The Yummies, interview with Les Fradkin
by David Smay
The Yummies (AKA Les Fradkin) had a regional hit in October 1970 called "Hippie Lady," a single on Sunflower Records. Hundreds of bubblegum one-shots ricocheted off the charts without doing any lasting damage. Here we get the inside scoop on how one such act, the Yummies, came to be.
David Smay: How did you first get signed to MGM? Did you submit a demo tape? Were you a studio singer/musician that they thought they could spin into a solo act?
Les Fradkin: I was brought over to MGM by Randy Edelman, another songwriter who I befriended at April-Blackwood Music (CBS), where I was already signed as a staff writer. He bolted over to MGM where the "grass looked greener" and suggested that if I was looking for a solo deal (which I was), to give them a try (which I did). My "demo" consisted of a live audition with my acoustic 12-string guitar for Eddie Deane and Wally Schuster (Leo Feist Music) who signed me to a long-term production and songwriter agreement. They thought they could spin me into a solo act due to my involvement with Edison Lighthouse, where I had never had the opportunity to contribute as a writer. Plus I had the endorsement of John Hammond Sr. from my tenure at CBS and I guess that meant something in those days.
DS: Who produced the sessions for the Yummies? Who wrote the songs? Who played on the sessions?
LF: The sessions were produced by myself, Eddie Deane and Steve Katz (our engineer). The sessions took place at Sound Exchange Studios in NYC in the early fall 1970. This situation evolved because I was already signed to Sunflower/MGM Records as a solo artist ("Fearless Fradkin") and I was keen to prove myself as a producer to the powers that were. So, brazenly, I asked for the shot. They said, "do something on your own and, if we like it, we’ll buy the master!" I already had a single out as Fearless Fradkin (SUN #101: "Song Of A Thousand Voices" b/w "You Can Cry If You Want To"). This record was given a Billboard Top 60 pick and superficially sounded like the Brotherhood of Man type style. The song was successful on the MOR charts (#12) but never made it higher than #87 US. BUT… Mirielle Mathieu recorded it for Philips and had a massive hit with it in 1971 where it hit #1 and sold really well. I talked endlessly about this possible independent production project to Steve Katz. He was very supportive of the idea to do a bubblegum record, since it was still quite popular on the charts at that time. So we went to the record shop and bought every bubblegum record we could lay our hands on and proceeded to "dissect" the "formula." His boss Bob Morgan (who produced Bobby Vinton and owned the studio) was given a piece of the deal to get the time booked. I basically wrote both songs with a little help from Eddie Deane on lyrics. Steve and Bob were given co-credit although they really had nothing to do with the writing. More political perks, I guess. Since we didn’t want to spend much money out of pocket, I played all the instruments on both sides of the record. We "borrowed" a Farfisa organ (an important sound to use) and I played acoustic and electric guitars, bass AND drums to a click so I could keep accurate time. Eddie and Bob helped with endless handclap overdubs. I sang all the lead vocals. Eddie and I did the backgrounds. The single that we originally planned was "Patty Cake." We even cut an acetate with the B-side consisting of the A-Side played backwards! They said, "we want a real B-side!" Back we went. Out came "Hippie Lady"–a kind of "Bo Diddley" bubblegum piece. To our surprise, they like that side even more than "Patty Cake." So "Hippie Lady" became the A-side of Sunflower #103. It was released October 1970.
DS: Did the Yummies ever make any live performances, or were they only a studio creation?
LF: The Yummies were intended, at first, as just another studio group. But the record hit in a couple of regions, which necessitated our "employing" some of my friends to assist in a couple of TV spots to lip-sync it.
After The Yummies, Les continued to record for MGM, though his solo album was never released. As a producer he worked on an unreleased Left Banke album for Bell in 1972, and birthed (Lester Bangs’ favorites) the Godz’ two albums for ESP. In the late ‘70s, Les joined the original cast of Beatlemania, left to write jingles and compose for soap operas, only to return to Beatlemania for the entire nineties. Today, Les is again working as a producer.