R.I.P. Harry Slyman: Appliance Store Pitchman Known for Wacky Commercials
One half of a St. Louis legend is gone. Harry Slyman, of the St. Louis appliance-store chain Slyman Brothers, passed away June 14 at the age of 79.
Harry Slyman (right) and his brother, Bob.
For those who grew up in St. Louis in the 1970s and '80s, Harry and his brother, Bob, were local television stars known for their goofball commercials, which they both wrote and starred in.
In a 2011 Riverfront Times feature story, Bob's son, Bob Slyman Jr., recalled that first 1972 ad that turned his dad and uncle into local celebrities. In the commercial Harry and Bob appear as though they're sitting atop the Gateway Arch and tell viewers: "Thanks for making us tops in town." As always, the ad ended with the Slyman Brothers' tagline: "Try us, you'll like us."
From that 2011 story:
"They opened the business in 1965, the year the Arch was completed, so it was a natural tie-in," says Bob Slyman Jr. "Within a year or so of running those spots business increased 20 to 30 percent."
Perhaps the most memorable commercial -- besides the spot on top of the Arch -- was the ad featuring their Bob and Harry's mother.
"They wanted to emphasize that we are a family business, so the spot showed my dad and uncle loading a truck with appliances and then banging on the side of the trailer and yelling, 'OK, Mom, take it away,'" says Slyman Jr.
Truth be told, though, mom Slyman never actually appeared in the advertisement. The camera cut away from the cab as the vehicle pulled off the lot.
"Years later we wanted to do a similar commercial -- only this time it would be her grandkids telling her to 'take it away,'" says Slyman Jr. "But she wouldn't do it. She was too embarrassed."
As the Post-Dispatch mentioned in its obit, Harry Slyman later went on to be the mayor of Lake Saint Louis and an alderman for the municipality.
Last year the Riverfront Times reported that a new generation of Slymans running the family business had filed a lawsuit against Appliance Discounters, a store operated by Bob Slyman Sr.'s son and daughter, Anthony Slyman and Denise Bradley. Slyman Brothers alleges in the lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial in January 2015, that Appliance Discounters is infringing on its trademark by using the name Slyman in advertisements and store signage.
Continue on for more classic ad featuring Harry and Bob Slyman.