The Kama Sutra/Buddah Records Story
By Bob Hyde
Last update: April 11, 2000

This story is copyright © 1993 by Bob Hyde, and is used by permission of the author.

GOOD TIME MUSIC: The Early Days of Kama Sutra

Charting the history of any record label -- much less two or three -- is a precarious occupation at best. A hit record makes ordinary people heroes while a stiff causes the arrow of blame to spin madly, looking for a suitable target. Some success in the music business comes from sheer luck; some is the result of hard, diligent work, and some comes from what can only be described as a "genius" for the medium.

If any one man in the 1950s embodied those three principles, it would have to be George Goldner, entrepreneur extraordinaire and owner of countless small (and medium-sized) record labels from 1948 to 1966. Goldner's 10th Avenue one-man operation carried his enterprise into the mid-1950s, when a plethora of hit artists like Frankie Lymon, The Chantels, The Flamingos and Little Anthony & The Imperials made it impossible to carry on alone. Songwriter/singer/producer Richard Barrett came on board in 1955 as his right-hand studio man and talent scout, and one Arthur "Artie" Ripp became his go-for.

Under Goldner, Ripp received a street education in the record business equal to none, and it's not surprising that by the time Goldner had sold out most of his enterprises to Roulette's Morris Levy, Ripp was on his own as an independent producer. And it was Ripp -- along with partners Hy Mizrahi and Phil Steinberg -- who set up Kama Sutra Productions in 1964. With a stable of songwriters and producers, Kama Sutra Productions hit immediately and often, producing hits for the Critters, Shangri-Las and numerous other acts in 1964-65.

At this point, the production company was not, in itself, a label; that would follow sometime in the summer of 1965, when Ripp and company was joined by Art Kass, an accountant who had formerly worked for MGM Records. The four of them established the Kama Sutra label and immediately signed a distribution agreement with MGM, at the time a major label.

With Ripp as musical director, Kama Sutra hit the national pop charts with its first two releases: "You're My Baby," a neo-doo wop number by a vocal group called the Vacels that topped out at #63 that summer, and "Do You Believe in Magic," the extraordinary first single release by John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful. The Spoonful were not signed directly to Kama Sutra; instead, the group was handled by Koppelman-Rubin, a production company who in turn signed with Ripp in what would be the first of a number of such production deals for the label(s). However good the Vacels might have been - they recorded the first version, for instance, of Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" before he did and their two singles on Kama Sutra were quite decent - it would be the Spoonful who single-handedly carried the Kama Sutra label for its first year of operation.

"Magic" was just that - a magically upbeat, bouncy and soulful number that spoke of the appeal of rock'n'roll as few other songs could. With their long (by 1965 standards) hair and non-corporate attire, not to mention the physical charisma of each of the group members (John Sebastian, Zalman Yanovsky, Steve Boone and Joe Butler), the Spoonful immediately became one of the darlings of the American rock scene that quickly developed in response to the British Invasion of 1964-65. Along with the Byrds, Turtles and Beau Brummels (not to mention, on occasion, Sonny & Cher), the Spoonful symbolized a form of music generally called 'folk rock," although Kama Sutra promoted them as makers of "good time music" and their typical outfits, wide-striped sweatshirts, further advertised their "fun" image. Their roots certainly lent credibility to the folk portion of the folk-rock moniker; leader John Sebastian had already recorded background guitar, harmonica and vocals for a number of acts on the mostly folk-music Elektra label including a stint with the Even Dozen Jug Band, while Yanovsky was coming from stints with the Halifax Three and the Mugwumps.

The Spoonful, named after a phrase in bluesman Mississippi John Hurt's song "Coffee Blues," were just one of the musical offspring that came from a number of musicians that hung out with Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas in the Greenwich Village (New York) of the early '60s. Sebastian and Yanovsky met at one of her parties in 1964 and began formulating the idea for the Spoonful right from the start. The Mugwumps and Mamas And Papas would emerge from that eclectic group of musicians in the coming years as well, permanently chronicled in the Mamas and Papas' hit "Creeque Alley." In early 1965, Sebastian and Yanovsky met producer Erik Jacobsen at Elektra Records and recorded three sides for the label in exchange for equipment money; the cuts would later appear on the What's Shaking' soundtrack LP. Jacobsen then went shopping and signed the group to the new Kama Sutra label.

Kama Sutra barely released anything other than Lovin' Spoonful singles from mid-'65 until the Fall of 1966. "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice" followed "Do You Believe In Magic" up the charts, and the group followed thereafter with a string of classic hits: "Daydream," which hit #2 on the national charts, "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind," another #2 smash, and "Summer In The City," the group's (and label's) first #1 single. The label also enjoyed nice sales from three Spoonful albums in that time, including the classic Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful. It's quite likely that most record buyers would never have heard of the Kama Sutra label had they not seen the Spoonful records prominently displayed in their record stores!

With some money in its coffers, the label was ready to expand its roster by the turn of 1966. Artie Ripp approached a pair of Rhode Island songwriters, Pete (Andreoli) Anders and Vincent (Vinnie) Poncia, who had previously scored a small hit (#73) of their own as the Videls ("Mr. Lonely," JDS 1960) and had done instrumental and vocal arranging and songwriting with Phil Spector on some of the Ronettes hits in 1963-64. The pair were working for Lieber & Stoller's Red Bird Records when Ripp approached them, and had just scored a big national hit under the name of the Trade Winds with the unlikely surf ditty "New York's A Lonely Town." Wooed by Ripp's offer of more money and more production work, the duo joined Kama Sutra and started producing a series of recordings that would be issued under a variety of group names. Ripp introduced them to Don Ciccone, the lead singer for the Critters ("Mr. Dieingly Sad") and a songwriter for Kama Sutra, and Ciccone gave the boys the song "Mind Excursion." Issued as by the Trade Winds, the song eventually hit #51 nationally. Ciccone then came up with another hit for the duo -- "There's Got To Be A Word" -- that eventually broke the national Top 40 in the fall of 1966 under another nom-de-disque, The Innocence. Although it was just Anders & Poncia again in the studio, they added Artie Ripp for personal appearances and LP covers.

Kama Sutra issued both an Innocence LP and a Trade Winds LP, and a number of singles by both "groups" followed, without success. "Mairzy Doats," the World War II chestnut, would be their last appearance on the charts, hitting #75 under the name the Innocence. Finally, after a superb solo single on Buddah by Pete Anders ("Sunrise Highway") flopped, the duo left to form their own label, Map City, in 1969.

That fall (1966), Kama Sutra found itself with another national hit - "Hello, Hello" by the San Francisco group Sopwith Camel. Named after a World War I fighter plane, the group was one of the first Bay Area bands to sign with a national label, and like the Spoonful had a folksy, throwback kind of sound. The Camel would follow up with "Postcard from Jamaica," which scraped the bottom of the charts, and an LP before dissipating. The Spoonful continued to contribute more than their share of hits at this time, with "Rain On The Roof" peaking at #10, and "Nashville Cats," a tribute to the rockabilly sound of legendary Sun Records, a #8 chart item. With three groups on the singles chart and a best-selling (Hums ...) album as well, Kama Sutra entered 1967 in good shape.

