The Day I broke the National Story About J.R. Beer

Larry Hagman

I never had the pleasure of meeting Larry Hagman.

But I did have the privilege of breaking the national story about J.R. Beer.

It was my one-and-only national scoop when I was a young reporter in Waco, Texas.

My then brother-in-law’s lawyer was the “man behind the can”, or so I cleverly word-smithed 40 years ago.

He’d somehow put a deal together to produce and sell J.R. Ewing Premium Beer at the height of the popularity of “Dallas”.

If memory serves, the “collectable” was produced by the Pearl Brewing Company in San Antonio, and the ad campaign was totally Texan, urging you to “take a shot at J.R.”.

The point-of-sale poster and packaging even included the image of a bullet hole in the can.


Good old, totally trustworthy, J.R. even put a personal message on the side of each and every can:

“If you have to ask how much my beer costs, you probably can’t afford it.”

I think it sold for about $2 a six pack.

Breaking the story

When I heard about the J.R. Beer story, I knew it would be a nice little feature story.

Not only did it make Page 1 in the Waco Tribune-Herald — Central Texas’ version of the Wall Street Journal, ahem — the wire services sent it all over the world.

This was a good thing for me, because I’d just started working on the Tribune-Herald and, up until then, I was just another guy.

OK, just another guy with one arm.  Afterwards, I was the guy who had the J.R. Beer scoop.

The P.R. agency that was planning to launch the new beer basically crapped when they realized I was about to spill the beans about J.R. Beer.

At least they were smart enough to urgently courier me a photo of the Dallas cast, which ran in the Tribune-Herald, along with a mugshot of my brother-in-law’s attorney, who had a smug expression that said:

“I’m about to make a whole bunch of damn money.”

Pucker Up

Someone asked me on Facebook today what J.R. Beer tasted like. My recollection was that it tasted just like Pearl Beer. Or dishwater.

I get the two mixed up.

Another old friend on Facebook had the best comment I ever heard about the beer:

“I remember J.R. Beer.  We bought some once.  We wound up using it for target practice.  When it is 100 degrees outside and you shoot it with a .45, it really explodes.”

J.R. would have been proud. 


Click HERE for more stories about being a reporter in hideous Waco Texas.



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