Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Cigarettes Sponsored A Festive Ball Of Pops

Event companies in the 60s took advantage of festive occasions and organised socials to attract the merry-makers. These dance parties would usually be held at prominent hotels like the Adelphi or Ambassador and at popular venues like the Victoria Memorial Hall which had a fairly large floor for dancing.

Go-getters attended these functions to sweat the night to the beat of the top bands in town.  During a 65 weekend there was always a party going on somewhere on the island.  Singers, bands and dancers were glad to perform at such venues for publicity and sometimes for the generous renumeration.

Organisers would only approach prominent companies that were able to sponsor them because the overheads could be high. In 60s Singapore when smokers had more freedom to puff their stuff cigarette distributors were ever so willing to pay big money to advertise their product at such functions.

The particular event above (image) was one such example and mainly sponsored by a cigarette company. Besides the promotion in the newspapers, long and huge banners would be hanging in the dance hall.  Possibly free cigarettes would be distributed throughout the evening and cartons given out as floor  prizes. In the Easter Ball discussed, Edinburgh Cigarette Company was the main sponsor.  I searched the web but could not find the group's website although I found the advertisement (image left) in the Straits Times newspaper. I am wondering if the company is still in existence. Anyone?

Those years there were many brands on sale in the Singapore market. I remember Matterhorn, Lucky Strike, Consulate, Capstan and Players cigarettes very well. These companies did everything they could in the media to promote their product. One such company, famous Camels, raised eyebrows and sent smoke signals.

In the 50s  and possibly the early 60s, one of the most infamous cigarette advertising slogans was associated with this brand of cigarette: “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Apparently the advertisement began in 1946 and ran for some years in magazines and on the radio (image right).

And the pitch they used?  “Family physicians, surgeons, diagnosticians, nose and throat specialists, doctors in every branch of medicine… a total of 113,597 doctors… were asked the question: ‘What cigarette do you smoke?’ And more of them named Camel as their smoke than any other cigarette!"

Cigarettes or otherwise the Grand Easter Ball featured a number of guest stars who were popular in the 60s.  The advertisement is revealing since it also published the places one could buy the evening's tickets from.

Singapore had no SISTIC outlet then but equivalents like Winston's Arcade, Robinson's, etc. were around Collyer Quay in the business district while Katong Flower Shop was in the East Coast near the old Tay Buan Guan and Roxy Cinema. But most enthusiasts bought their last minute tickets at the door. Three bucks for a show and dance. Now it's $300/00.

The two bands, Les Kafilas and Bateks (image above left) were there to relieve The Silver Strings and were known as guest bands. Siva and James Choy or Cyclones (image right) had a large following and these supporters would have been there that evening. 

If I am not mistaken Veronica Young (image left) had just joined the Strings. She is also known as Singapore's Millie Small, having won the competition held at the Great World Sky Cinema accompanied by the group. I was actively fronting the Strings during this season.

Images: from The Straits Times newspapers, websites on cigarettes and private collection.
Original Article based on lst image: by Andy Lim.


KHL said...

Hi Andy ,

Thanks very much. I enjoy reading this... and more please.


KHL said...

I have already listed under 'favourites' before replying to my earlier email.

Thanks again,


Andy Lim* said...


Thanks again for visiting and reading the blog.

Melissa D. said...

Hi Andy,

I do hope that you can keep it up, because it is a ton of fun to read - even for someone like myself who was not even in Singapore in the 60s.


Andy Lim* said...

The comments above and below were in response to a note I wrote about the status of this blog today.

Thank you all for the good wishes and encouragement. I will plod along as much as I can.

Hopefully others will contribute some stories about 60s music too.

No man is an island.


Dear Andy,

Fear not, old friend, it is probably only a short lull. I am sure there is still much interest in Singapore 60s music by people of our age and even younger.

There was such a vibrant music scene in those days.


Hi Andy,

I think your blog's just great as it is. Garnering more than 10K viewers monthly is evidence enough that there is still strong interest in Singapore 60s music.

I hope that more members of the 60s pop bands would contribute to your blog as there were many pop bands in Singapore during that era.

Best regards,


Andy Lim* said...

Thanks Jimmy. I just thought there could be some improvement in the way it is organised, written and presented.



M. Erwin said...

More Doctors smoke Camel than any other cigarettes! That is so true. What a Lucky Strike! ; )

Andy Lim* said...

Thanks Erwin, I hope you saw the Veronica Young You Tube video you did which is on the right bar.

It's well done. Congratulations!

Andy Lim* said...

I received the following advertisement under the Comment page of this blog:

"Cigarettes sales will typically be a risky purchase. Because of the numerous elements of the merchandise, it is vital to grasp that you are addressing a reputable company that sells solely the safest and best cigarette.

Feel assured knowing that our product are of the very best quality and put through rigorous testing before touching your lips."

(The above advertisement shows that even today the cigarette business is still thriving.

I do not encourage smoking nor condone the sales of cigarettes in Singapore.)