THE LATE '60s: Buddah, Bogart And Bubblegum

The record charts may have given the illusion that all was fine at Kama Sutra in early 1967, but disenchantment with the MGM distribution pact was about to bring forth another Art Kass-led venture that summer ... Buddah Records.

Contractually obligated to continue producing acts for Kama Sutra/MGM, Kass decided to form his new label as an outlet for new artists that wouldn't fall under the Kama Sutra agreement. Kama Sutra would continue to release Lovin' Spoonful records (their "Six O'Clock" single that Spring would be their last Top 20 hit), and a few oddball releases by Vince Edwards (TV's "Ben Casey"), Erik & The Smoke Ponies and soul singers Bobby Bloom and Billy Harner (who scored a small hit I with "Sally's Sayin' Somethin"' that July), but their attention would be paid primarily to the new Buddah venture. The very first Buddah single - "Yes, We Have No Bananas" by the Mulberry Fruit, was a studio collaboration/joke between Anders & Poncia and film producer Richard Perry.

Kass went one step further in establishing his new label - he brought in record executive Neil Bogart, whom he had met at MGM when Bogart spent a brief spell there in the early '60s as General Manager. If you had to describe Neil Bogart's career in two words, "bubblegum" and "Casablanca" would be your choice (although the two words hardly do the record magnate justice). Bogart's introduction to the industry had come as a recording artist when, billed as Neil Scott, he had a mild hit (#58) with a song called "Bobby" on the Portrait label in 1961. Bogart (originally Bogatz, and from where else but Brooklyn) left the performing side of music soon after and began working for Cashbox; from there, he jumped to MGM as a promotion man and eventually ended up at Cameo-Parkway as VP and Sales Manager. After Allen Klein acquired Cameo-Parkway in early '67, Bogart became disenchanted and jumped at Kass' offer at Buddah. The hustling Mr. Bogart also brought with him one of his former label's best acts, a black family group called the Stairsteps.

Once at Buddah, Bogart hooked up with another 2-man production team: the so-called "Super K" guys, Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz. Bogart had met the two when they did production work for Cameo-Parkway, bringing that label one of their last hits, "Beg, Borrow And Steal" - a note-for-note theft of "Louie Louie" - by a midwest garage band originally called the Rare Breed but renamed the Ohio Express on Cameo. After a few follow-ups failed, Kasenetz and Katz recruited some studio musicians to form a new Ohio Express, led by the nasal-voiced Joey Levine. With this crew, the K&K boys began crafting a series of incredibly simple yet dynamic pop recordings that would soon be dubbed "bubblegum music" in reference to its obvious appeal to pre- and early teens ... as opposed to much of the more experimental rock that was flooding the FM airwaves by groups like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Bogart, who would garner the cover of Time Magazine the next year for launching the bubblegum program, said at the time: Bubblegum music is pure entertainment. It's about sunshine and going places and falling in love and dancing for the fun of it. It's not about war and poverty and disease and rioting, and frustration and making money and lying and all the things that 'really' matter. It's not about these things and that is why it is so popular. It's about the good things in life... that sometimes (you) lose sight of ... but can find again.

Tommy James & The Shondells, among others, had already offered a lighter side of garage band rock with the child-like "Hanky Panky" in 1966, and Kasenetz and Katz would also score in mid-'67 with the Music Explosion's "Little Bit Of Soul" for Laurie Records before joining Bogart at Buddah. The first Buddah release to signal the oncoming "soft rock" explosion was the 1910 Fruitgum Company's "Simon Says," another nursery rhyme outfitted with garage band musical sensibilities. The Fruitgum Company (Chuck Travis, lead guitar and vocals, Mark Gutkowski, rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals, Larry Ripley, bass, horn and vocals, Bruce Shay, percussion and vocals, and Rusty Oppenheimer, who replaced Floyd Marcus, on drums and vocals) were originally called Jekyll and the Hydes until K&K took over the group's direction. The producers had already recorded some other groups on "Simon Says" without success, and when Jekyll & The Hydes came into the studio, things didn't promise much better - the group was more in a mood to play like Procol Harum then a bubblegum outfit. Eventually, after some playing around in the studio, the group settled on a "Wooly Bully" rhythm and recorded the song successfully, well enough to reach #4 on the national charts.

Buddah's first #1 single also reached the public that fall - the Lemon Piper's "Green Tambourine." Unlike the Fruitgum Company or Ohio Express, the Lemon Pipers (Ivan Browne, lead vocalist, Bill Bartlett, lead guitar, Steve Walmsley, bass, R.G. Nave, keyboards and Bill Albaugh, drums), another mid-western (Ohio) band, were a real, self-contained recording and performing group who were more into psychedelic lyrics and arrangements than they were "bubblegum" ... but because they appeared on Buddah, the group would be lumped into the bubblegum category anyway (and it probably didn't help that their follow-up singles were titled "Rice Is Nice" and "Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade)"). "Rice" ... hit #46 and "Jelly " peaked at #51, but after that the group left the label and disbanded. Guitarist Bartlett would later record again for Buddah in 1973 as part of the group August, and even later re-teamed with Kasenetz and Katz as a member of the group Ram Jam, whose "BIack Betty" was a Top 40 funk hit in 1977.

As Buddah began enjoying their first hits, The Lovin' Spoonful, Kama Sutra's primary group, was in the midst of a personnel change that would eventually scuttle the group. Zal Yanovsky, perhaps the group's strongest visual focal point as well as their lead guitarist, became involved in a drug bust that would have repercussions beyond the norm, and soon Zally would be recording for Buddah as a solo act. Spoonful leader John Sebastian stayed for one more album (Everything Playing), with ex-Modern Folk Quartet member Jerry Yester replacing Yanovsky in the group, but that would be the last "real" Spoonful album recorded. Sebastian left the group himself to go solo, and the Spoonful, now led by drummer Joe Butler, would dissipate shortly thereafter.

It must have been quite busy in the Buddah offices that Fall of 1967; in addition to chart items by the Fruitgum Company, Lemon Pipers and Lovin' Spoonful, the label also enjoyed minor successes with Bogart's acquisition from Cameo, the Stairsteps, now billed as The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie. "Something's Missing," their first chart item, reached #17 on the R&B charts and scraped the bottom of the pop charts as well, giving Buddah their first "black" hit. Soul singer Timothy Wilson also had a minor R&B chart hit with "Baby Baby Please," and the label issued first efforts by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, the Rhodes Scholars, Le Cirque, the Baskerville Hounds and the Second Story. Beefheart, known on his birth certificate as Don Van Vliet, was an early crony of Frank Zappa and would go on to be a cult figure to some progressive rock aficionados. After a couple of "normal" singles on A&M, he saw one classic LP released on Buddah (Safe As Milk, with future star guitarist Ry Cooder contributing) in 1967 and another (Mirror Man), recorded just after Safe ... but rejected at the time, released in 1969 after his Trout Mask Replica album on Straight Records established him with the rock crowd.

