5 days ago

The story behind the creation of YellaWood’s iconic Yella Fella character and campaign

In 2004, audiences were taken back to a time reminiscent of television in the 1950s — when cowboys ruled the airwaves and there was a good guy to save the day. That was the thematic inspiration for YellaWood’s Yella Fella when he was introduced in a commercial called “Bad Bart.”

Over time, the Yella Fella caught on, and the YellaWood® marketing team expanded on the idea, eventually creating four seasons of cliffhangers, patterned after the old Hopalong Cassidy shorts that used to play in theaters. When the Yella Fella serials launched in 2008, television audiences were greeted by the Grand Ole Opry members Riders in the Sky, a Grammy-winning quartet of singing cowboys intoning these lyrics:

Here he comes sittin’ high in the saddle,
Rightin’ wrongs wherever he can.
A man of the West in a hat and vest
Yella Fella, what a man.
On the mighty steed named Lemon Drop
He can ride like the Western wind.
Whoopin’ villians it’s a fact
‘Til they won’t come back
Yella Fella, yup, that’s him.

It was quite a turn from the previous ad campaigns that focused on college football and basketball coaches or just Jimmy Rane, the company’s founder and CEO, extolling the virtues of Osmose Pressure Treated Pine and the little yellow tag. In fact, a year and a half before the Yella Fella commercials even launched, it occurred to the marketing team at Great Southern Wood that, while successful, their advertising was putting a lot of effort into promoting the brand of “Osmose,” the name of the company that manufactured the preservatives, perhaps even more than the company that was providing the treated lumber, Great Southern Wood. It was becoming obvious that it was the yellow tag and the color yellow consumers were recalling at the moment they made a purchase.

“Jimmy was spending a lot of money to promote the Osmose brand, which he didn’t own,” noted Slats Slaton, creative director at The Slaton Agency. “Although the commercials created a backdoor demand for lumber treated by Great Southern, the timing was right to explore the creation of a brand name that the company would own outright.”

“We had talked for years about creating our own brand,” remembered Chief Marketing Officer James Riley. “We would still use the Osmose preservatives, but instead of promoting Osmose, we’d promote our own brand of pressure-treated pine. It seemed like if there was ever going to be time to do it, this was it.”

Fortunately, thanks to the strong partnership built over the previous 30 years, Great Southern’s decision to drop the mention of Osmose in its advertising did not damage the relationship between the two companies. In fact, even though Osmose had trademarked the “little yellow tag,” it assigned all rights to Great Southern so their advertising could continue to focus on the distinctive yellow tag. Because color is often the first thing consumers remember when it comes to brands, it was logical to not only center the advertising on the yellow tags, but to go one step further and rename the product, too.

The task of creating a new name for the brand fell on Slaton Agency copywriter Leon Barwick. He came up with a list of potential names, which was eventually culled down to five or six. In focus groups, YellaWood received the most positive comments. “It was affirming to hear each of the focus group participants speak of it like it was already a household name,” Slaton said. The new YellaWood name worked perfectly with Great Southern’s “little yellow tag” and made it easy to continue using yellow in future commercials. As an added bonus, the new treatment formula left the wood with a more natural yellow finish.

The unique spelling of “Yella” also had a natural link to the company, Slaton noted. “The spelling was relaxed, the name rolled off the tongue easily, and it was entirely Southern, which was fitting for Great Southern Wood and Southern Yellow Pine. It was a perfect transition. There was almost instant brand recognition because of the focus on yellow in the previous ads.”

By now, though, everyone agreed the “Jimmy” character used in the coaches’ commercials had run its course. It was up to Slaton to come up with a new concept in time for the 2004 advertising season. His goal was to create a single commercial direction that could run in all markets, rather than creating a different spot for each college football sponsorship, as had been done in the past. Slaton first presented a paintball-centered concept before moving on to an ad featuring a cowboy. “I knew Jimmy was a cowboy fan, and his eyes lit up when I started talking about it. I don’t remember if we even got to the third idea.” Slaton remembered.

