How the California Raisins Hijacked our Fancy Dinner

Post image for How the California Raisins Hijacked our Fancy Dinner

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in Funny, The 80s

The California Raisins were an advertising campaign developed by the California Raisin Advisory Board. Chances are you remember them for their TV spots in the late 80s, in which the claymation Raisins sang hits like “I Heard it through the Grapevine”. If you were really into them, which I was, you might recall the Claymation Christmas Celebration in 1987, their various studio albums, and the miniature rubber toys that accompanied. There was a Capcom video game for the NES called California Raisins: The Grape Escape. I never got that, but not for lack of trying.

Here is the music video for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, complete with the artist/title/album stamp that MTV used to place at the beginning and end of all videos (when they played videos):

Never came out of my Walkman

I had the album pictured at right, in cassette form. No exaggeration here, it did not leave my Walkman for at least 8 months. My dad used to tell me I was going to turn into a California Raisin. In 1988 I was 12 years old, and we took a family vacation to Tarpon Springs, Florida to visit my grandparents. We went out to dinner one night at the Sponge Docks, and the restaurant featured a live dinner band playing requests. This was a low-key, dimly lit and fancy eatery, so most of their playlist and requests could be classified as “easy listening” (Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, maybe some Spandau Ballet if you were lucky). The band made their way to our table and asked for a request. My father, in typical fashion, deferred to my mother and I, presumably because the only contemporary songs he knew were what was on his treadmill mix-tape (Never Surrender, Money for Nothing, Human).

It was one of the most enthralling but embarrassing moments of my life.

With California Raisins on the brain, I requested La Bamba. My father burst out laughing, expecting the band to poo-poo my choice. The guys were good sports though, and quickly changed gears from mellow to mariachi, honoring my request. It was one of the most enthralling but embarrassing moments of my life.

I had all three of the Raisins below from left to right, minus the guitarist. I had a fourth that wore blue sneakers and did not carry an instrument. As I recall, they were purchased at a neighborhood drug store. As I’d rather not recall, I built a homemade stage for them and played the tape on my dad’s boombox (The Realistic model from Radio Shack) and pretended they were in concert. Ouch.

image courtesy

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bonhomme December 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Great memories from a real fun ad campaign and phenomenom!

We can see and feel just how much craft, love and dedication came from these claymation creation and their music. It’s clear that the gents involved didn’t toss it as a cheap ploy and put work at every step, giving us great childhood memories and introduction to Motwon with, when you think a it, a completely zany concept.

Your experience reminds me of a time in a restaurant where I asked for “Brazil” to the resident accordeon player of a fancy Quebec’s restaurant. My younger nephew, who was bored to tear by is previous tune, recognised the music from Pixar’s “Wall-E” and all cheered up 😉


Howie Decker December 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

That’s awesome! Thanks for the comment, by the way.

Yes, Pixar seems to have captured that same emotional and sentimental feeling you mentioned. Their movies go so far beyond just being an animated film, they get you to think, feel, and remember them- they really become a part of you!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: