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The Gallos

March 28, 1993

Regarding "Family Secrets" (by Ellen Hawkes, Feb. 28): I must call into question the Gallo executives' "lightning flash"--their idea to "invent" Thunderbird fortified wine in 1957.

In mid-1955, a black vocal group called the Four Deuces had an R & B hit called "W.P.L.J." (white port-lemon juice) on a tiny label, Music City out of Berkeley. Despite poor distribution, the record sold several hundred thousand copies nationally over a period of nine months. Then in the fall of 1955, the Italian Swiss Colony wine company hired the group to record the song as a jingle for its radio commercials.

Gallo may have perfected the sleazy marketing of fortified wines in black communities as late as 1957, but it didn't invent the product. Even Italian Swiss Colony's effort was essentially an exploitation of an African-American creation. So what else is new?

JIM DAWSON

Hollywood

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