Nano Update 3/12/02
The last marketing gasp of the mighty Falstaff Brewing empire was the "Because We're All in this Together" campaign which featured bumbling cowboys Gabe & Walker. I really loved these ads, and this was probably one of the main reasons I started drinking Falstaff in the early 1970s. I even have received emails from folks who had named their kids after the duo. Below is an article from the July 1974 edition of "Brewers Digest". Thanks to Kevin Kious, Donald Roussin, & Bryan Monaco for sending this to me.
TV's Newest Western Folk Heroes Are Becoming Potent Salesmen for Falstaff Beer
"Early in the evening of March 9, 1972, Gabe & Walker invaded the lives of nearly 40,000,000 Americans who were watching the prime-time television special "Will Rogers USA". Since then, Gabe & Walker have been riding hard and selling America's premium quality beer, Falstaff. They have been questions and some controversy regarding this pioneering advertising concept that blends humorous entertainment with a selling message, but Gabe and Walker appear to be on their way to becoming the most unique and effective salesmen ever on television.
Recently, Falstaff's marketing research department sent a questionnaire to about 600 of the brewery's distributors. They wanted to know what those distributors thought about a number of things, including Gabe & Walker's TV advertising. It was felt that these 600 distributors being much closer to the actual market should have a fuller awareness of the advertising's impact on the consumer than would be expected by personnel at the brewery level.
The response to the questionnaire was overwhelming. Not only are Gabe & Walker well liked, they are rapidly acquiring the status of folk heroes in certain parts of the country. In several cities there are Gabe & Walker fan clubs. Customers can recite their favorite Gabe & Walker commercials line for line, expression for expression.
Another positive sign are the results of an independent research conducted for Falstaff. In test after test with hundreds of consumers, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Gabe & Walker cut through the TV clutter and stand out among the hundreds of commercials which an average consumer sees, with almost 100 percent of the consumers identifying Falstaff Beer with Gabe & Walker.
Consumers also seem to be responding to the phrase "Because We're All In This Together". While most people seem to understand the phrase, coupled with Gabe & Walker, refers to friendship, many people today are applying the phrase to many of the situations they find themselves in on a day-to-day basis i.e. inflation, taxes, etc. The phrase seems to capture the national need and mood to work together to solve our problems.
Gabe & Walker are more than just two easy going cowpokes. They are two of the best beer salesmen ever to come riding out of the West.
The whole idea behind Gabe & Walker is to show the easy going attitude of good friends in common situations to which everyone can relate.
The 1974 series of Falstaff's Gabe & Walker TV spots, which include 17 - 60 and 30 second commercials, was filmed in December 1973 just outside Reno, NV.
While it may be true that actors lead a glamorous life, there is nothing glamorous about their hours or the intensity with with they work. during a shooting session a typical work day would begin with a wake up call at 5:30 AM. By 7 or 7:30, the camera and sound crews and the producer and director would be on location at a ranch somewhere in the hills surrounding Reno, followed in short order by the actors. Shooting of the commercials normally started around 9:30 and last straight through to 12:30PM, when lunch, chuck wagon style, was served. A half hour later, the afternoon work session began and lasted until sunset, which was about 5:30 PM. Gathering up and storing the equipment would take another hour, followed by a drive back to the hotel in Rengo. By 9:30 or 10 PM, a tired crew and tired actors would hit the proverbial sack to be ready for the next morning's call.
There are, of course, always funny things taking place while the filming goes on. And many commercials such as "The Volkswagen" from the 1973 series and "Apartment House", "Real Estate" and "Hard Sell" from the '74 series are created right there on the spot.
Falstaff's Gabe is Mike Witney. In real life Mike is an accomplished actor who is as hard-working at his profession as Gabe is lazy at his. Mike's career spans both movies and TV shows. he recently received rave reviews for his portrayal of Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire". He's had leading and supporting roles in dozens of movies - especially Western- included "The Way West", "Doc", and the soon to be released "W" in which he co-stars with actress-model Twiggy.
Mike's brilliant sense of comedy and his considerable experience as a movie cowboy serve him well in his role as Gabe. He has become an accomplised rider and he doesn't feel too uncomfortable among longhorns. Prior to launching his acting career, Mike played professional baseball.
Walker is Sam Elliot. Sam may be the busiest actor in Hollywood. He recently starred in a a plot for a new TV series "Evel Knievel" in which he plays the lead role. He has also filmed guest appearances in a segment of the new "Doc Eilliot" series with James Franciscus and a four part "Blue Knight" with William Holden.
Sam, a bachelor, is the son of a forest ranger, which explains his love for the outdoors and his natural riding ability. He was paid the ultimate compliment during the most recent filming of Gabe & Walker commercials. One the working cowboys on the ranch took Sam aside and told him: "If you feel you ain't making it as an actor you can always get a job cowboyin'. You're a natural" (Webguy note: of course we know Sam went onto bigger and better things....)
Gabe & Walker are being joined in about one-third of the new Falstaff commercials by a new friend and fellow cowpoke, Curtis.
Curtis is Mike Warren. If Mike Warren appears very much at home on a horse, don't let it fool you. Fact is, he had been on a horse only once before. And that for a very short time since the horse decided to apply his brakes very suddenly. Mike shot over the horse's head and onto the ground. "All I remember is looking up and seeing a mouthful of teeth. That animal was laughing at me".
But Mike is such a natural athlete that he became an expert in a matter of hours. He has made many national TV appearances, but not as an actor - as a basketball player. Mike was an All-American guard and acknowledged team leader on the UCLA National Championship Team that also starred Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Naturally, Mike's first movie role was as a basketball player in "Drive He Said".
Curtis is just one of the many characters who are expected to join Gabe & Walker in the future. For instance, soon a crusty old-timer named Colorado will appear in some of the commercials. He got his name Colorado because he has never been to Colorado. Of course, he has never been to many of the other states, but who ever heard of a cowboy named Georgia or New York?
One of these two cowpokes (we won't spoil the surprise and tell you which) will be getting married and will probably open up a tavern in town. And if you think you have troubles with your mother-in-law, wait until you see what is in store for him. But one thing is for sure, Gabe & Walker will never give up cowboying. That's their life and what makes them such appealing salesmen for Falstaff"
Brewers Digest July 1974. Unfortunately, the year after this was printed, Falstaff was taken over by Paul Kalmanovitz, and the television ad campaign was stopped.