Buddah had its origins in the establishment of the Kama Sutra label in 1965 by entrepreneurs Phil Steinberg and Hy Mizrahi and producer Artie Ripp, the force behind such hits as Doris Troy’s "Just One Look" (Atlantic 2188; 1963; #10), Jay & the Americans’ "Come A Little Bit Closer" (United Artists 759; 1964; #3), and the Shangri-Las’ "Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)" (Red Bird 008; 1964; #5). Created as a subsidiary in 1967, the New York-based imprint quickly attracted a stable of ambitious, talented young writers and producers, including Pete Anders and Vinnie Poncia (who had provided hits for the Ronettes), Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell (Tommy James & the Shondells), Levine and Resnick, Elliot Chiprut, and Bobby Bloom. Other key staff included West Coast A&R chief Bob Krasnow—responsible for signing progressive rockers Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band and Barry Goldberg—and Vice President Neil Bogart, who steered the label in the direction of bubblegum singles. His successes would include the 1910 Fruitgum Co. with "Simon Says" (Buddah 24; 1968; #4), and the Ohio Express, whose biggest hit was "Yummy Yummy Yummy" (Buddah 38; 1968; #4).
On the strength of such prepubescent fare, Buddah was the seventh-ranked label in singles sales by the time it celebrated its first anniversary in September 1968. Although later enjoying success in the pop-rock (Brooklyn Bridge, Lou Christie, Motherlode, etc.) and soul (the Impression via their Curtom subsidiary, the Isley Brothers on T-Neck) fields, the label remained saddled with the bubblegum image. The Lemon Piper’s best exemplified this dilemma; fed a string of sugary material—"Green Tambourine" (Buddah 23; 1967; #1), "Rice Is Nice" (Buddah 31; 1968; #46), and "Jelly Jungle" (Buddah 41; 1968; #51)—the band attempted, unsuccessfully it turned out, to assert their hard rock side via largely ignored album releases.
Buddah’s assembly-line techniques—many of its acts were studio-only concoctions like Lt. Garcia’s Magic Music Box and the Rock and Roll Double Bubble Trading Card Company of Philadelphia 19141—led to an inevitable decline when its bubblegum artists fell out of favor with the public. The defection of Ripp—Billy Joel’s early mentor—and Bogart, who founded Casablanca in 1973, also hurt the label. By 1983, when the company finally shut down operations, hit records had become a rare occurrence. BMG would reactivate "Buddha" as an archival label in 1999; much of the old Buddah catalog has been reissued, including material by Melanie, the Flamin’ Groovies, the 1910 Fruitgum Co., and Ohio Express.
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