Decoder Ring

McGruff Takes a Bite Out of Crime, Part 1

The unlikely origins of the trenchcoat-wearing bloodhound who tackled personal safety, guns, and drugs.


Episode Notes

McGruff the Crime Dog arrived on the scene at the dawn of the 1980s, just as a firehose of anti-drug PSAs was inundating the youth of America. These messages didn’t always work as intended—but they did work their way into the long-term memories of the kids who heard them.

In the first of two episodes, we take a look at PSAs and their strange afterlife through the lens of a trenchcoat-wearing bloodhound and his bizarre, yet catchy anti-drug songs. We’ll talk to Dan Danger, Sherry Nemmers, Joseph Cappella, David Farber, Mike Hawes, and Robin Nelson to discover how the McGruff Smart Kids Album came to exist in the first place.

This podcast was written by Willa Paskin. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. We had production help from Sam Kim.

Editing by Jamie York and Derek John, Slate’s Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Sr. Technical Director.

Thank you to Wendy Melillo, Dan McQuade, Dale Mantley, Larissa Zargeris, Daisy Rosario, Drew Bledsoe, Larre Johnson, Duane Poole, Ari Merkin, Charles and Karen Rosen and Eric Greenberg.

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About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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