Thursday, 26 February 2015

"Boom Boom Boom Boom!" - Joe The Esso Blue Dealer


This lovable little animated chap is known to many of us as he appeared in a long series of TV, newspaper and magazine ads from 1958 until the 1970s - I'm not sure exactly when he bowed out during that decade. He was Joe, the Esso Blue Dealer.

What was Esso Blue? T'was paraffin for domestic heaters and stoves. The heaters were OK, but caused quite a lot of condensation. However, in the 1950s, '60s and '70s nobody round my neighbourhood had central heating. Heating was supplied by coal, gas or paraffin. Most people opted for gas or coal. We also had a one-bar electric fire, but it ate electricity at a tremendous rate so we never dared use it. We had a paraffin heater, but could rarely afford the paraffin. In consequence, the ground floor of our house was warm enough in the winter (coal fire in the back room, gas fire in the front), but upstairs was FREEZING. It was common in the winter months to awake to ice on the INSIDE of the bedroom windows.

The little Esso Blue fella, with his natty bow tie and dinky bowler hat, had his first telly airing in 1958.

In one late '50s ad, the Esso Blue dealer is seen at his desk, answering the phone to a variety of people, all asking if he's Joe. To each, he replies, in a Northern English accent, that he isn't - he's the Esso Blue dealer. A sexy sounding female, also asking for Joe, flusters the poor little beggar and he tells her he is the "Esso Blee dooler". Poor lad. In the end, the mysterious Joe phones, asking if there have been any calls for him. In between calls, the dealer sings to himself "Boom boom boom - Esso Blue!" and, at the end of the ad, we get the famous jingle.

Later, we learned that the Esso Blue dealer was also called Joe.

The Esso Blue dealer as he appeared in a late 1950s ad.

YOUR DEALER RECOMMENDS ESSO BLUE. A shame, because it's no longer available.

The "Esso Blee dooler" ad line came about by accident. The actor Dorland Advertising had employed to do the voice-over was late arriving at the recording session for one of the ads. Time was pressing, and Dorland executive Tony Solomon stepped forward, champing at the bit to get the sound balance right, and said: "Let me have a go at it." He then said "I'm your Esso Blee Dooler" instead of "Esso Blue Dealer", which "brought the house down", causing great hilarity amongst the staff looking on. So, Mr Solomon's bit of genuine tongue-tiedness was incorporated into the script for the ad, and was also a tremendous hit with telly viewers. 

 A boggle-eyed Joe on an Esso Blue Delivery Service order postcard.

 A lovely filled-in Esso Blue receipt from Leighton Buzzard - March, 1971.

 Cor, self-service Esso Blue!

In those days of few TV channels (two when it first aired, three when it ended, and four from November 1982 until 1989 when Sky launched), we eagerly grasped hold of various jingles and catchphrases and, even today, many of us remember them. From the likes of "Murray Mints, Murray Mints, too good to hurry mints!" to Beattie of BT's late 1980s ads ("You got an ology?") and beyond, we took 'em all to our hearts. "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" is still etched on my mind today.

Joe assured us that, with Esso Blue, smoke wouldn't get in your eyes. Esso Blue didn't smoke. But all paraffin heaters gave off a slight smell. In 1971, Joe starred on his own flexi-disc recording - "The Great Blue Singer" ("They asked me how I knew it was Esso Blue. I of course replies, with lower grades one buys, smoke gets in your eyes."). The flexi-disc ended with the "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" jingle, which featured at the end of each ad and became a national catchphrase.

 Here's Joe appearing on an Esso Blue can. He looks so happy - obviously a man who believed in his product.

After the Esso Blue dealer left our screens, there was a reminder of him for many years in my neighbourhood: Mr Dean, the local greengrocer, florist and Esso Blue supplier, had a tin sign showing Joe, stating "ESSO BLUE SOLD HERE" - or some-such. The sign, which Mr Dean put out on the pavement by his shop every day, ensured that the dear old dealer was a presence in my neck of the woods long after he'd finished on the telly.

Newspaper ad from 1960.


Three Esso Blue badges from the early 1970s - Joe The Non-Smoker, Boom Boom Boom, and Conserve Your Energy.

An Esso Blue receipt from the 1970s. "YOUR HEATER NEEDS BLUE". The inclusion of V.A.T indicates that the UK was a member of the Common Market by the time the receipt was printed.


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