The Hi-Fi Club was a pretty simple, but very ambitious, idea. Kids love music and love to dance. Organizations, and parents, were looking for a way to keep those teens "off the streets" and out of trouble. Enter The Coca-Cola Company with a way to help both groups.
The Hi-Fi Club got its start in 1958. By June 1959, Coca-Cola bottlers in 47 states sponsored the Hi-Fi Club, and its membership was estimated at almost 2 million teenagers.
So just what was the Hi-Fi Club? A dance club that would be supported and promoted by The Coca-Cola Company. Coke would turn to schools or any responsible group looking for a way to promote positive youth activities. Coke would supply the framework for a successful Club and the organization would do the rest. The most popular Club events were dances.
With The Hi-Fi Club, Coca-Cola started what was one of the first national dance clubs. Coke told the organizations how to set up and run the Clubs, and provided songs and ideas for each dance and event.
Membership was open to every teenager who wanted to join, with no initiation fees or dues required. Each member was given a membership card, and only members could attend events. Contests would be held at each local event and prizes, many of whic h are in Coca-Cola collectors' hands right now, would be given on a local and national level.
The Disc JockeyOne of the most important factors in a successful Club was the proper disc jockey. Coca-Cola would supply the DJ with plenty of material, and the DJ was to learn about the product and its history. The DJ's name or image would appear on advertising and point-of-sales materials.
Coke provided the DJ with "The Monthly Disc Jockey Package" that included a record or "transcription" with the following tracks:
- Musical Theme -- The familiar theme song for Coca-Cola.
- Visit segments -- A series of special cuts containing interviews and programming from other Hi-Fi Clubs. There were breaks where the DJ could act like he was talking to others "live."
- Open-End Interviews -- Again the DJ could act like he was having a live interview. The DJ would have a script to ask specific questions and would play recorded "answers" to those questions from celebrities of the day.
- Around the World Hit Parade -- Hit songs from around the world.
- Popular Records -- Commercial recordings of artists who appeared on the program.
The DJ package also had scripts and commercials, and in total included over two hours of music and programming ideas.
The ContestsThe contests held for the Hi-Fi Clubs made the Club fun, and a source of great collectibles. While individual clubs were able to come up with their own ideas, Coke had plenty of suggestions for games and contests. The transcription given to the DJ contained cuts to be used for contests, including accelerated dance melodies, scrambled records and famous solos. Members could then play "name that tune," "guess the sound effect" or other games to win prizes.
Other suggested contests were "pick the top tune of the week," the "mystery tune" or -- my personal favorite -- "write the Coca-Cola trademark the most times on the back of a postcard." You could also elect a Hi-Fi Club King and Queen at each dance. Winning a contest could get you valuable (today really valuable) prizes.
Talentsville, U. S. A.In 1960, Coca-Cola added a nationwide talent contest to the Hi-Fi Club promotion. "Talentsville, USA," a search to locate top amateur musical talent across the country, began on J anuary 4 at local Clubs everywhere. The top winner in each local contest won an official Hi-Fi Club engraved trophy.
After the area finals, winners were transported to five different locations for the division finals. Division winners received gifts including a $500 wardrobe, a trip to New York and an audition with a recognized recording company. DJs and chaperon es accompanied the contestants to New York for the radio broadcast finals. The grand prize was a $5,000 scholarship.
Gifts, Prizes, CollectiblesThere are plenty of collectible items out there sporting The Hi-Fi Club logo -- from door prizes to contest prizes to items made for specific events, like Talentsville USA competitions. While you'll find collectibles that were specifically made for The Hi-Fi Club, you'll also find many items with just a Hi-Fi Club sticker or decal. That's how many of th e prizes were made. Bottlers were encouraged to work with local vendors, record stores, department stores, etc.) to get prizes to offer; a Hi-Fi Club decal then would be adhered to the prize.
Other items actually had the logo embossed on them. Some "standard Hi Fi Club identified" items included:
- Dance Sox: Red socks with "The Hi-Fi Club" knitted in white on each side
- Bolo Tie: Braided leather with a gold-finished metal emblem slide
- Record Holder: Red and white plastic holder for 90 45-RPM records
- Transistor Radio: With a leather case sporting the club logo
Look closely at Hi-Fi Club items. If a piece says "Talentsville Participant," it was given to someone entered into the contest. With a few million members, and thousands entered in Talentsville contests nationwide, there should be a lot of Hi Fi Club items for collectors to find.
Bill Combs has been a Coca-Cola collector since 1986 and is the vice president and former president of The Coca-Cola Collectors Club
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