1970 Bubble Puppy – Hot Smoke & Sasafrass
Texas was the home to a small group of early bands playing psychedelic music in the mid-sixties, beginning with the 13th Floor Elevators. That group began recording music in 1966 but ran into a lot of trouble thanks to their drug usage.
Rod Prince and Roy Cox had been members of The Bad Seeds, and they wanted to form a group that would focus on becoming a “top gun rock band.” They recruited three more musicians and formed the Willowdale Handcar.
A few line-up changes resulted in dual lead guitar players Rod and Todd Potter, bass guitarist Roy, and drummer David “Fuzzy” Fore. The label International Artists formed in Houston in 1965, and they signed the group in 1967. The band relocated to Austin and changed their name to Bubble Puppy. The final name of the group came from the novel Brave New World, which mentioned a children’s game called “Centrifugal Bumble-puppy.” Their first live public performance was as one of the warm-up acts for the Who at a concert in San Antonio.
After an endless series of practice sessions, the group recorded and released Hot Smoke & Sasafrass in 1969 and the single peaked at #14 on the Hot 100. The group came up with the title when they heard the word “sasafrass” in a line of dialog on The Beverly Hillbillies television show, and the group mistakenly misspelled the word (which is really annoying my spellchecker!)
The group released their first album later that year, but sales were poor. The group toured as an opening act for a series of bigger bands, including Steppenwolf. Bass player Nick St. Nicholas was the bandleader of Steppenwolf, and he became Bubble Puppy’s manager. The group ended their association with their record label, moved to Los Angeles. They also changed their name to Demian, the name of a Hermann Hesse novel, in part to prevent even more people confusing their music with the Super K Productions’ bubblegum music.
None of the changes helped the group in the long run, and by 1971, the group had disbanded. The band re-united in 1984 and even recorded a second album in 1987, but they drifted apart again when sales still failed to materialize.
Three of the members joined with two new members and reformed the group for a special appearance in 2011, and they survived a few more lineup changes and continue to perform at shows. The group maintains their homepage at https://bubblepuppy.com/home.
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