As a tumultuous 1968 began, Bogart's bubblegum campaign took a small breather at least as far as the public knew. That winter, the Stairsteps Our Family Portrait LP recorded decent sales, and their rendition of the Jimmy Charles oldie "A Million To One" scored another R&B hit for the label. Buddah's bubblegum releases, though numerous, failed to hit; Bogart released studio concoctions by groups called the Frosted Flakes, Chicago Prohibition 1931 and the Carnaby Street Runners to no avail, and subsequent releases by Salt Water Taffy., Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box, the Cowboys 'N' Indians and J.C.W. Ratfinks that spring also failed to make much of a chart impression. But one release that spring would really put Buddah on the map. It's doubtful that anyone listening to the radio in the early summer of 1968 could have avoided hearing these memorable words: "Yummy yummy yummy, I've got love in my tummy and I fee! like a-Iovin' you."

Coupled with a thumping guitar opening (that the Cars would lift note-for-note on their first big hit, "Just What I Needed," ten years later), a basic, uncomplicated garage band rhythm and Joey Levine's unmistakable vocals, "Yummy Yummy Yummy" would solidify what would become the bubblegum musical formula. Add nursery-rhyme-like lyrics filled with slightly naughty double-entendres, and an occasional (and unmistakable) Farfisa organ riff, and you've got one of the classic production formulas of all time. The group, K&K's second incarnation of the Ohio Express -- Levine (lead singer), Dale Powers (lead guitar), Doug Grassel (rhythm guitar), Dean Kastran (bass). Jim Pflayer (keyboards) and Tim Corwin (drums) -- would become, with the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the main representatives of bubblegum music in the public eye, scoring with equally lightweight follow-ups "Chewy Chewy," "Down at Lulu's," "Mercy" and "Sweeter Than Sugar." The group had begun as the Rare Breed and had recorded the first version of Every Mother's Son's hit "Come On Down To My Boat," and in later years (1969-70), after Levine stepped aside as lead vocalist, would feature both Graham Gouldman (later of 10 c.c.) and John Carter and Ken Lewis, members of the British group The Ivy League (another Cameo artist!). Levine would reappear in 1974 fronting the group Reunion, who had a hit that year with "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)."

Just weeks after "Yummy Yummy Yummy" hit, Anders & Poncia and some of the guys from the Trade Winds road group backed 1910 Fruitgum Company vocalist Mark Gutkowski on that group's biggest hit, the moronically simple "1,2,3 Red Light." 12-year-olds were in ecstasy everywhere, and the song rocketed to the #5 position on the national charts (with "Yummy ..." at #4!). A month later (July 1968), the Ohio Express came back with yet another hit, "Down at Lulu's," and things were just fine at Buddah despite the relative dormancy of the Kama Sutra label, which would issue sporadic releases by the revamped Spoonful as well as efforts by obscure groups like the Road, Outrage and the Pendulum. At Buddah, white blues singer/harpist Barry Goldberg managed to sell a few copies of his "Hole In The Pockets" single, and another new group, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, recorded their first effort as well.

Meanwhile, Kasenetz and Katz formed their own label, Team, and recruited one of their studio singers, Jim Sohns, for the lone hit on that label. Sohns had been the leader of the legendary Chicago punk group the Shadows of Knight, who had scored a major hit in 1966 with their version of Van Morrison's "Gloria" on the Dunwich label. After a follow-up hit ("Oh Yeah"), Sohns fired the original group, left Dunwich (which would close down shortly thereafter) and went to work with Kasentz and Katz, contributing background vocals on most of the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company singles.

In the fall of '68, using the name Shadows of Knight, Sohns recorded "Shake" and saw it just slip into the Top 50 nationally. Not ones to sit on their hands, Katz and Kasenetz also assembled a ridiculously large aggregation (46 members) consisting of the Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Music Explosion, the St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, the Teri Nelson Group, J.C.W. Ratfinks and more, and billed them as the Kasenetez-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus. A first release that summer, "Down In Tennessee," had failed to make the top 100 (#124) but their next creation, "Quick Joey Small (Run, Joey Run)," actually rose to #25 on the pop charts. Simultaneously, the Ohio Express were breaking the Top 20 with "Chewy Chewy" and the Fruitgum Company broke Top 40 with "Goody Goody Gumdrops." Kasenetz and Katz would found the Super K label the next year and resurrect their super studio group concept with an outfit called Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army.

By the fall of 1968, Buddah was booming and the number of single (and album) releases doubled from prior times. One single, perhaps an anthem for the entire bubblegum program, featured what must be the longest artist name in pop history "Bubble Gum Music" by the Rock And Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Company Of Philadelphia 19141 (the zip code was a nice touch). Somehow, in spite of the ridiculous name, it reached #74 on the pop charts. Of more importance, though, was the first - and biggest - hit by an 11-member vocal group/rock band called the Brooklyn Bridge. Lead singer Johnny Maestro had already tasted pop fame as lead singer of the venerable doo wop group The Crests, whose "16 Candles," "The Angels Listened In," "Trouble In Paradise" and more had all been large hits in the late '50s and early '60s. Maestro put together a credible rock band (The Rhythm Method) with another vocal group from former days, The Del Satins (who had backed Dion on most of his solo hits), and reached the pop charts again with a #3 smash, "The Worst That Could Happen." An incredibly popular group that still performs successfully today, the Bridge would follow up with a number of minor pop hits and the "in" joke at Buddah was that Neil Bogart was such a fine salesman that he could even sell the Brooklyn Bridge!

Another former solo hitmaker, Lou Christie, also cut his first sides for Buddah at this time. For some reason, Buddah became a repository for ex-teen idols in the early '70s, cutting records by Paul Anka, Johnny Tillotson, James Darren, Freddy Cannon, Len Barry, Teddy Randazzo, Trade Martin, Gene Vincent, Chubby Checker and Bill Haley. Most flopped, of course, but Checker did make the charts (barely) with a remake of the Beatles' "Back In The U.S.S.R," and Anka and Tillotson would also reach the outer limits of the Top 100 as well.


As '68 turned into '69, bubblegum music began losing steam. The 1910 Fruitgum Company scored the last big hit of the genre, "Indian Giver," with new personnel, but further releases by the Ohio Express and the ubiquitous Kasenetez-Katz team failed to generate new hits. Bogart capped the phenomenon with a multiple-artist anthology of the genre, the album Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, bearing, or baring as it were, a memorable front cover in which a cute photo of some little babies form the core of the design. The label would also enjoy an unusual two-sided hit by the Brooklyn Bridge ("Blessed Is The Rain" b/w "Welcome Me Love"), although neither side cracked the Top 40.

That spring, the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company enjoyed their last Top 40 hits ("Mercy" and "Special Delivery," respectively) but the big news at Buddah came from another distribution arrangement, this time with an out-of-left-field gospel hit from a previously unknown choral group. Talk about a home-grown hit ... "Oh Happy Day" was originally recorded and released privately, the effort of a group of singers called the North California State Youth Choir. The recording was made to be sold at concerts by the group, but a bright disc jockey in California heard it and started programming it as a lark. Other stations picked up on it, and soon the group would see itself called the Edwin Hawkins Singers and the song marketed nationally by Buddah under their subsidiary label, Pavilion. The "private" recording climbed all the way to #4 nationally, earned a Grammy as best soul-gospel performance of the year and paved the way for the best-selling album Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord - quite a step from either bubblegum or psychedelia. It also signaled a change in musical direction at the company, as Buddah would make its name the following decade, to a great extent, with gospel-influenced music by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Melanie, and the Stairsteps.

