2005 Bubblegum Achievement Awards DVD

Can you say… ARCHIES REUNION?! Gummy Awards DVDs are finally available, including the amazing live duets from Ron Dante and Toni Wine and Ron Dante and Joey Levine!

Canned Hamm and the Bubblegum Queen performed live and hosted a night of many delights, including a puppet spectacular by the Bob Baker Marionettes, the L.A. premiere of a documentary based on the book "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth," Abram the Safety Ape’s tribute to Lancelot Link, and musical performances from Ron Dante solo and in duets with his fellow Archie (and 2003 Gummy winner) Toni Wine and the Ohio Express’ Joey Levine.

Then it was time for the Gummy Awards, with trophies presented to Steve Barri (Lancelot Link, Grass Roots), Ron Dante (Archies), Dr. Demento (radio hero) & Joey Levine (Ohio Express).

Now available: a 71 minute DVD spectacular featuring the highlights from this most pink and magical night, The 2005 Bubblegum achievement Awards Show. Copies are available for $22 postpaid in the USA and for $25 elsewhere. Or add $12 to your Scram subscription and save $10! Please send payment in US dollars to Scram, PO Box 31227, LA, CA 90031, or paypal to scram @ scrammagazine . com. Please note that the documentary is not included in the DVD package, and the puppet show has been heavily edited due to time constraints. Special orders for a second DVD containing the entire puppet show are possible. Email scram @ scrammagazine . com for more info.

Joey Levine induction

Joey Levine inducted by Kim Cooper:

In bubblegum music, as in all great art, it’s the deviations from the norm that are most fascinating. Joey Levine of the Ohio Express is bubblegum royalty, and in the whole kinderpop canon, there’s no one else like him. It’s a thrill to present his Bubblegum Achievement Award tonight.

As a songwriter (working with his Third Rail band mate Artie Resnick), Joey gave the genre its most iconic double entendre food metaphor in “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and also its hardest rocker in “Quick Joey Small.” His unmistakable singing voice, that exquisitely snotty schoolyard sneer, leant a hint of punk menace to an otherwise vanilla scene–so to those who were paying attention, it wasn’t much of a shock when a bubblegum-punk crossover was achieved by the Ramones.

Bubblegum is supposed to be about studio bands where the producers pulled the strings. But even at 17, Joey was savvy enough to understand the dynamic, make the most of his opportunities and get out before bitterness set in.

If you want to have some fun later, you can go on the internet and visit the ASCAP and BMI websites. Look up “Joey Levine.” On BMI, you’ll find 247 crazy rock and roll titles, among them the magnificent “Chew Chewy,” “Down At Lulu’s,” “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’,” and “Try It,” not to mention “Dammi Dammi L’Amor,” which I’m pretty sure is “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” en espanol, though it might be a loose translation of “Yummy Yummy Yummy.”

Over on ASCAP, the Other Joey Levine holds court. Because in his twenties, the Bubblegum King took on a new mantle, that of Jingle King. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: any great bubblegum song, when boiled down to its super sweet and sticky essence, could just as easily be an advertisement. “Sometimes you feel like a nut”

Will the Real Ohio Express Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Ohio Express Please Stand Up?
by Becky Ebenkamp

Dean Kastran and Joey Levine never performed side by side on a stage, nor have they ever recorded a song together. Yet simultaneously throughout the late 1960s, both were members of same band, and each could claim some responsibility for its success: Dean as the face, a good-looking kid in a Midwestern rock group lured into a contract by the Super K Productions team, photographed for record covers and then shanghaied into a life of nonstop touring. And Joey as the studio whiz kid, songwriter, and famous, distinctive voice of

Best of the Ohio Express liner notes

Click to purchase The Best Of Ohio Express


The Ohio Express are the quintessential non-animated American bubblegum band but if their story weren’t so well documented, you’d swear it was a tall tale dreamed up by a drunken record collector.

