On 14 September 1968, The Archie Show, a Saturday morning TV cartoon show, made its debut on CBS in America.
The show was a Don Kirshner creation based around a high school rock band in a popular comic book, from which hit singles were to be spun off, following the pattern Kirshner evolved with The Monkees.
Cynics suggested that the mogul hoped to avoid the personality clashes which soured his grand design for The Monkees by ensuring that this group consisted only of animated drawings.
The Archies’ field of musical endeavour was ‘Bubblegum’ – A term coined by two New York record producers, Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz (owners of Super-K Records).
Kasenetz and Katz saw a gap in the market for uncomplicated danceable pop with simple lyrics – a complete reaction to the progressive and psychedelic rock scenes. The hit they wrote for Ohio Express, Yummy Yummy Yummy – featuring the lyric “Yummy yummy yummy, I got love in my tummy” – was not untypical.
The 1968 Archies’ hit Bang-Shang-A-Lang (which opened the TV cartoon show) was recorded with session singer Ron Dante on lead vocals. His voice became identified with The Archies sound, and during the peak of “Archies-mania”, the Post Cereal company issued Archies’ records on the back of cereal boxes, and an Archies restaurant even opened in Joliet, Illinois.
The group only ever played live once, at a charity event at St Theresa’s Church in Kennilworth, New Jersey, with Dante and Donna Marie performing Sugar, Sugar and Who’s Your Baby?
Kasenetz and Katz were equally responsible for Simon Says, the 1910 Fruitgum Company‘s pre-teen pop smash based on a children’s game. When Simon Says passed the million sales mark on 5 March 1968, it confirmed that Bubblegum had really arrived.
Despite accusations that Super-K acts like The 1989 Musical Marching Zoo and Lieutenant Garcia’s Magic Music Box were fronts for groups of studio session players, the label prospered.
Super-K took over New York’s Carnegie Hall on 8 June 1968 for a promotional concert at which the label’s entire roster combined to form the 46-strong Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus.
In 1969, Kasenetz-Katz Associates reported an 85% sales increase over the past 12 months, earning $25 million and scoring 25 hit singles.
There was no sign of the Bubblegum hits slowing either, and Sugar Sugar by The Archies hit the US Number 1 slot in September 1969, and returned once again, as a dance novelty, in 1987.