Kasenetz-Katz

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The production duo of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz defined the sound and spirit of the bubblegum era, helming quintessential if interchangeable records from the Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company,…
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The production duo of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz defined the sound and spirit of the bubblegum era, helming quintessential if interchangeable records from the Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and numerous others. 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 a number of 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.

In the meantime, in mid-1967 Kasenetz and Katz -- or Super K Productions, as they were collectively known -- jumped to Laurie Records to score their first Top Five hit with the Music Explosion's "Little Bit o' Soul." 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.

"The Sound of Goodtime Music Is Kasenetz & Katz" read a trade ad of the time, and certainly confections like the Ohio Express' "Chewy Chewy" and the 1910 Fruitgum Company's blockbuster "Simon Says" offered a sharp contrast from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and others whose more ambitious and serious-minded hits also charted during the turbulent year of 1968. At Bogart's request, the duo agreed to come up with a catchall name under which to market their records, and they suggested "bubblegum," the sugary-sweet implications of the tag perfect for the product rolling off the Kasenetz-Katz assembly line. 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." Two years later, the project was revamped under the name Kasenetz-Katz Super Cirkus, issuing "Dong-Dong-Diki-Di-Ki-Dong." So great was the popularity of bubblegum in general and Super K Productions in particular that the duo was even approached by the Hanna-Barbera animation studio to produce a cartoon series; to be titled Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army, the show never got off the ground although it did generate an eponymous single. Kasenetz and Katz's fortunes dwindled during the early '70s, however, and by 1972 the bubblegum fad was basically over -- they later worked on projects with the fledgling 10cc, Bo Diddley, and others, but never again recaptured their peak success.