It’s hard to talk about “The Ohio Express” without confusion, because the name refers both to a touring band based in Ohio, and a studio concoction out of New York City. While both Ohio Expresses contributed to the group’s albums, the East Coast version had most of the hits and were responsible for their signature sound. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The story begins with a perfectly good mid-American high school garage band, popular at teen dances and occasionally pegged to open for national acts like the Turtles. That was Sir Timothy & the Royals, the pride of Mansfield, Ohio. The leader was Tim Corwin (drums), and the Royals were Dale Powers (lead guitar), Doug Grassel (rhythm guitar), Jim Pfahler (organ) and Dean Kastran (bass).

Sir Tim and the boys might have ended up with a song or two on a Pebbles comp had producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz not shown up one day circa 1967, inspired by the Music Explosion’s success with “Little Bit Of Soul” to check out another promising Ohio combo. The underage band was quickly signed to a production contract, and rechristened the Ohio Express, because the producers felt their name sounded too English.

Kasenetz and Katz were fast moving pros whose specialty was making hit records and licensing them to labels. They picked up the Royals because they heard something lucrative in their sound-but who knew how long it might take these kids to write a hit of their own? K&K happened to already have a great song, not so loosely based on “Louie Louie,” that had been a minor hit when released by the Rare Breed on the Attack label. That group reportedly didn’t want to be musical puppets, and declined to work further with K&K. So “Beg, Borrow & Steal” was re-pressed with the Ohio Express name on the label, and it hit the top 40. This opened the door for more Ohio Express releases, but didn’t bode well for any hopes of creative autonomy the band may have had.

With the group headquartered 500 miles from New York, even with frequent visits Tim’s boys never got a chance to be fully in the loop. Their producers searched out songs for the Ohio Express; if it wasn’t convenient for the group to record them, studio musicians would instead. It was around this time that K&K decided to rework the banned Standells single “Try It” as an Ohio Express song. This fairly innocent anthem to sexual experimentation was penned by “Under the Boardwalk” writer Artie Resnick and 17-year-old Joey Levine, who played together with Resnick’s wife Kris in a group called the Third Rail. The Ohio Express liked the song, but the rush to release it meant the single only had Dale Powers singing lead over a session track.

When “Try It” charted in February 1968, Levine and Resnick were asked if they had a follow up in mind. Levine offered “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” which Jay & the Techniques had rejected because it sounded too juvenile. Not a problem for a Super K band! A demo was recorded with Jimmy Calvert’s group, K &K’s house band. Levine sang a dummy lead, only intended to sell the song. Neil Bogart loved his nasal whine, and decreed that he should be the permanent voice of the Ohio Express’ singles. To Levine’s surprised dismay, it was this demo version that showed up on the radio soon after, and climbed to #4 on the charts.

Joey Levine’s promotion to sometime lead vocalist created a conundrum for the touring band. Obviously the successful young songwriter wasn’t about to relocate to Mansfield to join the group. So the five band members took turns trying to sing in Levine’s distinctively bilious style, and Dean Kastran’s pipes provided the nearest approximation. Henceforth the Ohio Express found themselves in the unenviable position of having to learn their own hit records from the recordings.

The first Ohio Express album, Beg Borrow & Steal, was released on the Cameo/ Parkway label, where Neil Bogart worked as A&R man. Soon Bogart entered into a partnership with K&K, bringing them and the Ohio Express over to the new Buddah label, which would soon be known universally as bubblegum central. The first album blended folky garage, soul and frat-rock songs, some from the pens of band members Jim Pfahler and Tim Corwin. The more poppy material came from established writers. A full accounting is hard to come by, but the underproduced originals were probably recorded by the touring band, and the rest by the session team. The cover had a photo of the band surrounded by views of their psychedelic tour van, emblazoned with self-conscious countercultural slogans like “You Have Just been Passed By A Happening.”

The Ohio Express, album #1 for Buddah, opened with the organ- and bass-heavy kiddie pop sound of “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” but it also featured some strong band originals, ranging in style from punky garage to psychedelic pop. But by the Chewy Chewy album the Ohio band was nowhere to be seen. On this and Mercy (both released in 1969), lead vocals and between-song patter were almost exclusively handled by Joey Levine, with material written by Levine and other Super K staffers.