When Lou (Lugee Sacco) Christie came to Buddah in 1969, he had just finished recording a parcel of songs for Columbia that, in retrospect, are often thought of as his finest material ... although none of them sold particularly well. "The Master of Power Falsetto," Christie had already tasted chart success on a number of labels, beginning with Co&Ce ("The Gypsy Cried"), and continuing with hits for Roulette ("Two Faces Have I," "How Many Teardrops"), Colpix ("Big Time"), and MGM ("Lightning Strikes," "Rhapsody In The Rain"). At Buddah, where he often utilized backing vocals by former hitmaker Linda Scott, Christie gave the Tony Romeo-penned "I'm Gonna You Mine" a bubblegum flavor and hit the Top 10 with it nationally, his last hit of that magnitude.

And there was more; Buddah's release volume jumped a quantum level at this point in time, aided to some extent by a new label formed by Kasenetz and Katz and distributed by Buddah, Super K. The label would never release a Top 100 single, but did make it's contribution (?) to the bubblegum parade with a K&K release, "Bubblegum Music," billed as Captain Groovy & His Bubblegum Army.

There must have been a sense of silliness at the company at this time, for besides all the bubblegum releases, the company scored as well with a novelty called "Moonflight" by a character named Vik Venus. Venus was actually WMCA (New York City) disc jockey Jack Spector, who narrated the cut-in record that featured excerpts from most of Buddah's bubblegum hits. The concept had worked in 1956 with Buchanan & Goodman ("The Flying Saucer") and in 1960 ("The Touchables") by Goodman alone; in 1969, the novelty treatment by Spector and the gang garnered Buddah a Top 40 hit.

As rock and proto-heavy metal began to dominate AM and FM radio, the summer and fall of 1969 were relatively quiet for Buddah. Motherlode, a 4-man "bar band" from Canada, scored a Top 20 hit in September with "When I Die," originally recorded for and released on the local (Canadian) Revolution label and purchased (after one hearing, according to legend) by Bogart, but none of the other dozen or so single releases from that time made any noise. One area in which the company had some unexpected success was the LP market. The first album by the 1950s revival group Sha Na Na saw the light of day, the start of a long (by musical standards) and successful career; and a "soundtrack" of the New York Mets sublimely ridiculous World Series win that year, released just weeks after the victory in early October, also made the national LP charts.

Sha Na Na's initial success was certainly due, in part, to Bogart's energetic promotion of the group long before their first record release. Perhaps the first 1950s "revival" group, formed at a time when the current music scene was producing enough excitement to nearly erase any memory of that prior decade, the 10-man group took their name from the vocal intro of the Silhouettes' 1956 hit "Get A Job."

Sha Na Na specialized in revitalizing classic '50s oldies with a little attitude and a lot of stage savvy thrown in, giving a theatrical performance costumed as an old teenage street gang. Bogart made sure that the Columbia University group had a number of well publicized live appearances before their records were heard, and they drew quite a bit of attention at both "The Scene" in New York City and the Fillmore West in California. They even appeared on the Merv Griffin TV Show, and made a short but lasting impression from their appearance at Woodstock. Bogart would later claim to have created the '50s revival in the '70s, an expansive view of reality to say the least, but his efforts netted the company a number of decent selling LPs by the group, who themselves would eventually garner their own TV show in the middle of the decade.

Kama Sutra was re-energized with a new numbering system (the 500 series) in January of 1970; their first release in that series yielded a big #2 hit with the fuzz guitar-drenched "The Rapper" for the Pittsburgh group The Jaggerz, a rock group featuring future solo hit-maker Donnie (Ierace) Iris. Discovered in a saloon by Joe Rock, the manager of the doo wop group The Skyliners, the group had already recorded an (unsuccessful) album produced by studio legends Gamble and Huff before coming on board with Kama Sutra.

Two more artists with prior chart experience for other labels scored minor hits for Buddah that winter. The Tokens, who had charted a number of times since 1961, most prominently with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and the Syndicate Of Sound, whose "Little Girl" had been a hit in 1966, hit the Top 100 with "Don't Worry Baby" and "Brown Paper Bag" respectively. And from the doo wop era came releases by the legendary Spaniels and one Arthur Lee Maye, a professional baseball player who had fronted a number of vocal groups (most notably, The Crowns) in the mid-'50s. Buddah would later release efforts by two other classic doo wop artists, the Paragons and the Five Satins with Fred Parris, lead singer and writer of "In The Still Of The Night," one of the two or three most popular oldies of all time.

The Spring of 1970 brought Top 10 hits from two artists who would enjoy nice runs with the label: Melanie, whose "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)," featuring the prominent background vocals of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, went as far as #6; and The Stairsteps, whose classic, soulfuI, "Ooh Child" crossed over and scored well on both pop and R&B charts.

Melanie Safka's story is, partly, one of an artist whose change in musical direction undercut her initial accomplishments - at least as far as the hip rock press was concerned. After a couple of forgotten releases on Columbia in the late '60s, Melanie joined Buddah and became another project of Neil Bogart. Possessing an unusual (and powerful) voice, Melanie had tried a number of styles by 1970 and had started to get some notice with her own composition, "Beautiful People." Inspired by her experience at Woodstock, where she had appeared as one of the new artists-on-the-horizon, she went for the brass ring, enlisting the Edwin Hawkins Singers who were coming off the success of "Oh Happy Day," and, in an 8-minute marathon that was eventually edited, recorded her breakthrough single "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)." Her album of the same name yielded a number of fine songs, of which "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" would be recorded successfully by the New Seekers. An intense rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and another "flower child" song (as Bogart would have had it), "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" followed "Lay Down ...," and Melanie was established as a rare-for-the-time female folk/rock artist.

Her last album for Buddah produced a minor hit single that deviated from her previous, spiritually-influenced efforts, "The Nickel Song." Thereafter, she and her husband formed their own label, Neighborhood, and their first effort - Melanie's biggest hit - was the child-like "Brand New Key." Kaboom! Any credibility the artist had gained with the music press of the time from her five fine albums on Buddah went down the drain with this release, and, ironically, she would find herself considered a "bubblegum act" seven years after the fact. Bogart, ever the promoter, released an LP collection of previously unissued Melanie songs complete with scratch-and-sniff sticker after she left the label!

