The Kasenetz-Katz bubblegum factory produced many indelibly catchy singles during its mid- to late-'60s heyday, most famously for the Buddah label out of New York City. Many Super K confections followed the Motown model, combining distinctive lead singers with essentially the same studio band to create several different groups cranking out hit records.
At least initially, most of the K&K signings actually were self-contained bands, whether they got to play on the hit records or not. In some cases, the band would end up skeptically recording bubblegum hits along with their own harder-edged material (a la The Lemon Pipers).
The 1910 Fruitgum Company usually followed K&K's more typical method: The band which was initially inked -- formerly known as Jeckell and the Hydes -- toiled on the road promoting the singles while the studio cats and a small stable of songwriters were back in New York creating new tracks for the vocalist to sing over. However, some contributions by the real 1910 Fruitgum Company made it onto wax as well.
The biggest contribution by the original 1910 Fruitgum Company can be found on their first LP, Simon Says from 1968. I was somewhat hesitant to pick up this disc after hearing the disappointing follow-up album, 1, 2, 3, Red Light, which contained that great hit, a couple sound-alikes and some really flavorless gum. However, the later 1910 LPs are all worthwhile, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
That was the right move, as it turns out that the real band wrote about half the songs on Simon Says. In a somewhat strange occurrence for a Super K group, the band also played on the album as well, according to drummer Floyd Marcus; the audio evidence would bear that out, as this disc doesn't sound like the studio band. Usual lead singer Mark Gutkowski shares the vocal spotlight with the other band members throughout, and the group is also correctly identified on the cover. In more typically slapdash K&K fashion the song lineup on the cover and LP don't match.
The band's original tunes are largely in keeping with the b-gum sound of the Super K-supplied numbers, including three more silly but fun songs by "Simon Says" author Elliott Chiprut (including the hit "May I Take A Giant Step") and yet another take on Kaskat copyright "Soul Struttin'." In fact, drummer Marcus' hook-laden "Bubble Gum World" should have been a single itself.
The whole thing makes sense as album, though there are some sideways moments provided by the 1910 boys. Primary among those is "The Story of Flipper," easily one of the strangest songs to emerge from the Super K empire. A sort of Dylanesque talking blues full of weird jokes and puns, it's decidedly not bubblegum but still somehow fits with the overall vibe of the album.
Along with the aforementioned second LP, three more emerged under the 1910 moniker before the end of the '60s. Goody Goody Gumdrops, their third LP of 1968, features perhaps the ugliest cover art of all time and lists/pictures a bunch of random guys on the back cover along with Gutkowski. The whole shebang was written by Reid Whitelaw, Billy Carl and, if the labels are to be believed, K&K. Next up was Indian Giver, another solid LP mostly written by Mark Gutkowski (with credit also to "T. Gutkowski" and K&K, natch) and bookended by the impolite title hit and "Special Delivery," contracted from the Bo Gentry/Bobby Bloom/Richie Cordell axis. Both discs are solid bubblegum throughout.
The credits list an entirely different lineup for the final LP Hard Ride, which also attempts to reposition the group for the biker set (!) via the cover art. However, if that's not Gutkowski singing lead on the great minor hit "The Train" and "Don't Have to Run and Hide" I'll eat my hat. Musically, most of the album does indeed sound like a different band, with fuzzed-out psych and blues rockers (seriously), and some Blood, Sweat and Tears-inspired horns alongside a couple harder-edged bubblegummers. Sample lyric: "When I die/I wanna be buried in a pot garden." Woah. And "Creations of Simon" manages to reference "Simon Says" as part of a mostly instrumental jazz-rock fusion freakout. In the context of 1910 Fruitgum Company not much of it makes any sense, but it's mostly weirdly compelling.
Today the name has come full circle, as some of the original band members