Saturday, April 5, 2003

Candidate changes his tune on ad

'Hillbillies' creator objects to use of show's melody

By Al Cross
The Courier-Journal

Bruce Lunsford's campaign for governor is changing the music on his biographical television commercial, after the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies demanded that Lunsford stop using the melody of the TV show's theme.

A new version of the 60-second spot was being sent to TV stations Friday, Lunsford spokeswoman Maria Partlow said. She said the timing of the replacement would be up to the stations.

"Although our film production company people think we have a case that it was not the exact jingle, we don't want to get sideways with anyone, so we're changing the music,'' Partlow said.

The copyright representative for Paul Henning, who created the show and wrote its theme, The Ballad of Jed Clampett, said Thursday that if Lunsford did not stop running the ad with the song's melody, Henning would file suit.

The new version of the ad uses the same lyrics detailing Lunsford's biography and platform, but has a different melody. "We now have a real 'Ballad of Bruce Lunsford,' '' Partlow said.

Lunsford's media consultant, Kevin Geddings of Washington, D.C., said the campaign is researching the legal questions involved, but he maintained that the song in the ad is different.

''Granted, it sounds a lot like (the theme from) The Beverly Hillbillies but it's not the exact words; it's not the exact music,'' Geddings said. ''We didn't utilize their sheet music. We just had a couple of bluegrass guys in the studio playing to the music.''

Geddings said the commercial, which has been running about 10 days, is scheduled to stop running soon.

''We think the song has been a huge hit, and we will probably take a look at how we can re-craft it to see how we can continue to convey that message in a fun and sing-along kind of way,'' Geddings said Thursday after the controversy surfaced.

Lunsford's campaign chairman, Hindman physician Grady Stumbo, said that allowing the controversy to continue would dilute one of the ad's main points - that Lunsford is not taking campaign contributions, unlike his opponents in the May 20 Democratic primary.

Lunsford, a Louisville businessman who grew up in Kenton County, is financing his own campaign. His target is Attorney General Ben Chandler, the front-runner in the primary, whom the ad accuses of taking ``dirty money'' from special interests.

Chandler says all his contributions are lawful. His spokeswoman, Barbara Hadley Smith, said she was offended by the use of the Beverly Hillbillies theme because "it dredges up stereotypes that Kentuckians don't appreciate. Witness the uproar and concern over the CBS-TV effort to create 'The Real Beverly Hillbillies,' '' a reality-based show using a poor Appalachian family.

``It's unfortunate that the Lunsford campaign isn't more attuned to the values and sensitivities of Kentucky citizens,'' Smith said. ``If they were, they wouldn't have to waste so much money.''

Partlow said Kentuckians should be proud of their rural heritage. She said Lunsford grew up on a farm in southern Kenton County "under less than affluent circumstances.'' The ad calls him a `Kentucky farm boy who didn't forget his roots.''

Stumbo, one of the most prominent political figures in Appalachian Kentucky in the past 25 years, said he didn't know why the campaign used the TV show's theme. He said he did not see the ad before it ran, and declined to say whether he thought it was a good idea or a bad idea.

``It made a point, and that point now is gonna get lost in the controversy,'' he said. But he suggested later that the flap might bring useful attention to the campaign.

``It's generated lots of heat,'' he said. "Sometimes heat burns and sometimes it does not. We think it's been a particularly effective ad for the campaign.''

Stumbo, a cousin of state Rep. Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg, is a former state Democratic chairman and two-time candidate for governor. He was human resources secretary in the administration of John Y. Brown Jr., in which Lunsford was commerce secretary.

Stumbo said when Lunsford entered the race that he would not ` "sling mud'' or " try to tear anybody down.'' Asked whether that had changed, he said, ` "The strategy's not changed. Our strategy was to try to win the election."

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