The (Five) Stairsteps, the Chicago family of Clarence, James, Aloha, Kenneth and Dennis Burke, were produced by soul giant Curtis Mayfield, and had spent the previous year recording for his Curtom label with another family member, 5-year old Cubie Burke (Mama Burke sang with the group on occasion as well). The group, whom Neil Bogart had brought with him from his Cameo-Parkway days (they recorded then on the subsidiary Windy C label, owned by Mayfield), appeared on Buddah from 1967-68, jumped to Curtom (which would be distributed by Buddah) for a year and then returned to Buddah proper for "Ooh Child," sans Cubie. The recording would be one of the first for the self-contained group not produced by Mayfield; veteran producer Stan Vincent, who wrote the song, had been brought in when Mayfield became involved with his many other projects.

Those two hits were just about it for Buddah for the rest of the year, as follow-ups by their established acts (Christie, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Jaggerz and even Melanie) failed to spark any excitement on the charts. More artists from the past attempted comebacks on Buddah, including the Chiffons, Bill Haley & The Comets, and one-shot wonder Fantastic Johnny C, all to little or no avail.

THE EARLY '70s: The First Dry Spell

By 1971, progressive (album) rock had all but taken over the pop charts, both single and LP, and AM radio was becoming a bit of a "Twilight Zone" in terms of programming. With little to offer in the rock area, Buddah and Kama Sutra would weather a bit of a hit drought for the next two years. Early 1970 did yield a couple of one-shot hits for the label, both of a somewhat religious bent. Brewer & Shipley (Mike and Tom, respectively), a Los Angeles country-folk-rock duet, made the Top 10 with their semi-controversial "One Toke Over The Line (Sweet Jesus)," probably the first AM hit to directly reference the killer weed. The recording quietly boasted the steel guitar talents of Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia. At the same time, another Canadian group, Ocean (led by vocalist Janice Morgan), scored with the quasi-religious, quasi-hippy "Put Your Hand In The Hand." The song was written by Gene MacLellan, who also wrote Anne Murray's later smash "Snowbird."

One other single of note came from Buddah early in '71, a 2-sided gem ("Two By Two" b/w "Love Songs In The Night") by Steve Martin, the original lead singer of the Left Banke ("Walk Away Renee," "Pretty Ballerina"). Although billed as a solo effort, it featured three of the four other members of the Left Banke (including leader/songwriter Michael Brown, who would bring Kama Sutra some success a couple of years later with his group Stories), and has been referred to critically as the ultimate Left Banke single. It eventually wound up on one of Kama Sutra's stranger LP releases, the soundtrack to Andy Warhol's "Hot Parts" film.

The summer of 1971 produced the first release by future cult retro-group the Flamin' Groovies, while journeyman folk artist Steve Goodman would write and record his most well-known song, "The City Of New Orleans." '60s folkie Arlo Guthrie would have a Top 20 hit with it the next year, while Goodman's original only got as far as the infamous "Bubbling Under The Top 100" Chart. Sha Na Na cracked that Top 100 list with "Top 40 Of The Lord," continuing Buddah's quasi-religious campaign, and country rebel artist Charlie Daniels saw his first release on Kama Sutra. The only "hit" the labels would enjoy throughout the rest of the year again came from an oddball LP release ... comedian/impressionist David Frye's satirical album Richard Nixon: Superstar. The album generated a ton of publicity and for awhile, Frye, whose caricaturist impression of the former president was devastating, seemed to be on every TV show broadcast after 6 PM! Two years later, he would again score (though not quite as well) with Richard Nixon: A Fantasy.

1972 saw the emergence of a number of interesting groups, though none would score big hits that year. Ex-Left Banke leader Michael Brown formed a new group, Stories, who contributed a minor hit with "I'm Comin' Home" and a respectable first LP. Another cult retro group, Al Anderson's NRBQ (the New Rhythm'N'Blues Quartet) began recording for Buddah after an acclaimed but unprofitable run with Columbia, and future disco king Van McCoy saw some 1971 recordings issued on singles and an obscure LP. The McCoy recordings would be repackaged on Buddah a few years later after he helped inaugurate the disco movement with "The Hustle" on another label, marketed as a disco album ("From Disco With Love") despite the fact that the recordings were not "disco" cuts per se.

Another artist who would be heard from prominently in the disco era, The Trammps, appeared on Buddah in '72 and hit the R&B Top 20 with a remake of the Coasters' remake of the pop evergreen "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart." Years later, engineer Tom Moulton would talk Art Kass into releasing the early Trammps recordings on an album entitled The Legendary Zing Album, implying that it reissued a rare former pressing, which of course it didn't. The Trammps would also earn a tiny hit with another remake later that year, the Dominoes' classic "Sixty Minute Man." The rest of '72 would only yield one Top 40 hit, veteran soul singer Barbara Mason's "Give Me Your Love."

If Buddah and Kama Sutra were experiencing a dry run with their own releases, at least they were able to connect with their distribution deals. Arrangements with Hot Wax (The Honey Cone, etc.), Sussex (Bill Withers) and Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label (Mayfield, the Staple Singers, the Stairsteps) supplied more than their share of pop and R&B hits in the early '70s for Buddah, culminating, perhaps, with Mayfield's own mega-hits "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly."

Mayfield's name may best be known for these two big funk hits, but his star first rose as one of the leaders of the legendary vocal group The Impressions, who also recorded for Curtom, and who originally featured soul star Jerry Butler as lead singer in the late '50s. A renaissance man in the true sense - he was, simultaneously, a singer, guitar player, songwriter, talent scout, producer and label owner/executive - Mayfield was one of the participants in the birth of "soul music" in 1958 and enjoyed similar success in the '60s with hits like "People Get Ready," "Gypsy Woman" and "It's All Right." Mayfield also worked with Butler on a number of his hits (he sang harmony on "He Will Break Your Heart," for instance) and with Gene Chandler on Constellation, and wrote Major Lance's big hit "The Monkey Time" (with the Impressions singing background!).

While at ABC Records (with the Impressions), Mayfield established his own label, Curtom; when the ABC deal expired, he took the label first to Cameo/Parkway and then, following Neil Bogart's move, to Buddah for distribution. Of Bogart, Mayfield has said:

"He was a man to be respected in the business. I can recall the first time with Neil, even before Buddah. He came to me, we sat down in a restaurant. He was totally broke. He was asking me questions, how to bring himself about, how to find himself. The next year or so he was a millionaire."