Thus began “The Tales of the Yella Fella” series and a new chapter in Great Southern Wood Preserving advertising. “I envisioned shooting the spots at the old stockyard in Abbeville,” Slaton remembered. “But Jimmy said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right!’ And suddenly, we’re going out West to an old movie ranch.” Despite the new location, Jimmy was determined to keep his old team together, again enlisting Norton Dill with Birmingham, Alabama-based Dill Productions to shoot and direct the spots. “Until we started doing the cowboy commercials, Jimmy always had his thumb on the budget,” recalled Dill, who suggested shooting the new ads at Gammons Gulch in Arizona. Located north of Benson, Gammons Gulch is, for all practical purposes, a small western town with numerous historic buildings, not storefronts. The new location gave the commercials an authenticity they wouldn’t otherwise have. But, according to Dill, it was something else that made the location especially appealing. “I think what really cinched the deal were the owners of Gammons Gulch — Jay and Joanne Gammons. Jay is the son of John Gammons, who was John Wayne’s bodyguard, and Jimmy is a huge John Wayne fan.”

The cowboy Slats Slaton created was to be nothing like the Duke or any of the other Western actors that were so popular during the 1950s and ‘60s that Jimmy grew up admiring. “I envisioned the character to have a comedic flavor and put him in a yellow cowboy suit,” Slaton admitted. “We had a guy in Atlanta design the original costume, which was intentionally ridiculous with fancy chaps and all kinds of yellow fringe.”

While Jimmy was “still playing a sort of a goofball” in the initial Western spots, according to Dill, that began to change. According to Slaton, little by little, the comedic lines he’d written for “a cowboy in a yellow cowboy suit” were being delivered by Jimmy Rane in a manner more like the real cowboys from Jimmy’s childhood — more like John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Dale Robertson, and later, Clint Eastwood. The transition was accompanied by slight changes in the Yella Fella costume. Jimmy started adding brown to the outfit. “The more brown he wore, the more like these other actors he became,” Slaton recalled. “He single-handedly changed that character into someone who displayed the values of the Old West. The character went from a funny man to a western hero. The new Yella Fella was to be taken seriously. He was loved by many because he stood for justice and all that was good and true.”


The transformation was complete by 2005 when “Someone’s in the Kitchen” aired. Unlike the other Old West commercials, “Someone’s in the Kitchen” was shot in black and white in Abbeville. Rather than fighting bad guys, the Yella Fella appears in a 1950s-era kitchen at breakfast time to counsel a young brother and sister about character, civic duty and other moral obligations.

In addition to altering his character, Jimmy had even bigger changes in mind when it was time to shoot ads for the 2008–2009 season. Instead of making standalone spots, he wanted a continuing series with a cliffhanger at the end of each spot. “The idea of cliffhangers was Jimmy’s,” confirmed Dill. “I think it dated back to his childhood days at the movies when they’d show serials before the main feature. Hopalong Cassidy would be in the middle of some crisis at the end, and you’d have to come back the next week to see if he survived.”

The new spots were again shot out West, this time in Arizona, Utah and Monument Valley, near the Arizona-Utah border. “Monument Valley has special meaning for Jimmy because John Ford shot so many of his movies there. Monument Valley is iconic,” said Dill. “There’s no place like it, and it just says ‘Old West’ because it remains mostly untouched.”

Before shooting began, the Great Southern team stopped in Wyoming, where Jimmy purchased Yella Fella’s horse, Lemon Drop. Funny enough, Lemon Drop’s real name was Duke.

Jimmy’s wife, Angela, who had appeared in three earlier ads, was a reluctant co-star for several 2009 commercials. In the first two, she was an extra, but for the third, she took a more active role, portraying the surprised mother in “Someone’s in the Kitchen.” Angela was pressed into service a fourth time when the actress hired to portray “the lady on the stagecoach” became ill the morning of the shoot. “I told Jimmy, ‘I’ll do the commercial if you promise I will not have to say anything.’ That’s why my character only nods and makes gestures.”

In 2010, commercial production was moved to the Bonanza Creek movie ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like the old Westerns that inspired them, the cliffhangers celebrated good triumphing over evil and emphasized the values of honesty and integrity. Launched during a period of tough economic times which began in 2007, the campaign was designed to lift the spirits of viewers in addition to promoting the benefits of YellaWood.

“At the time, there was doom and gloom about the economy,” Jimmy noted. “People were just downright depressed. We set out to create something that would be both entertaining and encouraging—and to do something that you don’t often see done with advertising. We wanted to reinforce the values that made America great and the Old West so significant. The Code of the West is all about principles like honesty, service, integrity, patriotism, strong work ethic, loyalty and family.”

