TikTok Sensation: Meet The Idaho Potato Worker Who Sent Fleetwood Mac Sales Soaring | WYPR

TikTok Sensation: Meet The Idaho Potato Worker Who Sent Fleetwood Mac Sales Soaring

Oct 11, 2020
Originally published on November 5, 2020 11:11 am

Nathan Apodaca's truck had already logged some 320,000 miles. One morning last month, it couldn't go a mile more. The truck broke down on a highway in Idaho Falls, Idaho, about 2 miles from the potato warehouse where Apodaca has worked for nearly two decades.

Luckily, he had a skateboard in his truck, along with a bottle of Ocean Spray's Cran-Raspberry juice.

"I was just sitting there, and I'm like, 'OK, I'm not gonna sit here and wait for nobody to pull some jumper cables,' " Apodaca told NPR. " 'I'm not gonna flag anyone down.' So I grab my juice, grab my longboard, started heading to work."

The story could have ended there. As many know by now, it didn't.

As Apodaca rolled down a hill, he casually turned on his TikTok account, @420doggface208, and created a video that would make a cultural sensation of his fairly prosaic, if resourceful, commute to work.

When I heard 'Dreams,' that's when I figured, 'OK, this is it,' " said Apodaca, a 37-year-old father of two. After the video took off, that 1977 hit single, "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, catapulted back on the charts, tripling in sales. The band also reported its best week ever on streaming.

This wasn't Apodaca's first TikTok video. He has been making them for about two years, mostly on lunch breaks at his factory job. He was first turned onto the app at the urging of his teenage daughter.

In the video that launched him into Internet fame, you see him wearing a gray hoodie — juice bottle in hand. He gives a cool-guy "what's up?" nod to the screen. Then he turns his head around to check traffic, revealing a feather tattoo, which honors his Native American mother.

"I couldn't hear nothing when I was looking around for the cars, because the wind was in my ears. So when I turned and the wind cut out is when I caught the part where she gets the vocals," he said, referencing the end of the video, when he lip-syncs Stevie Nicks' lyrics.

And he was done. He put the phone in his pocket, went to the potato warehouse, punched in and nearly forgot about it.

"I almost didn't post it, but I was like, 'Let's post it and see what it does within an hour,' " Apodaca said.

In its first hour on TikTok, the video gathered some 100,000 views. It now has more than 35 million. It has been crowned with meme status. According to figures from TikTok, 134,000 tribute videos have been made, inspired by Apodaca, totaling almost a half-billion views.

The lieutenant governor of Montana, Mike Cooney, did a tribute, as did comedian Jimmy Fallon — and endless others.

Mick Fleetwood, the legendary band's drummer, was so touched that he recorded his own version on a skateboard, juice in hand.

"It was spontaneous. It was heartfelt. It was fun, and God knows we need some of that right now," Fleetwood told NPR from his home in Maui, Hawaii.

"To some extent, it was a lovely accident," Fleetwood said. "It could have been any song, but it was ours. For us bunch in Fleetwood Mac, the inspiring thing was that it was just so off the wall. Did we expect it? No. Are we happy and delighted? Absolutely."

The two met for a video chat recently.

Why did Apodaca's video resonate so much right now? Who knows? But he thinks it has something to do with the moment of pure delight that he captured, giving everyone a brief escape from turbulent times.

"There's just too much chaos right now," he said. "Everybody just needed something to relax to and vibe out with," Apodaca said.

And so far, he has gotten more out of it than just millions of TikTok views.

Ocean Spray bought him a new truck in the appropriate color of cranberry red. It was delivered to him packed full of jugs of the brand's juice.

Fan donations have poured in. He will put them toward a down payment on a home. Right now, he's living in an RV in Idaho Falls, where he doesn't even have running water. To shower and use a bathroom, he goes to his brother's house nearby.

He still has the potato warehouse job. There is, however, something new in his life: a publicist. Unsure how enduring his moment in the TikTok limelight will be, he's taking a couple of weeks off to see.

"Just a week or two," he said. "But I told my boss I'll be back probably sooner."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Video streaming app TikTok has created Internet fame for many, mostly the young and trendy. But the latest sensation does not fit that bill. NPR's Bobby Allyn introduces us to the potato worker from Idaho Falls.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Nathan Apodaca's SUV had 320,000 miles. One morning last month, it couldn't go a mile more. It broke down on the highway, far away from the potato warehouse where he works. But he had a skateboard in his truck and a bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice.

NATHAN APODACA: I was just sitting there, and I was like, OK, I'm not going to sit here and wait for nobody to pull some jumper cables, you know, or I'm not going to flag nobody down. So I grabbed my juice, grabbed my longboard, started heading to work.

ALLYN: The story could've ended there. It didn't. As Apodaca was rolling down, he started what would become a cultural sensation by going on TikTok and flipping through the tunes.

APODACA: When I heard "Dreams," that's when I figured, you know, OK, this is it, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS")

FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) Now here you go again. You say you want your freedom.

ALLYN: You see him. The 37-year-old father of two is wearing a gray hoodie. Juice bottle in hand, he gives a what's up nod to the screen and looks behind him for traffic, revealing a feather tattoo on his head, honoring his Native American mother, all the while grooving to Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit "Dreams."

APODACA: I couldn't hear nothing when I was looking around for the cars because the wind was in my ears. So when I turned and the wind cut out is when I caught the part where she get the vocals. And that's where I caught the vocals.

ALLYN: And he was done. He put the phone in his pocket and went to work.

APODACA: I almost didn't post it, but I was like, let's post it, see what it does within an hour.

ALLYN: Within an hour, his TikTok had a hundred thousand views. It now has more than 35 million and achieved meme status. The lieutenant governor of Montana did a tribute. So did comedian Jimmy Fallon. It put Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" back on the charts. Mick Fleetwood, the legendary band's drummer, was so touched he recorded his own version on a skateboard, holding the juice.

MICK FLEETWOOD: It was spontaneous, and it was heartfelt. It was fun. And God knows we need some of that right now.

ALLYN: Fleetwood spoke to me from his home in Maui. As for Apodaca, now that he thinks about it, he says it kind of makes sense. He gave the world a moment of pure delight in the midst of stressful times.

APODACA: There's just too much chaos. You know, right now, everybody just needed something to look at, something to relax to and to vibe out with.

ALLYN: Apodaca has gotten more than just TikTok views out of it. Ocean Spray bought him a new truck full of Cran-Raspberry juice. He's been living in an RV, but his fans have donated him so much money he almost has enough for a down payment on a house. He still has the potato warehouse job, but he also has a publicist. Right now, he's taking a couple weeks off work to see where this TikTok thing takes him.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS")

FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) Oh, you'll know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.