The early '70s saw a new form of film entertainment, popularly called "BIaxploitation Films," that first saw success with Richard Roundtree's performance as super cop/stud John Shaft. "Superfly," released in 1972, was one of the biggest of the genre and provided both Top 10 hits "Superfly" and "Freddie's Dead." The script had been brought to Mayfield by the writer in 1971 at Lincoln Center, where he was performing at the time. "I read the script that night. The next two or three days I was at home, writing Superfly." "Freddie's Dead," the first single from the LP, was also one of the first anti-drug songs to score on AM radio, coming at a time when many white rock groups were extolling the virtues of the practice. Mayfield later arranged the soundtrack for other films, including A Piece Of The Action and Claudine, which featured the title hit by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

The Detroit-based Hot Wax/lnvictus operation had been formed in 1969 by former Motown songwriter/producers Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, all of whom had played a major role in the success of the Four Tops and Supremes among other Motown acts. The first act they signed for their new Hot Wax label was The Honey Cone, a trio of young background singers like the Blossoms who came in with prior singing credentials. Carolyn Willis had been one of the Girlfriends, who cut an awesome Spector-like single for Colpix in 1964, "My One And Only Jimmy Boy." Edna Wright, Spector vocalist Darlene Love's sister, had been a Raelette backing Ray Charles and had sung with Darlene Love as a member of the Blossoms, the quintessential studio girl group. Shellie Clark had been an Ikette (who hadn't?), and had backed up everyone from Little Richard to Jim Nabors! Together with "General" Norman Johnson (who not only wrote and produced for the Honey Cone but scored his own hits as well as lead singer of the Chairmen Of The Board on Invictus), they got the Hot Wax label off to a rousing start, scoring a trio of R&B hits before breaking pop in 1971 with a another trio of Top 20 pop hits. "Want Ads" hit #1 in both markets; "Stick-Up," their Summer '71 release, was another #1 R&B charter, and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," an old blues standard, also reached best-seller status. The Honey Cone were among the first female artists to adopt an aggressive, liberated stance on record, and their message played well with the record-buying public of the early '70s.

It's not a surprise, perhaps, that H-D-H would recruit Joe Stubbs, brother of the Four Tops' lead singer Levi Stubbs and lead vocalist on the 1959 Falcons hit "You're So Fine," to join another Detroit vocal group, the unusually-named 100 Proof Aged In Soul, for their Hot Wax enterprise. Stubbs, along with Clyde Wilson (who, as Steve Mancha had scored a couple of minor R&B hits in the mid-'60s) and Eddie Anderson would give the label a Top 10 Pop and R&B hit with their rocking, nursery-rhyme-based "Somebody's Been Sleeping (In My Bed)" in mid-1970. It was obvious that Dozier and the Holland Brothers had lost none of the touch they had shown so often at Motown a few years earlier.

Another Buddah-distributed outfit, Sussex Records, was the home of what might be termed the most successful black folksinger of the past 20 years, Bill Withers. At the time of his first hit, the stunning "Ain't No Sunshine" (produced and with Booker T. & most of The MG's), Withers gained a lot of publicity from the fact that he had been installing toilets in airplanes for a living. That would not, as it turns out, be his only skill; the song would go on to win a Grammy. A gifted songwriter as well as an engaging - and uniquely unpretentious - singer and performer, Withers would go on to write and record a long string of hits for Sussex, including his across-the-board #1 smash "Lean On Me" in '72. In 1981, ten years after his first hit, Wither's had another double-market hit dueting with Grover Washington Jr. on "Just The Two Of Us."

THE MID '70s: Enter Gladys Knight

As far back as 1952, little Gladys Knight had performed professionally for the public; that year, she won $2,000 (not bad for an 8-year-old!) by winning the popular Ted Mack Amateur Hour contest. In 1961, while still a teenager, she and a vocal group comprised of her brother and two cousins (The Pips) recorded an old R&B standard first introduced by the Royals in '52, Johnny Otis' "Every Beat Of My Heart." After its initial release on a small local label, Huntom, the song was picked up for national distribution by two larger labels, Fury and Vee Jay (the former using a re-recording made months after the original). The record became a big pop and R&B hit for the group, and introduced Knight to the teenage public. After a few more minor releases, the group wound up on a Motown tour and were invited to record for the label ... with smashing results. 1967's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" established the group with the masses, and follow-up hits "The End Of Our Road." "Friendship Train," "If I Were Your Woman," and the classic "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" put them in strong competition with the Supremes for the throne as Motown's #1 group of the late '60s and early '70s.

Just as Neil Bogart would leave Buddah to form his own label, Casablanca (and you can read the bizarre story of his adventures with that label, whose primary artists were Kiss and Donna Summer, in Frederick B. Dannen's fascinating book Hit Men), Gladys & The Pips' contract with Motown was ending -- and the timing couldn't be better. Art Kass was now alone in charge of Buddah's destiny; at some point in the early '70s, a corporation named Viewlex had acquired part ownership with Kass and his original partners, and by '73 both Mizrahi and Steinberg - and Viewlex - dropped out of the picture. Kass made the group an offer they couldn't refuse, and Buddah added what would be the most successful group of the '70s to their roster.

Kass promised the group a lot, and he put a strong effort into supporting his investment. He allowed the group to have a say in the production of their first album, which yielded a number of pop and R&B hits, and used his connections to provide top-rate producers and songwriters for the group as well. Knight's first release on the label was "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," which cracked the pop Top 30 and the R&B Top 10 and started an incredible run of hits on both charts for the remainder of the decade. The group's next release, in the summer of 1973, would be one of the biggest hits of the entire decade and certainly their biggest - "Midnight Train To Georgia," which accomplished the rare feat of reaching #1 on both white and black charts. Written by ex-Mississippi All American quarterback Jim Weatherly (who would also record a one-shot hit in 1974 with an unusual easy listening effort, "The Need To Be"), the song was originally titled "Midnight Train To Houston," and Cissy Houston, Whitney's mom, recorded a concurrent version that competed with, but lost quite handily to, the Pips' version. That Fall the group would follow with another monster two-market hit, "I've Got To Use My Imagination," and follow that the next year with two more smashes, "On And On" and Weatherly's "The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me." Thereafter, their impact would remain strong in the R&B field but would diminish slightly in the pop world. Knight and the group had a falling out in the late '70s, but made up and continued recording chart records into the late 1980s!

Things were going well for Kass on other fronts, too. Bronx-based Gunhill Road (Glen Leopolo, Gil Roman and Steve Goldrich) scored a one-shot hit with the pop novelty "Back When My Hair Was Short," and Stories, the four-man rock group put together by Michael Brown, recorded an exceptional pop LP (Stories About Us) earlier in the year. That April -- after Brown left for his own endeavors -- they covered an English hit by British group Hot Chocolate called "Brother Louie." With a refrain that capitalized on the enduring popularity of the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie," and subject matter (an inter-racial love affair) that was hot stuff even in 1973, the song rocketed to #1 on the pop charts and brought some recognition to lead singer lan Lloyd, who would share co-billing with the group from that point on. The group's next effort, "Mammy Blue," would only reach #50 and subsequent releases failed to chart even that high. Charlie Daniels also contributed his first hit, "Uneasy Rider," at this time, peaking at #9 nationally.

By 1974, things had cooled off for the label. Buddah was concentrating on black music releases, offering a plethora of recordings by a number of new groups (Exuma, the Modulations, Monda, Sasha, Funkhouse Express, the Futures, Midnight Movers Unltd., etc.) without much success. The Pips continued to hold their position with the R&B world with the hit soundtrack LP from the Mayfield-produced film Claudine, but other than Barbara Mason's "From His Woman To You," which went to #3 R&B and broke Top 30 on the pop charts that Fall, the label's releases stiffed; even comeback efforts by Rod McKuen and the Ronettes (separately!) failed.