Courtesy of YellaStories ,which is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Great Southern Wood, one of Alabama’s legendary business successes.

13 hours ago

Community holds ‘Park and Pray’ twice daily at East Alabama Medical Center — ‘God is in this’

Lee County has been one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Alabama, and members of the community are rallying around medical professionals who are battling on the front lines against the disease.

RELATED: Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins in hospital with coronavirus

As reported first by WSFA, Alabamians from around the Opelika area are holding a “Park and Pray” twice per day in support of the hospital staff at East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC).

At 7:00 a.m. and then again at 7:00 p.m. CT, community members begin 30 minutes of prayer while parked in the hospital’s deck. Afterwards, everyone flashes their vehicle lights as a show of encouragement for the staff, who can view the event from hospital windows.


EAMC Chaplain Laura Eason is reportedly helping to organize the powerful effort, however the idea originally came from a friend of hers.

”It has just mushroomed and just snowballed into this incredible, incredible thing,” Eason told WSFA.

Registered nurse Madeline Vick captured a video from inside the hospital on Thursday of that night’s Park and Pray. The moment, she told the TV network, gave her chills.

However, the community is apparently doing much more than just the Park and Pray to lift up the hospital staff. People have also brought signs, rocks and bricks with messages of support, as well as providing meals. Anyone wishing to sponsor a meal for the staff can contact either the Auburn Chamber of Commerce or the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.

”This entire community has been unbelievably supportive with so many things,” Vick said.

“These last few days have been really tough and, and it’s gonna get tougher, and so having the community behind us, having the churches and so many people of faith praying for that, in and of itself gives us strength, encouraged to keep on going,” she added. “Just knowing that God is in this and helping keep us safe, and providing protection over our patients in our community and our staff here. Again, it’s been incredible.”

You can watch the full feature from WSFA here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

VIDEO: Shelter-in-place, $2.2 trillion in stimulus, Sessions wants China held responsible and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Should Alabama join other states by issuing a shelter-in-place order?

— Will the $2.2 trillion stimulus deal hold off a total economic collapse?

— Former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions wants to hold China responsible for its role in the spreading of the coronavirus. Will they pay a price?


Jackson and Handback are joined former Chairman of the Madison County Commission Dale Strong to discuss his county’s preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at Governor Kay Ivey asking her to call for a shelter-in-place-order because we all know it is coming eventually.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

15 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby: Together we will combat COVID-19

The novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is accelerating across our state, country, and in more than 150 countries globally.

On Thursday, the state of Alabama exceeded 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced the state’s first COVID-19 related deaths. Alabamians as far as all four corners of the state feel the challenges faced by this unfamiliar pandemic.

The past few weeks have been marked with a feeling of uncertainty, but that has not stopped the great people of Alabama from rising above the unknown and putting all best efforts forward to help lower the spread in our communities. It is important to remember the advice and guidelines we have all become familiar with during this period of time:


  • Social distancing can greatly decrease the spread of COVID-19 in your community and potentially save lives when properly practiced. It is best to stay home as much as possible and to only leave when it is absolutely necessary. This is the biggest way Americans can do their part to lower infection rates across the country.
  • Practice keeping yourself and your home clean. It is crucial to wash your hands as often as possible and to disinfect commonly used surfaces in your household.
  • Take steps to protect others. If you feel you may be sick, stay home and away from others in your household. If someone in your family is sick, stay home as well. Cover a cough or sneeze with your elbow instead of your hand. Avoid any close contact with others. These practices are especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting sick.
  • Do not immediately seek testing if you do not show symptoms of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ADPH recommend contacting your primary care physician before seeking any medical care. This way, your doctor can evaluate your situation and take steps to prevent infection within their office. If you believe COVID-19 symptoms are present, contact your doctor immediately.

It is important that we recognize and remember the perseverance and dedication of our healthcare workers, and it is especially essential that we acknowledge those efforts during this global pandemic. Doctors and nurses not only in our state, but around the world, are putting their lives at risk in order to save the lives of others.

During a time where hospitals may be over-capacitated and medical supplies are in high demand, resources can run dangerously low. If you want and are able to help, FEMA encourages donations, volunteering your services in your community, or even donating medical supplies.

