Heart of Louisiana: Hadacol cured what ailed you
(WVUE) - It was one of those elixirs that was supposed to cure just about anything.
"Whether it be arthritis or whether it be back pain or what have you," said Roland Leblanc.
Its name was Hadacol, and it became a part of American pop culture in 1950, with songs like the Hadacol Boogie and super hero Captain Hadacol. The cure-all liquid contained vitamins, minerals and 12 percent alcohol. But the main ingredient that made hadacol so popular was marketing. And the genius behind that was a flamboyant Louisiana politician from the tiny Cajun town of Erath.
Dudley Leblanc, known as Couzin Dud, had a knack for selling just about anything. He was a four-term Louisiana state senator, a public service commissioner and unsuccessful candidate for governor.
"He had a personality whereby any time he would walk into a room it would light up," Roland said.
Now 91 years old, Roland worked in his father's Hadacol business. He was the company chemist who pitched his dad on adding a better flavor to Hadacol.
"We have to do that because these kids won't take it otherwise," Roland told his dad. "He says, 'listen Roland, it's medicine and it's got to taste like medicine.'"
Dudley traveled the country with a caravan of trucks loaded with cases of Hadacol, putting on shows with major Hollywood stars.
"He had Bob Hope, Carmen Miranda, Dorothy Lamour,' Roland said. "He had Jack Dempsey."
Admission required Hadacol box tops. It has been called the last of the travelling medicine shows. Part of the show included a small person and the world's tallest man
"This poor little guy is sick, he has never had any Hadacol whatsoever, but now after six bottles of Hadacol they would go inside show and outcomes - this huge fellow, 7 foot 6 inches tall. This is what Hadacol can do for you," Roland said, demonstrating the dales pitch.
"Dudley Leblanc also gave away gold-plated bottles of Hadacol," said Robert Vincent of Erath, who has a huge collection of Dudley Leblanc memorabelia. His great-grandmother worked in the cafeteria of the Hadacol factory.
"If Dudley told them it was going to work, they believed him," Vincent said. "If Dudley told them, 'You need to go out and vote for Edwin Edwards,' they were going to vote for Edwin Edwards.
Leblanc sold his Hadacol business as federal regulators were turning up the heat and just before the business collapsed under the weight of its huge marketing expense. Leblanc joked about it with entertainer Groucho Marx.
Marx: Hadacol? "Whats that good for?"
Dudley Leblanc: "Well it was good for five million dollars for me last year."
"He had an articulated style of artistic portrayal which was clowning, but he was an ethnic activist. he was devoted to the cause of the Acadian people," said Frank Summers III.
But 65 years after Hadacol disappeared, the son of its creator says it really was good for whatever ails you.
"Absolutely," Roland said. "Yes it was very meritorious."
And it's part of a rich cultural and political legacy of Louisiana's Cajun country.
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