Barbara Mason had scored a Top 10 hit in 1965 with her self-penned, sexy/innocent "Yes, I'm Ready" (which she would re-record and enjoy moderate success with for Buddah in 1975), and had made a small comeback on the R&B charts starting on the National General label, a film related company label that Buddah distributed, in 1970. She wrote and recorded a number of fine, soulful ballads in her instantly identifiable voice for Buddah throughout the '70s, of which "From His Woman To You" was the most successful at the cash register.

The Winter of 1974/75 saw things pick up slightly on both black and white fronts. Charlie Daniels produced his biggest hit, The South's Donna Do It Again," for Kama Sutra, while Sha Na Na, primarily an album and live performance group, scored their biggest single hit with a remake of the Reflections' 1964 hit "Just Like Romeo and Juliet." The group's follow-up singles would be the last issued on Kama Sutra, and the label was shut down again in mid-'75, only to be resurrected once more in the early '80s as just plain Sutra. That spring, Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed their last big crossover hit, "The Way We Were," and the unusual group-within-a group New Birth topped the R&B charts with their single "Dream Merchant." One of two vocal groups in an enormous, 17-man aggregation that featured the instrumental band the Nite-liters and was collectively known as New Birth, Inc., New Birth the group (Londee Loren, Bobby Downs, Melvin Wilson, Leslie Wilson, Ann Began and Alan Frye) also scored well on the album charts with their subsequent Blind Baby LP. Their tenure at Buddah resembled a short stop-off; they had spent the previous 3 years on RCA, scoring a number of R&B hits, and would go on to Warner Brothers for a few more after spending less than a year with Kass and company. TV star Jimmie Walker's comedy album Dyn-O-Mite, named after one of his pet phrases on the hit program Good Times, also sold well in the LP market at this time.

THE LATE 1970s: Hello, Norman.

The summer of 1975 was a relatively quiet one for Buddah; the only non-Gladys Knight singles of note were "Everybody Stand Up And Clap Your Hands" by former doo wop legend Fred Parris and the Five Satins (of "In The Still Of The Nite" fame), renamed Black Satin, and the Trammps Top 40 hit "Hold Back The Night." The Trammps had scored an R&B hit with their first recording for Buddah three years earlier, and later of course would grab the national spotlight with their hit from the Saturday Night Fever film soundtrack, "Disco Inferno (Burn, Baby, Burn)."

Of greater import was the rise, after a change in musical direction, of one Norman Connors, who would become the in-house musical director for the label for much of the rest of the decade. A drummer by trade -- he had played with John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Phraoh Saunders, among other jazz all stars -- his biggest contribution to Buddah was his ear for talent, and it is because of him that the label was able to launch careers for Phyllis Hyman, Michael Henderson, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Aquarian Dream, among others. Connors had recorded for Buddah since 1972, primarily on their jazz subsidiary Cobblestone label. His first single in an R&B mode, "Valentine Love," featured Henderson (who wrote the song) and Jean Carn on vocals and would crack the R&B Top 10 that fall; by mid-'76 he would become the label's prime hit maker, both as recording artist and producer.

That fall also produced an out-of-left-field hit from Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label -- the Staple Singer's "Let's Do It Again." Probably the most popular gospel group of the '50s and '60s, the family group Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his daughters Mavis, Cleotha and Yvonne, who replaced her brother Pervis, had been recording religious music since 1953, most successfully for Vee Jay in the late '50s. Their most popular secular recordings had been made for Stax in the early '70s, notably the dual market #l hit "I'II Take You There" in 1972 and the #1 R&B hit "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" in 1973. When Stax folded in '75, the group stopped off at Curtom to render the title cut from the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby film Let's Do It Again ... and had another double-chart #1 hit. Another recording for the soundtrack, "New Orleans," would hit the Top 10 R&B charts as well, and lead singer Mavis Staples would have a small R&B hit on her own for Curtom two years later with "A Piece Of The Action".

As 1976 debuted, Buddah scored their first real disco hit with ex-porn actress Andrea True's banal "More, More, More." A light-on-the-melody, heavy-on-the-beat concoction, it reached #4 on the pop charts and surprisingly cracked the Top 30 R&B chart. Subsequent releases which speak of the times ('77's "New York, You Got Me Dancing", #27, and "What's Your Name, What's Your Number", #56) comprised the rest of her hit career, and she has not emerged in the public eye since. Buddah also released a top selling album, The Best Of Gladys Knight & The Pips, that, like most "Best Of" anthologies, sounded a death-knell of sorts for the group; after that LP, the group would not reach the Pop Top 40 again.

By June, the new line-up at Buddah was nearly complete. Primary releases came from Connors, whose album You Are My Starship (again written and sung by Henderson) not only produced a smash hit of the same name, but scored on the album charts as well. Melba Moore contributed her biggest hit, a version of Bill Withers' "Lean On Me," and Michael Henderson had a minor hit with his first LP, Solid. Henderson, who also played bass and had toured with the instrument since the mid-'60s, lent his vocals to most of Norman Connors' efforts. That fall both Melba Moore and a new group produced by Connors, Aquarian Dream, would see successful albums released.

By 1977, the Buddah artist roster had constricted to a small core of performers, headed by Connors, Henderson, Moore and thrush Phyllis Hyman; until its demise in 1983, the label would offer few new acts to supplement Connors and crew. Buddah did enjoy a one-shot disco hit from veteran songwriter/performers the Addrisi Brothers, whose "Slow Dancin' Don't Turn Me On" hit #20 on the pop charts that Spring. Their first brush with the industry had come in 1959, when they scored a mild pop hit with "Cherrystone" on Del-Fi, and subsequently had written hit songs for groups like the Association ("Never My Love") in the 1960s. Phyllis Hyman, who had debuted on Connors' Starship album, scored her first R&B hit with "Loving You/Losing You" that April, and Connors followed with the Top 20 R&B entry "Once I've Been There."

For the rest of '77 and most of '78, Buddah concentrated on releases by Moore, Gladys Knight (who was still charting well in the R&B world) and Henderson, who scored the label's last Top 40 hit in mid-'78 with "In The Night-Time." By 1979, Buddah seemed to be Michael Henderson and precious little else, although singer Rena Scott had a minor R&B hit with "Super Lover" that summer. The label was actually dormant for the first six months of 1980, only to come back in the summer with Michael Henderson's smash R&B hit (and album) ''Wide Receiver," in which the multi-talented musician jettisoned his Teddy Pendergast style and got funky. That fall, the last new artist to be showcased on Buddah, Robert Winters & Fall (a two-man backup group), scored an R&B hit (and subsequent hit LP) with "Magic Man," but 1981 saw only releases (and moderate R&B hits) from Michael Henderson. In early 1982, the Sutra label was formed and saw some dozen releases in its first year, but Buddah offered nothing until the spring of '83, when Michael Henderson's "Fickle" became an R&B hit. It would, in effect, be the end of Buddah as a label.

