Out of the land of the tobacco plant
Come a tall, fast-drawin', long lean bloke
Feared by his friends and enemies alike
Feared by all who come to know the name of...JOHNNY SMOKE!
If you're old enough to remember cigarette advertising on TV (which ceased permanently after New Year's Day, 1971), then you're probably old enough to remember the Public Service Announcements that were shown along with them saying how dangerous smoking was to your health.
One particular anti-smoking PSA that appears to have stirred memories among a few baby boomers in recent months featured a character named Johnny Smoke, a cigarette wearing a mask and a villain's black hat, riding a horse through the Wild West, leaving dying smokers in his wake. The spot was a series of still cartoon drawings--not really animation--that told the story to a Western tune and somber narration:
How many saddles will be emptied tonight?
How many men will lie still beneath the sky?
How many tears will be shed because of YOU?
How many more will die?
Some who recall the PSA think it was made and broadcast in black and white, but it was actually in color. I remember seeing it on the first color TV we had. The spot ran on NBC in 1968, sometimes right after I Dream Of Jeannie. Even though I never took up smoking (let's hear it for the power of the PSA!), the spot made enough of an impression on me that I made this mosaic/watercolor picture of Johnny as an art project in junior high. The reason I decided to devote a web page to Johnny Smoke was because several people who frequented one of the animation discussion boards on the web had brought up the subject of Johnny and wanted more or less to see his likeness again in some form. So without further ado...
JOHNNY SMOKE PSA NOW ON DVD!
Yes, it's true! If you've been dying (no pun intended) to see the complete Johnny Smoke spot in color, there is now a two-disc DVD set of Classic Commercials that includes Johnny on the second disc. You have to do a bit of hunting to find it, but it's hidden among a large group of vintage ads for Comet cleanser, Camay soap and other household products. It appears between an ad for Contac capsules and one for Dial soap. Some people who have bought this two-volume set have complained about the video quality of many of the spots...but so far this is the only way to see Johnny Smoke. My thanks to the guy who tipped me off about this release (and corrected me about Johhny being a long, lean bloke).
"Classic Commercials--The Early Years" is a Madacy Home Video release, available through many online dealers.
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