In 1968, for one brief, DayGlo moment, a Tristate band was the biggest thing in rock 'n' roll.The Lemon Pipers - singer Ivan Browne, guitarist Bill Bartlett, keyboardist Bob Nave, bassist Steve Walmsley and drummer Bill Albaugh - were top of the pops with the sunny psychedelia of "Green Tambourine."
The band had evolved from two local groups - Ivan & the Sabres and Tony & the Bandits - when the Bandits (which included Bartlett, Nave and Albaugh) fired Tony and stole Ivan.
The newly christened Lemon Pipers were a fixture in Oxford clubs and Cincinnati's underground rock palace, the Ludlow Garage, owned by young hippie entrepreneur Jim Tarbell. Fame beckoned in a major-label contract with Buddah Records. Firing their bassist, the group hired Walmsley and headed for New York.
A year after the Summer of Love, major labels were packaging the new psychedelic rock for pop radio. One result was a candy-colored confection called "bubblegum rock." The masterminds were K&K - producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Along with the Lemon Pipers, they were also responsible for the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company.
It's what Nave, a jazz-influenced organist who became one of the Tristate's leading jazz DJs, calls "the duality of the Lemon Pipers." "We were a stand-up rock 'n' roll band, and then all of a sudden, we're in a studio, being told how to play and what to play." Live, they were a blues-rocking, jam band. On record they did fuzz-toned anthems like "Jelly Jungle (of Orange Marmalade)."
The bubblegum fad soon lost its flavor. Browne quit and moved to California, where he still lives and performs. Back in Oxford, some of the other guys formed a band called Starstruck, which got a lot of notice for its rearrangement of an old Lead Belly blues called "Black Betty."
K&K heard about it, drafted Bartlett for a new band, Ram Jam, and quickly recorded "Black Betty." One-hit-wonderhood struck Bartlett twice and the song lives on, most recently on the soundtrack to Johnny Depp's Blow.
Bartlett has stayed active, though he's been focusing on boogie-woogie piano lately. Walmsley plays bass around Oxford. Nave occasionally plays organ with Greg Schaber & High Street. Albaugh died in 1999.
By Larry Nager
1. Rice Is Nice (Paul Leka, Shelley Pinz) - 2:16
2. Shoeshine Boy (Leka, Pinz) - 3:19
3. Turn Around Take a Look (Bill Bartlett) - 2:42
4. Rainbow Tree (Laguna, Mizrahi) - 2:16
5. Ask Me If I Care (Ehrmann) - 3:03
6. Straggling Behind (Lemon Pipers) - 2:32
7. Green Tambourine (Leka, Pinz) - 2:22
8. Blueberry Blue (Leka, Pinz) - 2:19
9. Shoemaker of Leatherwear Square (Leka, Pinz) - 2:00
10.Fifty Year Void (Lemon Pipers) - 5:41
11.Through With You (Bartlett) - 8:31
The Lemon Pipers
*Bill Albaugh - Drums
*Bill Bartlett - Lead Guitar
*Ivan Browne - Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals
*R. G. Nave - Organ, Tambourine, Fog Horn, Toys
*Steve Walmsley - Bass Guitar