Trivia time! Can you name the first candy bar in the United States to feature a collection of ingredients? Hint: It’s made here in Nashville. Give up? It’s the Goo Goo Cluster.
Recently, a friend celebrated his birthday by planning some “tourist in your own town” activities. This included taking a trolley down to the heart of Music City: Lower Broadway. Like many locals, I stopped frequenting Lower Broadway years ago when it transitioned from a quirky collection of honky tonks into a country music-themed mash-up of Bourbon Street and the Las Vegas strip. So, I was curious to check things out.
One of the new additions is the Goo Goo Cluster store (or at least new to me … it opened ten years ago). At the store, we took a Goo Goo-making class where we learned the history of the candy.
The Goo Goo Cluster was created in 1912 by Howell Campbell and the Standard Candy Company. It is considered the first combination candy bar in the United States, meaning it contains several types of candy rather than an all-chocolate bar.
The popularity of the candy spread in the 1920s when it began sponsoring the Grand Ole Opry radio program. And it survived the Great Depression by marketing the candy as “a nourishing lunch” for a nickel:
In recent years, the marketing efforts have become more cheeky:
There are many stories about how the candy got its name, but the true version can be found on the company’s website.
The true tale of how the candy got its name is that Howell Campbell was riding the streetcar to work one day and told his fellow passengers about this new candy he’d made. He mentioned that he was struggling to find a name for it, and a few passengers made suggestions, but nothing excited him. Eventually conversation shifted, and a school teacher inquired about Campbell’s young son. Campbell told her that he’d just said his first words: “goo goo”. The teacher exclaimed, “That’s what you should call your candy – Goo Goo!” From there the first slogan was born: “Goo Goo! It’s so good, people will ask for it from birth.”
Given the brand’s success, it will come as no surprise that the Standard Candy Company is committed to protecting its GOO GOO trademark. The company owns several GOO GOO federal trademark registrations: the first issued in 1949 for the stylized GOO GOO mark shown below:
In addition to candies, the company owns GOO GOO trademark registrations for clothing and coffee. However, my favorite brand extension is Goo Goo Ale, made by Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Company:
So if you find yourself in the Music City and need a break from honky tonkin’, you should check out the Goo Goo Cluster store and taste a Nashville original.