So goes the opening line of the most famous commercial in bluegrass history. It was first brought to the fore by Flatt & Scruggs in 1953 through their live shows, radio and television appearances. Lester and Earl became identified with the company, which benefited greatly when the band rose to widespread mainstream popularity over the following decade.
Listen to audience reaction to this live Flatt & Scruggs audio – they treat a commercial like a hit song!
Martha White began sponsoring the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, which they have done every week since, and have continued their close association with bluegrass music to this day. They sponsor Rhonda Vincent’s tour bus, The Bluegrass Express, and Rhonda performs the Martha White theme on stage, and offers free samples of Martha White products at her table.
Hot Rize also performed the song on their shows in the 1980s, as the band took their name from the “secret ingredient” in Martha White Self-Rising flour.
Until fairly recently, the various Martha White baking products were only available in the southeastern United States, making their sponsorship of the Opry and bluegrass music a clever marketing strategy. These days, you can find all the flours, corn meal, and mixes at Wal-Mart stores nationwide.
I recall some years ago speaking with a British banjo player who was attending the Maryland Banjo Academy. He had been tasked with bringing home some fun bluegrass memorabilia for his regional bluegrass club to use as door prizes. After returning, he reported that the one item that received the most attention was a bag of Martha White flour, which the local grassers treated with veneration.
So… why are we discussing the history of this long-standing company? Well that’s because Martha White has just announced their 17th Annual National Cornbread Cook-off, with $5,000 going to the winner. Entries must be received by February 28, and the finals will be held in an actual cook off at the National Cornbread Festival in late April.
When someone from the company contacted us to invite our readers to participate in the contest, they shared a couple of Rhonda’s favorites from previous cook off finalists:
That’s some mighty fancy cornbread!
Rhonda also made use of the many Martha White products in her 12 Days Of Christmas recipes for Bluegrass Today last December.
You can find full details on the Cornbread Cook-Off online.