Kasenetz and Katz created the concept of bubblegum music. Neil Bogart of Buddah Records asked the duo to recommend a marketing name for their music. They defined the sound and spirit of the bubblegum era, helming quintessential if interchangeable records from the Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company.
According to an April 25, 1997, feature in Goldmine titled An Informal History of Bubblegum Music, the duo met while both were attending the University of Arizona, and their initial entrance to the music industry was as managers of several groups active on the New York City club circuit; their production debut was the Christine Cooper single “S.O.S. (Heart in Distress),” issued on the Cameo-Parkway label.
The record was not a hit but it did bring Kasenetz and Katz to the attention of Cameo exec Neil Bogart, whose subsequent venture Buddah Records was to play a pivotal role in Bubblegum’s success.
One of their first projects in the music business was as concert promoters bringing the British band the Dave Clark Five to the University of Arizona.
Robert “Bob” Kasenetz was born on March 14, 1943, in New York City, New York. Before his partnership with Jerry Katz, Bob Kasenetz worked as a record producer, songwriter, and talent scout in the music industry. Jeffrey “Jeff” Katz was born on November 18, 1943, in New York City, New York. Like Kasenetz he was a a songwriter and producer.
Kasenetz and Katz began working with an Ohio band, The Music Explosion who recorded “Little Bit O’ Soul.” Kasenetz got in his car and drove across the country promoting the song to radio stations. In July 1967, the song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling a million copies. This solidified Kasenetz and Katz as music industry players.
When Bogart founded Buddah soon after, the duo joined the label to release their production of “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”; the song was written and performed by one Joey Levine but actually attributed to the Ohio Express, the first in a long line of Super K projects to play fast and loose with proper credits,
with countless aliases disguising the fact that the same creative nucleus was actually responsible for the vast majority of bubblegum releases. In any case, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” was a million-selling hit in early 1968, its sunny escapism and infectious exuberance distilling the very essence of the Kasenetz-Katz aesthetic.
Between 1967 and 1969 some of their bubblegum music releases are “Beg, Borrow and Steal,” “1, 2, 3, Red Light,” “Goody, Goody Gumdrops,” “Indian Giver”, “Down at Lulu’s,” “Chewy, Chewy,” “Mercy,” “Simon Says,” “Special Delivery,” “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’.”
The variations on the Super K sound were endless, with recording aliases including Crazy Elephant (“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”), Lt. Garcia’s Magic Music Box, the St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, and so forth — in all, a dozen Top 40 hits in less than two years’ time.
The Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and others were also two of the acts featured in 1968 under the banner of the Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus, scoring a hit with the single “Quick Joey Small.” For the first album, the fictitious concept was to take eight Kasenetz-Katz-produced groups and bring them together for a “live” performance at Carnegie Hall on 7 June 1968.
Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus Roster
- 1910 Fruitgum Company
- Ohio Express
- Music Explosion
- Lt. Garcia’s Magic Music Box
- Teri Nelson Group
- 1989 Musical Marching Zoo
- J.C.W. Rat Finks
- St. Louis Invisible Marching Band
Of the 10 studio tracks used for this LP (not including the dialogue tracks), live audiences were dubbed into two: “Little Bit Of Soul” and “Simon Says”. The LP package came with a page of stamps with each member of the “supergroup”, including their names and the individual group he or she represents.
The members of The Teri Nelson Group (except Teri Nelson herself) are shown as INVISIBLE BAND on the stamps. Side 2 opens up with Music Explosion leader Jamie Lyons announcing the individual members of the newer or lesser-known groups. Some of the names mentioned do not coincide with the members shown on the stamps.
Two years later, the project was revamped under the name Kasenetz-Katz Super Cirkus, issuing “Dong-Dong-Diki-Di-Ki-Dong.” For Super K’s second effort (renamed “Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus”), the roster was reduced to five groups.
Remaining were The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express, and Music Explosion, with the other groups replaced by Shadows Of Knight (who had just been acquired by Super K and signed to Buddah’s Team label) and White Whale label group Professor Morrison’s Lollipop (formerly the Coachmen of Lincoln, Nebraska).
Despite these representations, the tracks were actually recorded by studio musicians with lead vocals by Ohio Express lead vocalist Joey Levine. Unlike the first album, this was more of a straightforward studio album without the “concept” theme.
It yielded the Top 25 hit “Quick Joey Small (Run Joey Run)”, also becoming a Top 20 British hit. Also included was the Shadows Of Knight’s minor hit “Shake”, but with Levine’s vocals replacing Jim Sohns’ original vocal track.
After a failed attempt to combine bubblegum music with the likes of composers Beethoven, Mozart and others with the album Classical Smoke (as “Kasenetz-Katz Orchestral Circus”), the K-K concept popped up occasionally in the 1970s. Still, it came to an end with a final single in 1977 when they achieved another top twenty hit “Black Betty” by the group Ram Jam, featuring Bill Bartlett of the Lemon Pipers.
They later worked on projects with the fledgling 10cc, Bo Diddley, and others, but never again recaptured their peak success. Kasenetz and Katz released an album in 2009, calling themselves Kasenetz and Katz Allstarz Band, featuring Jaymee Lynn Frankel, Lianne Frankel, Lisa Ganz, Kiirstin Marilyn, Donna & Laura Macaluso, Don Chaffin, and more.
- Neil Bogart (1943-1982) was a prominent American record executive and music industry entrepreneur known for his contributions to the pop and disco music scenes. He founded Casablanca Records and Filmworks in the 1970s, which played a pivotal role in the disco era, signing iconic artists like Donna Summer and KISS. Bogart’s innovative marketing strategies and ability to identify and promote emerging talent contributed to the success of his label. His impact on the music industry extended beyond disco, as he continued to work with various artists and genres throughout his career. Neil Bogart’s legacy endures as a key figure in shaping the sound and business of popular music during his time. [Back]
- Joey Levine, born on May 29, 1947, in New York City, is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer known for his pivotal role in the bubblegum pop music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He achieved fame as the lead vocalist for the Ohio Express, contributing to their hit single “Yummy Yummy Yummy.” Levine’s distinctive, high-energy vocals and infectious songwriting style were emblematic of the bubblegum pop genre, and he went on to collaborate with various other artists and projects. His enduring influence on pop music during that era continues to be celebrated. [Back]
- “Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears” by Kim Cooper and David Smay.
- “Bubblegum Pop: American Pop Music in the Age of Synthetic Authenticity” by Timothy Dean Taylor.
- “Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasenetz-Katz_Singing_Orchestral_Circus
- “Jerry Kasenetz” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Kasenetz
- “Jeffry Katz” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffry_Katz
- “The Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus” https://www.discogs.com/artist/423265-The-Kasenetz-Katz-Singing-Orchestral-Circus
- “Kasenetz-Katz Biography by Jason Ankeny” https://www.allmusic.com/artist/kasenetz-katz-mn0001733899
- “Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus – Discography” https://www.45cat.com/artist/kasenetzkatz-singing-orchestral-circus