As communities across the state and country continue to provide assistance, it was imperative that Congress did its part to provide aid to Americans who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The House on Friday passed the CARES Act following the Senate’s passage of the bill on Wednesday night.

This legislation brings immediate assistance to American healthcare workers, small businesses, industries and families. The bill includes up to $1,200 per person, $2,400 per couple and $500 per child in direct payments to qualified individuals, grants and loans to small businesses in assistance to meet payroll, rent, and other business expenses, and provides resources, materials, and medical supplies to hospitals and healthcare providers.

The CARES Act also boosts unemployment insurance benefits and expands eligibility. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the state of Alabama is estimated to receive $1.9 billion to combat COVID-19.

Congress has acted on behalf of the American people, and these resources will help with our recovery as we fight this virus and maintain our economic strength as a nation.

As always, my office stands by to assist with any constituent questions or concerns. My staff and I are working hard to ensure the people of the Second District are provided with the most accurate information, guidance, and resources in order to overcome the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I remain committed to keeping my constituents informed and up-to-date on the latest news and newest discoveries surrounding this crisis.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

16 hours ago

From Slapout through ‘American Idol,’ Jessica Meuse is an Alabama Music Maker on a journey

Jessica Meuse would love to become “the dark version of Carrie Underwood.”

That might seem ambitious for an Alabama Music Maker from Slapout. But her talents have already taken her from Elmore County to Hollywood for her “American Idol” experience, and she is enjoying a career as a singer-songwriter.

“Alabama is definitely the prettiest place I have ever lived,” said Meuse. “I’m grateful to call such a beautiful state my home.”


Jessica Meuse is an Alabama Music Maker enjoying her post-‘American Idol’ journey from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Meuse was born in Round Rock, Texas. She moved several times as a child, since her mother worked for the government.

When Meuse was in the seventh grade, she moved to Slapout where she joined the Montgomery Youth Orchestra, eventually becoming principal second violin. She taught herself how to play the violin, guitar and piano.

“I was not the most accepted kid in school,” said Meuse. “I was the nerdy kid. Music was the thing that I had when I went home.”

At age 18, Meuse began writing music. Her first song was called “What’s So Hard About Bein’ a Man?” She went on to self-release a CD by the same name in 2011 and has written about 60 original songs.

“I’m definitely country, but I’m more on the spectrum of Southern rock,” said Meuse.

She auditioned for “The Voice” before her “American Idol” run, but, didn’t pass the judging rounds of the “Voice” mentors.

Meuse finished in fourth place on the 13th season of “Idol.” She became the first person in the history of the series to perform an original song during the finals.

Meuse calls herself a spiritual person and has said she is driven by her faith. She has eight tattoos and designed seven of them herself. She has two on her right arm: one of a phoenix and one of a dove surrounded by three stars. She has said that these represent spiritual rebirth and the Holy Trinity. On her left arm, she has a tattoo of the word “Faith.”

“A lot of my music is about finding your inner strength, of being tough, even when you don’t feel it,” said Meuse. “There’s always a song to write.”

The effects of the coronavirus on musicians have been swift. “It’s imperative now more than ever to support one another,” said Meuse. “Our livelihood comes from performing. The importance of a fanbase and local support is more important than ever. All I ask is that people be kind to one another in this weird time we’re all living through together. Be safe. Be healthy.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Alabama printer making face shields for health care workers

An Alabama printing company focused on the restaurant industry has found a way to help health care workers and keep its business going during the coronavirus pandemic.


“Our director of sales, Michael Cuesta, came up with this idea that we can create face shields,” Calagaz said. “He presented a homemade prototype to me and then, along with our director of operations, we created six working prototypes. We then met with four area hospitals to get their feedback and, after some adjustments, we received orders and went into production mode.”

Calagaz said his company is gearing up to produce 5,000 face masks per day.

“In less than a week we created a prototype, met with hospitals, ordered materials and delivered the first 5,000 to Mobile’s four hospitals,” Calagaz said. “Kudos to our team for thinking outside the box and working hard to make this happen.”

Calagaz Printing in Mobile is a third-generation family-owned printing business. Joe Calagaz joined the company in 1991, a business his grandfather started in 1955. Calagaz said the community response this week has been amazing.

“Our entire team of 17 employees is honored to work and provide a solution for our health care workers,” Calagaz said. “We have a sense of pride and are grateful to have the means by which we can have an impact in this time of crisis.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)