We're part of pop culture

From fried chicken to 'Survivor,' Ky. is a proud part of American pop culture

state has produced local, national and global icons

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2012 

From giving rise to one of the country's first pulp fiction heroes, Daniel Boone, to sharing those elusive 11 herbs and spices with the world, to helping create the now-ubiquitous creature known as the "reality TV star," Kentucky has long played a part in American pop culture.

Here are some especially notable pops that are worth celebrating:

■ Boone was made famous by a mix of fact and fiction doled out to the masses via books, poems and, one can assume, breathless word of mouth. So popular was Boone that Daniel C. Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, considered calling the group the Sons of Daniel Boone, according to DanielBooneHomestead.org.

■ Today's instant access means every company from Amazon.com to Xerox wants your Tweet, Facebook post or pin to help brand their product. But when Ale-8 One founder G. L. Wainscott began bottling his gingery creation in Winchester in 1926, he proposed one of the first contests to name a product.

According to the company, "A Late One," the winning entry, was a pun adopted for its description as the latest thing in soft drinks. (We didn't say the naming contest was a good idea.)

■ Bluegrass music as we know it twanged onto the popular scene in the late 1930s with the advent of the Monroe Brothers, featuring virtuoso Bill Monroe and his "high lonesome" sound. According to the International Bluegrass History Museum, by the 1950s the name Bluegrass music had stuck and Bluegrass festivals began in the 1960s. Now sub-genres such as progressive "new grass" mix in a variety of musical styles with the down-home roots.

■ According to ColonelSanders.com, the cook we know as Harlan Sanders "was a sixth-grade dropout, a farmhand, an army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an insurance salesman, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician." (Yep, obstetrician.)

The colonel died in 1980, but his food is still served in 100 countries and he holds a place in pop culture, even in a digital age he couldn't have imagined. People share their stories of him and his food at ColonelSanders.com and their pictures of meals at Foodspotting.com.

■ Rodger Bingham, the Grant County banker, became the first breakout star of reality TV in 2001 during the second season of Survivor as "Kentucky Joe." Bingham made an impact by generally being a good guy and playing the game with integrity. His Survivor buddy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, now holds court on ABC's talk fest, The View. Bingham's popularity helped spawn the still-evolving reality TV bonanza with the likes of Snooki, basketball wives and a series of bachelors who are always perpetually in the hot tub and never at the altar. Rodger, we blame you.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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