When reading about the music world of the 1960s and 1970s, you sometimes see the term ‘bubblegum pop’ used to describe many of the best-selling records of the era. It refers to a type of music that was characterized by a light, upbeat sound with a catchy melody and the occasional singalong chorus, all meant to appeal to young music fans. Not surprisingly, it was disparaged by ‘real’ musicians, including the group that many say had the very first #1 song of the type — the Lemon Pipers and “Green Tambourine.”
The Lemon Pipers came to life in the mid-1960s as a quartet playing student bars in the Cincinnati area, in the nearby college town of Oxford. A little unpolished at first, with a preference for psychedelic music, the group manged to make a record but it didn’t create much of a stir. The next step proved to be a key one though — Ivan Browne came aboard as lead singer, joining Bill Bartlett, Reg Nave, Bill Albaugh, and Steve Walmsley to make a quintet.
The newly enlarged Lemon Pipers soon signed a contract with Buddah Records, which did result in increased exposure and more popularity. However, the guys found that they were heavily leaned on to make the kind of music they didn’t much care for — bubblegum pop. And when “Green Tambourine” came along the producers were proven right. The record was issued in late 1967 and by early the following year it had risen to the top of the charts.
Naturally enough, Buddah Records (which reportedly had ties to organized crime) pushed the group to continue recording what the band sometimes referred to as ‘funny-money music’. Follow-ups like “Rice Is Nice” and “Jelly Jungle” did well but didn’t approach the upper reaches of the charts, and the group gradually got more control of its output, recording harder-edged songs like “Ask Me If I Care.” But sales still trended downward, and in 1969 the group dissolved.