It is a true story of American ingenuity and one that surrounds one of the most popular drinks around the world today and that's Mountain Dew.
But, did you know that yellow, citrus flavor soda's history is seeded right here in our region? In fact, there's a decades old debate about which municipality is actually the birthplace of Mountain Dew.
There are so many players, three major places and appropriate claims all around that it is really up to oneself to decide where the soda originated from.
It seems as though the true claim of "Mountain Dew Creator" depends on whether you credit the idea, the formula or the soda we drink today.
The Appalachian Archives at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City had some of the oldest history on Mountain Dew. Records there showed the first ever drink of that name was created in Knoxville by the Hartman Brothers. They had opened a business there and since soda in the 1930's was only a regional thing, they couldn't get the soda they preferred to mix with their liquor. So, they came up with Mountain Dew.
A chance meeting with the man known for Dr. Enuf, Charles Gordon, would change all of that. His son, Chuck Gordon and current owner of Tri-Cities Beverage, said his father met the Hartmans on a train ride to beverage shows and he sipped their Mountain Dew. He wanted to Bottle it.
According to archives, the flavor at that time was more like 7Up. Bill Jones, of Marion, Virginia created that flavor for the Hartmans in the mid 1930's. Jones was also pals will Tri-Cities Beverage owner, Charles Gordon and his manager Bill Bridgforth.
And, according to Tri-Cities Beverage's history, the company was the first to put the flavor and carbonation together in a bottle for commercial sales. Chuck Gordon told us there is a lot of family pride in Mountain Dew and as far as he was concerned, it all started at Tri-Cities beverage. He also told me it was in the late 1950's that Mountain Dew turned into the drink we know today.
According to Appalachian Archives in Johnson City it started with a move to better market a soda they already had. Apparently Charlie Gordon and Bill Bridgforth decided to bottle a popular soda, Tri-Cities lemonade, in a Mountain Dew bottle.
The lemonade soda was also a flavor created by Bill Jones at what use to be the TIP Corporation in Marion, Virginia.
Marion prides itself on being the birthplace of Mountain Dew. So, we searched the town records and did in fact find that all of the rights to Mountain Dew were sold by Bill Jones to the Pepsi Company.
Marion spokesman Ken Heath said he would gladly credit Knoxville and Johnson City and the people in those cities for their role in Mountain Dew's history as long as they admitted the check went to Bill Jones in Marion, Virginia and that's where the soft drink we drink today came from.
Chuck Gordon confirmed that all rights and franchises to Mountain Dew were sold to Bill Jones in the late 1950's.
PepsiCo will not credit one locality for the soda that's become one of their biggest success stories. They are rolling out a new product called Johnson City Gold in honor of Mountain Dew's history. A deal was struck with Food City stores and PepsiCo to carry Johnson City Gold in their Johnson City stores on Monday, August 13th. The new beverage will be available for a limited time beginning August 26th.
There is also a competition underway where you can get a Mountain Dew flavor named after you. For more information on that visit https://secure.yourmaltdew.com/MasterPage.aspx