Radio Favorites – Hot Smoke & Sasafrass

In the mist of sassafras, many things will come to pass;
And the smoke shall rise again, to the place above where it began.

As a record collector, I went out and hunted down a lot of my favorites but obviously came nowhere near getting them all. These are some of the choices that I didn’t own at the time.

“Hot Smoke & Sasafrass/Lonley” is a single by the psychedelic rock group The Bubble Puppy. I always loved this song but didn’t own the 45 until the 2000s. The Bubble Puppy, from Austin, Texas, was formed in 1966 by Rod Prince and Roy Cox, two musicians who had previously played together in a band called The Bad Seeds[1].

They recruited Todd Potter on drums and Clayton Pulley on bass, completing the original lineup. The name “Bubble Puppy” was taken from “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy”, a fictitious children’s game in Aldous Huxley[2]‘s 1932 novel Brave New World. The game is mentioned in the book as a form of entertainment for children in the dystopian society depicted in the story.

The Bubble Puppy’s members chose the name as an homage to Huxley’s novel and the concept of a psychedelic, counter-cultural movement that challenged societal norms prevalent during the 1960s. The name “Bubble Puppy” reflected the band’s desire to embrace the spirit of rebellion and experimentation associated with the emerging psychedelic rock genre. In 1967, Bubble Puppy signed a record deal with International Artists, a Houston-based label known for its association with the psychedelic rock scene.

The following year, they released their debut single, “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass,” which quickly gained popularity and reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s distinctive guitar riff and psychedelic sound captured the era’s spirit and contributed to its success. Encouraged by the positive response, The Bubble Puppy recorded their first and only studio album, titled “A Gathering of Promises,” released in 1969.

In addition to its misspelling of “sassafras”, the title was inspired by a line of dialogue heard in an episode of the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies[3]. It was where Granny said, “Hot smoke and sassafras, Jethro, can’t you do anything right?”

The album showcased the band’s psychedelic rock sound, characterized by catchy melodies, intricate guitar work, and experimental elements. While the album received critical acclaim, it did not achieve significant commercial success. Despite their initial success, The Bubble Puppy faced several challenges.

Internal tensions and conflicts with their record label led to the band’s dissolution in 1970. After the breakup, some members went on to pursue other musical projects, with varying degrees of success. “Lonely”, the b-side, is a lesser-known song by Bubble Puppy, often overshadowed by the popularity of “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass.”

While it may not have achieved the same level of recognition, “Lonely” still showcases the band’s psychedelic rock sound with its melodic hooks, tight instrumentation, and atmospheric elements.

The band appeared and toured with many notable artists from 1967 until 1971, including The Who, Grand Funk Railroad, Canned Heat, Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Seger, Johnny Winter, and Janis Joplin.

"Hot Smoke and Sasafrass" - written by Rod Prince and Roy Cox

In the mist of sassafras
Many things will come to pass;
And the smoke shall rise again
To the place above where it began.

Time will bring the fire and flame
As surely as it brought the rain;
But in the gardens of the moon,
Time is held within the silver spoon.

[instrumental bridge]

If you're happy where you are,
Then you need not look too far;
If you've found your place at last,
Then you need not use the looking glass.

  1. The Bad Seeds was a 1960s rock band formed in Austin, Texas, known for their garage rock sound and association with the psychedelic rock scene. The band featured members Rod Prince, Roy Cox, and drummer Bobby “Bond” Gregg, who later joined Janis Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. The Bad Seeds released a few singles during their existence, including “A Taste of the Same” and “Sick and Tired,” which showcased their raw and energetic style. While their recorded output was limited, The Bad Seeds played an important role in Austin’s music scene, serving as a precursor to the formation of Bubble Puppy, the successful psychedelic rock group that emerged from their ranks. [Back]
  2. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was a renowned English writer and intellectual known for his insightful and thought-provoking works. He is best known for his dystopian novel “Brave New World” (1932), which depicted a future society governed by technology, consumerism, and social control. Huxley’s writing explored themes of individualism, societal issues, and the impact of science and technology on humanity. He also delved into spiritual and philosophical subjects, particularly in his later works, such as “The Perennial Philosophy” (1945) and “The Doors of Perception” (1954), where he explored mystical experiences and the potential of altered states of consciousness. Huxley’s works continue to be widely read and studied, influencing literature, philosophy, and social commentary. His insightful observations and imaginative storytelling have solidified his place as a significant figure in 20th-century literature. [Back]
  3. “The Beverly Hillbillies” is a classic American sitcom that aired from 1962 to 1971. The show follows the Clampett family, a group of rural hillbillies from the fictional town of Bug Tussle, who strike it rich after discovering oil on their property. The Clampetts then move to the upscale neighborhood of Beverly Hills, California, where they navigate the eccentricities of city life while maintaining their down-to-earth country values. With its humorous fish-out-of-water premise and colorful characters, the show became immensely popular and remains a cultural touchstone, reflecting both the fascination with wealth and the clash of cultures in American society during the 1960s. The Beverly Hillbillies’ lighthearted comedy and endearing characters have left a lasting impact on television and popular culture. [Back]

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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