Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army Are Coming to Take You Away
by Bill Pitzonka
Early in 1969, a corporate summit occurred between limited-cel animation kingpins Hanna-Barbera and bubblegum cottage industrialists Kasenetz-Katz. Though seemingly a marriage made in marketing heaven, negotiations ultimately broke down between the two notoriously control-conscious purveyors of prepubescent product, but not before one semi-official act of business could be completed. Ritchie Cordell, who had recently joined the stable of Kasenetz-Katz Associates after a string of huge hits with Tommy James & the Shondells, was commissioned to create the theme for Captain Groovy And His Bubblegum Army. Cordell co-wrote the song with “1, 2, 3, Red Light” tunesmith Sal Trimachi, based on Kasenetz & Katz’s original concept. Cordell recalls that the lead vocal on the single was “Bobby Bloom sped up [on tape],” eerily replicating the nasal vocal stylings of Joey Levine, who had recently parted company with Kasenetz & Katz to found his own Earth and L&R labels with Artie Resnick. In the way that all things come full circle, L&R scored their biggest hit in 1970 with Bobby Bloom’s “Montego Bay.”
Kasenetz & Katz, meanwhile, had been given their own Super K imprint through Buddah Records. As one of their very first releases, they issued the rather dark Captain Groovy theme song (“Captain Groovy and his Bubblegum Army are coming to take you away,” as the lyric so ominously intoned). Despite the fact that the cartoon series never made it past the drawing board, a poster of the actual characters exists somewhere in the Super K offices. Without the series, the sole offering under the Captain Groovy banner managed to bubble under the Billboard Hot 100 for a few weeks, peaking at #127.