Sutra carried on thanks to the signing of one of the first and most important rap groups, The Fat Boys, three guys (Darren "The Human Beat Box" Robinson, Mark "Prince Markie Dee" Morales and Damon "Kool Rock-ski" Wimbley) from Brooklyn who weighed nearly 800 pounds together. In the Spring of 1984, Sutra released the single "Fat Boys" by the group under the name of The Disco 3; they would assume the name of their hit immediately thereafter. Subsequent singles "Jailhouse Rap," "Can You Feel It," "The Fat Boys Are Back," "Don't Be Stupid" and "Sex Machine" all experienced varying degrees of success on the R&B charts until 1986, when the group finally jumped labels. At that point, Kass faced major financial problems and the Buddah label and back catalog was sold to the Essex Entertainment group.

Together, the Kama Sutra and Buddah labels produced nearly a hundred Top 40 pop hits and at least half that many additional R&B chart hits -- quite an impressive track record given the size of the companies and the number of records they released. While major labels would often throw out 20 or 30 releases with the hope of gaining a single chart placement, Kama Sutra and Buddah realized a ratio of one chart hit for every 5 or so releases! Considering the fact that the label's repertoire was guided by four uniquely different individuals (Ripp, Bogart, Kass and Connors) who produced best-selling recordings in a number of equally different musical forms, the Buddah operation stands out as one of the most successful -- and most unusual -- independent record companies of the past 40 years.

Note: Sources used by Bob Hyde for some of the information in the above story include: "The Anders & Poncia Story" by Brian Gari, The Billboard Book Of One Hit Wonders by Wayne Jancik, "Wayne Jones Talks To Sha Na Na" by Wayne Jones (Goldmine Magazine), "Curtis Mayfield - The August 12th Interview," by Steve Propes (Goldmine Magazine), Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles 1942-1988, Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990, and "Pittsburgh's Most Favored Falsetto - Lou Christie" by Harry Young (Goldmine Magazine.). The above story first appeared as the liner notes to the excellent ESX Entertainment/Buddah Records 3-CD Box Set The Buddah Box [ESX ESD-7060], released in 1993.

Epilogue 2005
By Mike Callahan and Patrice Eyries

In the years since Bob Hyde wrote the above story for the liner notes to The Buddah Box, Essex Entertainment has sold Buddah Records to BMG Special Products. BMG began reissuing Buddah/Kama Sutra material on several CDs in April, 1996. Somewhere along the way, the idea that "Buddah" was a misspelling of "Buddha" apparently stuck in someone's craw, as by 1999, BMG had relaunched the label with the new (correct) spelling, "Buddha."

Of course, the misspelling of Buddah -- whether it was intentional or not by the original founders of the label -- wasn't the only strange thing about the original Buddah name and logo. The first label and logo use a Shiva Indian statue, not a Buddha statue, as the logo! This was finally corrected about the time the label went to the brown label popular in the disco era.

Going back to the early days of the Buddah label, the early successes were largely what was to become termed "bubblegum music." Some could say the official birth of "bubblegum music" came from the meeting of Neil Bogart, then an executive of Cameo Records, with Jeffrey Katz & Jerry Kasenetz, a production team under the Super K Productions banner. Katz and Kasenetz had met at the University of Arizona (where they attended on football scholarships) and soon after, began their music careers as managers in Greenwich Village. Witnessing the success of the first Monkees' singles and Tommy James & the Shondells singles at the hands of other producers, they decided to do something by themselves and went on to produce records for Cameo Records. The first examples of the bubblegum genre are usually cited as the Rare Breed's "Beg, Borrow And Steal" (Attack 1401 and, as the Ohio Express, Cameo 483) and "Come And Take A Ride In My Boat" (Attack 1403, covered successfully by Every Mother's Son in 1967), and the Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul" (Laurie 3380). When Neil Bogart left Cameo to join Buddah Records in 1967, he brought the Kasenetz & Katz team with him. There, the three would hone the bubblegum sound to a fine edge.

Interestingly, although the artists and record company made a lot of money selling these tunes, the artists themselves rarely liked the music, and especially didn't like being known as "bubblegum artists." The 1910 Fruitgum Company, for example, was known to have (at least once) started their performance by having the singer come out with sheet music to one of their hits, which he put in front of him on a music stand. As he began singing, he soon grabbed the sheet music with obvious frustration, blew his nose on it, and threw it away. The band then launched into much heavier music that the band preferred.

The Ohio Express, as one fan wrote to us, "were originally a killer local Ohio teen band called Sir Timothy and the Royals, with stage dance steps and comedy. A real kick-ass live act, not bubblegum at all! Jim Phlayer was a great showman and was hilarious when I saw them in Columbus in 66 and 67. They were very popular in central Ohio then."

Dean Kastran of the Ohio Express wrote us the following note with a common story. "Hi, my name is Dean Kastran, and I am the original bassist and one of three original lead singers in the band. I enjoyed reading the article, but found a few things regarding the Ohio Express segment of the story (I can't speak for the rest), to be misconstrued. For instance, K&K and Joey Levine had absolutely nothing to do with the formation of or recruiting of the musicians that were in the original Ohio Express. The band was originally very popular and well known throughout much of Ohio as Sir Timothy & the Royals. The change of name only, not personnel, was done by K&K as an avenue to achieve total control of the band's interests, and ultimately take advantage of five young boys from the Midwest. There was no change of personnel after the follow-up songs to Beg, Borrow & Steal.' What actually did follow was additional lies, broken promises, and withholding of money."

The Lemon Pipers, an Oxford, Ohio, group, for some years had the first and only Buddah #1 hit record, "Green Tambourine." The Lemon Pipers reportedly didn't like the song, but it proved to be the only major hit by the group. The Lemon Pipers are rewarded nowadays for not wanting to be associated with bubblegum music, with their two albums often cited in "psychedelic" discographies rather than "bubblegum" discographies.

The words to "Green Tambourine" had been written by Shelley Pinz, a novice songwriter who linked with Paul Leka to set the words to music (and eventually to produce the song). The finished work was heard by a Buddah employee (the story goes that this person was later to become successful under the name of Gary Katz -- no relation to Jeffrey -- famous Steely Dan producer), who in turn brought the tape to Neil Bogart. Leka and Pinz later worked with the Decca band Peppermint Rainbow, and used the Lemon Pipers' backing track to "Green Tambourine" for a remake by the Peppermint Rainbow on their debut album in mid-1969.

Apparently, after bubblegum "died," it lived on in subtle ways (Bobby Sherman, and the Partridge Family are artists who obviously appealed to similar pre-teen audiences in the 1970s). Joey Levine's "Life Is a Rock" (as Reunion) in 1974 certainly kept the genre alive, even if it was an acknowledged retro record. The story came to a full circle when the bubblegum recipe of simple words, catchy titles and pounding beat was updated years later by Beserkley Records with its Spitballs album, produced by Kenny Laguna, who had already written songs for the Lemon Pipers and the Ohio Express. By the late 1980s, astonished oldies disc jockeys often found the bubblegum records to be the most requested numbers for crowds in their 30s and 40s!

We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Kama Sutra or Buddah Records, which are currently owned by BMG Special Products. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This Kama Sutra/Buddah Records Story is copyright 1993 by Bob Hyde and used by permission. The remainder of the material on this page and the other label stories and discographies connected to this page are copyright 2000, 2005 by Mike Callahan.

Thanks to Bob Hyde, Phill Stokes, and Dean Kastran.

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