television show, but it’s a fascinating piece of history that’s now part of the collective history of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.
From the video clip above, Les Paul plays for his refrigerator
By the way, not only was Les Paul a pioneer in inventing the solid body electric guitar, he also invented multitrack recording, tape delay and many other things that we take for granted as part of modern music. Most people know Les Paul for the Gibson Les Paul guitar, one of the most recognizable and iconic electric guitars in the world.
The guitar that needs no introduction: The Gibson Les Paul
So the next time you pick up that bottle of LISTERINE® in your bathroom, you’ll know that you’re not just holding an antiseptic mouthwash first formulated in 1879…you’re ALSO holding the product that sponsored Les Paul — the legend who helped make not only rock music but modern recording techniques possible.
From Les Paul and Mary Ford’s TV show: perhaps the most interesting LISTERINE® spokesperson…er, spokes-frog, ever.
And because this is just WAY too good to pass up, here’s one last episode of Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home, with a talking cartoon frog advertising LISTERINE® Antiseptic!