Chewy Stuff From June 1969

Sometimes, while digging through my reference books or the data in my computer’s files, I come upon a reference to a record that is too great, too ambitious, too weird or just too silly to be ignored. I was doing some of that digging yesterday, thinking that I should do a post today based on the Billboard Hot 100 from June 21, 1969 – forty-three years ago today – when a record title caught my eye: “Capt. Groovy And His Bubblegum Army.”

The record – credited to Capt. Groovy And His Bubblegum Army and released on the Super K label – was sitting at No. 128 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart, having moved up three spots during the last week. A quick check in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles told me that those two weeks were the record’s only weeks on the chart.

It also told me that the record was the work of producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, and that the lead singers on the record were Joey Levine and Bobby Bloom. Bloom would have a No. 8 hit with “Montego Bay” in 1970 and have a few more records hang around the lower levels of the chart through 1973. It’s the other three names, however, that are bubblegum gold.

Kasenetz and Katz were producers for numerous bubblegum groups. Actually, it’s much more accurate to say that they were producers who recorded numerous records with pretty much the same batch of musicians and then sent those records out into radioland under the names of many different groups. I don’t know that I have them all, but among those groups were the 1910 Fruitgum Company (eight records in or near the Hot 100), Ohio Express (10 records), Crazy Elephant (three records) and the Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus (three records). There were probably more that I couldn’t find this morning. (All Music Guide notes that the producing duo’s first hit record was the Music Explosion’s “Little Bit of Soul,” which went to No. 2 in 1967. After that, they moved to Neil Bogart’s Buddah label and a bubblegum empire was born.)

Joey Levine shows up on many of those chewy records as well, often as lead singer but sometimes doing background vocals, depending on the “group” that Kasenetz and Katz were recording. (As an example, Robert Spencer, who had been a member of the doo-wop group the Cadillacs in the late 1950s, was the lead singer for Crazy Elephant, whose records were released on the Bell label.) Even after the late-1960s bubblegum era lost most of its flavor, Levine kept busy. According to Wikipedia, he became a successful writer and singer of advertising jingles, and he showed up in the charts at least once more: He was the nimble-mouthed lead singer for Reunion on “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me),” which went to No. 8 in 1974.

As to “Capt. Groovy And His Bubblegum Army” itself, Steve Engler at the blog Eclectic Synthetic wrote in 2007 that the record was “intended to be the theme song for an animated TV series which never happened.”

All of that is probably more of a wrapper than anyone needs for a piece of 1969 bubblegum, but when you come across a title like “Capt. Groovy And His Bubblegum Army,” you have to blow the bubbles. So here’s the record. Keep your ears open for the obvious lyrical and less obvious musical echoes of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.”

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3 Responses to “Chewy Stuff From June 1969”

  1. Alex says:

    Not quite sure why… but I completely love this.

  2. porky says:

    I love bubblegum. At the time it was specifically aimed at my age group; if I were fourteen instead of nine it would have been Hendrix, Cream, Doors etc instead of this stuff.

    I recommend Kim Cooper’s book “Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth.” More info than most will want and veers off topic now and then but some great interviews and essays.

  3. Yah Shure says:

    Thanks for posting this one; hadn’t heard it before. It took me a day to come up with the song whose verses share a similar minor-key progression with the hook from “Captain Groovy”:

    “1984” by Spirit.

    Since “Groovy” came first, I’m not sure whether its esteem has risen or if Spirit’s reputation suddenly needs a Tarn-X bath.

    I was into Cream, the Doors and Joe Byrd’s The United States Of America in 1968 when bubblegum hit it big, but enjoyed much of the Buddah roster just as much. The more psych-flavored Buddah/Team bubblestuff was a bit more appealing to this then-high schooler, but in 2012, I’d much rather hear even “Chewy, Chewy” than “The End.”

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