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Speed Rig, gs Back in Action Promoting Tobacco .Auctioneer Sells Whole Industry By PAUL HOUSTON

Date: 14 Sep 1961
Length: 2 pages

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Abstract

RiEEs was helping the much-battered tobacco industry beB/n an ag- ~'essive promotion campaign aimed at winning back smoker~ and court-'. termg effort~ to ban smoking .in public pla~e~. A~ ~ketch~d b~ Reynolc~ Chair° man Edward A. Horrigan Jr.

Fields

Named Organization
American Tobacco Company
Named Person
Aubrey, Lee
Hansford, Rufus
Horrigan, Edward A., Jr. (Several RJR, Liggett and CTR Top Positions)
Director for RJR Tobacco Co. 1980-1989, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer 1979-1983, President 1979-1980, and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer 1987-1989.
Houston, Paul
Pate, Hugh G.
Date Loaded
18 Jul 2005
Box
8679

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Page 1: TI54881758
September 14, I961 Speed Rig, gs Back in Action Promoting Tobacco .Auctioneer Sells Whole Industry By PAUL HOUSTON, DANVILle, Vi--WIth a ~ ~ of~e m~e ~d a ~1~o~ [(~) ~ la~ ~ ~e ~c~ a~fiun~ ~ ~e [ ~or ~ y~ ~ "~e voi~ ot ~. But at ~ ~blfion h~ ov~ ~e ;:~lend~ ~ a ~g~. ~I~ a ~he~ of ~ l~v~ ~ one ~d ~d a ~gh~ ~oke ~ ~e ~acknol~ ~s ~n~r ~d end~ ~e ~ ~, "~ld ~. Rey- ~. ~e ~.~.old ~, ~w ~- "~ ~m auc~on~ ~d ~m- m~, go~ a ~ ovafion-- p~m~ ~ m my R w~ "one of ~e ~i~ys of my ~e~ Bu~ the event ~ mo~ ~ a n~e momen~ for a m~ ~- ~ b~y.to ~e ~cco bel~ ~ ~ ~g ~r wor~ng ~ ~e~n, C~ Lee Aubrey (Speed) Riggs RiEEs was helping the much-bat- tered tobacco industry beB/n an ag- ~'essive promotion campaign aimed at winning back smoker~ and court-'. termg effort~ to ban smoking .in public pla~e~. A~ ~ketch~d b~ Reynolc~ Chair° man Edward A. Horrigan Jr. at a "Pride in Tobacco" luncheon here, the multlmillion-dollar campaign will evoke nostalgic memories, trumpet the regional economic benefits of tobacco growing and use induztry-sponsored health atud~es to discount any link between cancer and smoking. Riggs came here as the star at- traction of the Danville Hazvest Ju- bilee, a Reynolds-sponsored festi- val featuring a tobacco auctioneer- ing contest (Riggs was a ~udge), a tobacco-spitting conte~, a p~g- pickin". (a barbecue) and other Southern niceties. For many of the 63 auctioneers competing in the contest, Riggs was the flamboyant idol of their youth, the kind of celebrity shown~an they dreamed of becoming themselves some day. Auctioneer Hugh G. Pate, who hails from Riggs' hometown of Goldsboro, N.C., recfilis that at'ter Riggs began doing Lucky Strike ads for the American Tobacco Co. in 1938, 'q~e oame back home in that big car. I sa/d to myself, 'Man, t.hat's what I want to do.' At one time or another, all tobacco auctioneers want to be like Speed Riggs." Just about all of them now use some var/ation of the rhythndc chant that Riggs invented to re- place the choppy, staccato litany that previously had been employed to announce buyers' bids at ware- house auctions. "When I was 14, growing up on my father's tobacco farm, I began mimicking the staccato style," Riggs recalled recentiy. "Some- thing kept telling me it could be done differently or faster to keep up with the increasing sales. "One day I happened to he hum- ruing, 'Yankee Doodle, doodle doedah, doodle do-do-do-do, dum, do, dura .... ' and that's how I developed the chant allowing me to speak at the ra~e of 4~ words per minute," the world's fastest clip. At Re age of 18, Rigg~ beat out five veterans auditioning for .an auctioneer's job at the local house. His unique style produced Ple=~e see TOBACCO, Page T]54881758
Page 2: TI54881759
TOBACCO: Speed Riggs Back in Action Continued f~om 8th Page the nickname "Speed" and rapidly brought him notoriety in the S~uth- ern tobacco marketz,.Fa~ners 'even trucked their crops 300 and 4(}0 miles just to have B2ggs sell it for. them. Within five years, ~e president of the AmericanCTobacco Co..hact- pick 0u~, a ripe leaf from a green leaf. They're also curing it (tha~ is, heating it) in bulk containers rasher than hanging it on the conventiona~ tobacco sticks in the barn. So, when it is finally cured, there is a lot of green and a lot of sweat (condensa- tion) in the tobacco." Rigg~ is one smoker who doesn't hired l~ggs to do the Lucky. Strike believe tobacco causes ~ung cancer. ads. His starting salary, was ~ then: "Anybody can have cancer of the fabulous $550aweek. ." '. ~. "l~ngs," he said. "Whenever they Riggs became a national folk fi~- ~ prove to n~e that cig~ettes cause ure with the "sold American" chant. But in 1969, when the governme~ banned cigarette advertising on ra- dio and TV~ Riggs was knocked off the airwaves. • l~ulfilIing what he termed a long=: held commitment "to help poor peo- ple,". Riggs then moved to Califor-. nia and set up "Your Community Fund," a nonprofit organization based in Fullerton that provides' training-in furniture-making for youths with learning handical~ ." "About 4 out o£ 10 students in each class are graduating with great desires, great possibilities." Riggs said with pride. Tol[~¢co of Poo~er Quality Riggs believes today's auctiorl- eers are "more proficient than ever." But the quality of tobacco being sold, he thinks, is much poor- er than 35 years ago. "'They're using machinery to'-har- vest tobacco with, instead of by hand," he stud. "A. machine cannot dancer for the entire body; then I'R say, "Yes, it's not good for you.'" Riggs went back to his hometown the other day and sold a row of to- bacco piles for the first time in 22 years. As speedy as ever, Riggs sold a pile of leaves every four seconds as he wdlked alor~g with a group of buyers, translating their winks, nods and hand.signaled.bids into his famous chant. Uses Tricks of T~s~le One of his favorite tricks .of the trade still works--getting a buyer to bid higher ~y irritating him. "You ignore him--look right straight at him and sell the tobacco to someone else. It loosens him up," Riggs said. How for the question everyone asks: What does: he say in that chant? In his rich, sing-sangy bass voice, Riggs. gave this sample: "31 dollar (bid), 31, I, ah t. ah 32, 2, 2, toodle,~ t~cdle, toodle 2"--anff, to break the tedium and keep the attention of buyers, he throws in filIers like "round it, round it, roll it, roll it, grab it, grab it, wheel it, wheel it." ~ chanted like square dance steps are the tobacco grades, "the BF2, the LC3, the KLS." Some t~ngs have changed since Riggs' heyday. Many aucUoneers now go to a ~peciai school in High Point. N.C. But tobacco auctioneer- rag still retrains the celebrity status t~at can produce fees ranging from $25~000 to $60,000 for five months' work. "There's a carmval-hke atmos- phere. It's like the World Series" coming to these small rural towns," auctioneer Rufus Hansford said of-: the tobacco sales tha~ are now going full blast~ "All the available women come out, the booze pours freely and everybody gives parties." T154881759

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