“Mercy” proved to be the last Ohio Express hit. Not only was the bubblegum fad’s popularity waning, but the pressure was taking a toll on both Joey Levine and the touring band. Organ player-and one-time main songwriter-Jim Pfahler had been missing shows. A band argument in the van on the way to a Cincinnati gig with the Lemon Pipers deteriorated until Pfahler hopped out with the keys. Tim Corwin hot-wired the engine and they ditched Pfahler. But there were more problems in store for the group. Turning on the radio, they heard for the first time “their” new single, “Chewy Chewy.” Humiliated by fans calling for the song they couldn’t play, Dean Kastran and Dale Powers quit soon after.

Meanwhile, Joey Levine was exhausted from his frenetic schedule as the Ohio Express’ writer, arranger, lead singer and engineer, and irked that he wasn’t making more money. He and Artie Resnick accepted an offer from MGM’s Mike Curb, and relocated to L.A.

In the absense of all the interested parties K&K tried to keep the Ohio Express name alive, releasing several more singles with a revolving crew of musicians. Replacement keyboard player Buddy Bengert sang lead on “Pinch Me,” while the countryish “Sausalito” was recorded in England by the group that would become 10cc, led by songwriter Graham Gouldman. In 1970, the name was quietly retired.

Today Joey Levine is a successful writer of advertising jingles. His work includes the very bubblegummy Almond Joy theme “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut,” “Just For the Fun Of It [Diet Coke],” “Sitting on a Ritz [Cracker]” and dozens more. Out on the road, drummer Tim Corwin continues to tour with a version of the Ohio Express that occasionally includes rhythm guitarist Doug Grassel. And on oldies radio, the Ohio Express still chugs along, sending kids of all ages into paroxysms of glee at their obscenely catchy riffs, snotty vocals and hilarious double entendres.

Thanks to Carl Cafarelli, Becky Ebenkamp, Bill Pitzonka and James Porter

Crazy Elephant

Crazy Elephant
by Bill Pitzonka

“There is no Crazy Elephant,” insists writer-producer Ritchie Cordell. “That was just Bob Spencer.” Robert Spencer was a member of the Cadillacs, who recorded the rock and roll classic “Speedo,” a #14 hit from 1955. In the years that followed, Spencer kept active in the industry, often penning songs and selling them off without just compensation, according to Cordell. In 1969, Spencer linked up with Kasenetz & Katz just as their Super K bubblegum machine was churning out the hits full-throttle.

Kasenetz & Katz hooked him up with Cordell and Joey Levine, who together had penned the soulful “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’.” The searing single, featuring Spencer’s scorching lead vocal and an obvious background vocal assist by Levine, was submitted to Buddah Records, the New York-based label with whom Kasenetz & Katz had been so continually successful. “We played it for [Buddah General Manager] Neil Bogart,” the Super K boys recall, “but he said, ‘No, I don’t hear it.'” Undeterred, they walked Crazy Elephant over to Larry Uttal at neighboring Bell Records, who snapped it up. By May 1969, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” hit #12 in Billboard. Its stateside success prompted a British release, where it also peaked at #12.

Kasenetz & Katz recruited a five-piece band of college-age youths to support the single on the road, pose for pictures, and fill out the inevitable album. According to the credits on that sole self-titled LP, the lucky winners of this strange sweepstakes were Larry Laufer (leader, keyboards and vocals), Ronnie Bretone (bass), Bob Avery (drums), Kenny Cohen (flute, sax, and vocals) and Hal King (vocals). The whole process was standard operating procedure for bubblegummeisters Kasenetz and Katz. More often than not, according to Cordell, they would “send five bands [with the same name] out on the road. They’d stick them in a room with the album and have them learn all the songs.”

“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” was the only Crazy Elephant record for Cordell and Levine. When the Spencer-soundalike follow-ups “Sunshine, Red Wine” and “Gimme Some More” failed to click, Kasenetz & Katz took Crazy Elephant in a new direction