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NauenThen

The NuGrape Twins

I’m a bit obsessed with this little-known act from the mid-1920s. It’s possible the Nugrape Twins were Matthew and Mark Little, born September 16, 1888, in Tennille, Georgia. Matthew died in 1962 and Mark in 1965. I’ve heard at least one commenter say they were black. I don’t think so but it’s often hard to tell with rural blues singers.

I’m pretty sure I have their complete oeuvre—only six songs. Far and away the best is “I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape.” They also recorded the similar “Nugrape—A Flavor You Can’t Forget” and four gospel songs: “The Road Is Rough and Rocky,” “Can’t You Watch for Me One Hour” (I can’t make out the lyrics so I’m only guessing it’s gospel), “There’s a City Built of Mansions” and “Pray Children If You Want to Go to Heaven.”

I think it’s their not-quite harmonies: equally alarming and compelling. Equally sweet and rough, their voices. And the lyrics are pretty funny:

Way down yonder in the promised land
A-run and tell your mama here the NuGrape man
I got your ice-cold NuGrape …

and:
What’s that make your lips go flippity-floppa
When you drink a NuGrape you don’t know when to stop
I got your ice-cold NuGrape

and:
If from work you come home late
Rolling pin waits at the gate
Smile and ‘prise her with NuGrape
Then you’ll sneak through in good shape
I got your ice-cold NuGrape…

As for the soda: It was invented in 1906 and first bottled in 1921. It’s available—still!—in the southeastern United States—Georgia, North Carolina, northwest Alabama, and the eastern half of Tennessee. Wikipedia adds the weirdly specific information that NuGrape is “almost impossible to find for sale west or north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.”

Were the Twins hired to record a song some company genius wrote? Did they come up with it hoping to get a free case or two?

The company’s ad calls it the Culpable Grape, which didn’t make much sense until I looked again at their festive font and realized it is actually Gulpable.
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