Answer Man: Who designed the Bass Pro Shops iconic logo? It has stood the test of time. I believe I was in high school when it debuted. — Billy Long, U.S. Congressman
Billy Long actually asked me this in 2016. I filed it away, forgot about it for some reason, and re-discovered the question in one of my archaeological dives into my trove of Answer Man questions.
Well, congressman, the people at Bass Pro Shops tell me it was none other than founder Johnny Morris.
“John Morris came up with the design of the logo,” says Carol Hafkemeyer, via email. “It has changed a bit from the beginning, added texture and such but, yes, 1972 is the date for it.”
Hafkemeyer is the special projects/creative manager at Bass Pro Shops.
Yes, she tells me, the fish in the logo is a largemouth bass.
Here in the Ozarks, we know this logo well. Bass Pro, after all, has its headquarters in Springfield. Morris has roots here.
But the logo is now a national icon, as well, especially as it appears on caps. This was the headline on a story that ran in December in the Wall Street Journal:
“How a $6 Bass Pro Shops Hat Became a Fashion Trend: You don’t need to fish to wear this hat, in fact many of its fans have never touched a fishing pole; ‘you can throw it on with anything'”
Many of you know the tale of Johnny Luke Morris and Bass Pro — how he started the company in 1972 in a tiny space in his father’s Brown Derby liquor store at 3543 S. Campbell Ave.
His dad — John A. Morris — opened the first Brown Derby here in 1937.
Let me digress briefly in the hope I can tell you something you don’t already know.
It’s about John A. Morris, who died in November 1994 at 83.
He loved the outdoors and instilled that in his children, especially Johnny.
John A. Morris not only created the Brown Derby liquor-store chain, but Glo Dry Cleaners shops, too.
He opened a Star Terminal gas station in 1937 on Springfield’s east side. It had a tiny liquor department. Fire destroyed the gas station on New Year’s Eve in 1939 and, soon after, he opened his first Brown Derby at Cherry Street and Kimbrough Avenue.
We now return to our previously scheduled column.
Initially, John A. Morris was reluctant to give Johnny space in the Brown Derby at 3543 S. Campbell Ave. This was a store that attracted anglers en route to Table Rock Lake.
In recounting this history, Johnny has said his dad unsuccessfully had tried before to sell fishing gear at the store.
Nevertheless, John A. agreed to cosign his son’s $10,000 loan at a local bank and Bass Pro was born.
Johnny spent his first 13 years in business in that store.
Today, he is a nationally known conservationist.
A major difference; the fish sported a derby
That Campbell Avenue store has been recreated in a small museum on the second floor of the large Bass Pro Shops at 2011 S. Campbell Ave. — not to be confused with the larger Wonders of Wildlife Museum in the same building.
In the re-creation, it’s easy to notice one major change in the logo.
Back then, you’ll note while visiting the re-creation, the fish with the open mouth wears a little brown derby.
I don’t know why, but I love that little brown derby.
If Brown Derby and Bass Pro could genetically engineer a largemouth bass, it definitely would have a third gill atop its head shaped just like a little derby.
I don’t know if the fish-with-derby logo was ever trademarked. But I do know that the current logo is.
According to a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the written description of the contemporary logo is this:
“The literal element of the mark consists of Bass Pro Shops. The applicant is not claiming color as a feature of the mark. The mark consists of the words ‘Bass Pro Shops’ and an open-mouthed fish inside an oval.”
It’s interesting to note the fish is “open-mouthed” and not, specifically, a “largemouth bass.”
It states the logo was first used “at least as early as July 31, 1997.”
Now it’s known coast-to-coast and, according to Forbes magazine, Johnny Morris is No. 424 on the “World’s Billionaires List,” with a net worth is $6.3 billion.
This is Answer Man column No. 10.