ORIGINS: Bubble Puppy was formed in 1966 in San Antonio, Texas, by Rod Prince and Roy Cox who had previously performed together in the rock group called the Bad Seeds. Looking to form a "top gun rock band" based on the concept of dual lead guitars, a staple of southern rock that was highly unusual on the psychedelic music scene, Prince and Cox recruited Todd Potter, an Austin, Texas guitarist. With the addition of Danny Segovia and Clayton Pulley, the original line up of Bubble Puppy was complete. The name "Bubble Puppy" was taken from "Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy", a fictitious children's game in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Bubble Puppy's live debut was as the opening act for The Who in San Antonio in 1967.
After a few line-up changes (drummer Clayton Pulley being replaced by Craig Root, and the departure of Danny Segovia), the final roster for Bubble Puppy settled at Rod Prince and Todd Potter on lead guitars, Roy Cox on bass guitar, and David "Fuzzy" Fore on drums. In the spring of 1967, Bubble Puppy moved to Austin, Texas and signed a recording contract with Houston-based International Artists, home to the 13th Floor Elevators and the Red Krayola.
Hot Smoke & Sassafras.
Bubble Puppy scored a US Top 20 hit in 1969 with their single, "Hot Smoke & Sassafras". The name was a misheard line lifted from an episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies".The single peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 100 and number 15 (RPM) in Canada. In addition, the song was at the top of many radio station playlists over the spring of 1969. The song was also covered internationally by MGMT, a popular American psychedelic rock band, and by The Mooche in the UK.
In 1969, Bubble Puppy released their first full-length album, A Gathering of Promises. However, despite Bubble Puppy's early success with the "Hot Smoke & Sassafras" single, they experienced numerous conflicts with International Artists, and parted ways with the label in 1970.
Signing Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf as a manager, Bubble Puppy moved to Los Angeles in 1970. Their name was changed to Demian (after Hermann Hesse's 1919 novel at the suggestion of their manager's wife); this was to avoid contractual difficulties with their previous record company but also because the former name appeared to link them with bubblegum music.
The group signed to ABC-Dunhill Records and released one self-titled album in 1971, but its failure to perform on the charts led to financial difficulties with the label and the group's breakup in 1972.
on March 19, 2011, three of the original members of Bubble Puppy reunited for the first time in 25 years for a performance at The Austin Music Awards. The band also added Mark Miller (guitar) and Jimmy Umstattd (bass) to the line-up. David Fore met the two while playing in Austin cover band, the Kopy Kats. David and Mark also played together in the mid-70's in another popular Austin cover band, Zeus. In April of 2013, Gregg Stegall joined the line-up taking Todd Potter's place in the band. Gregg has a long-standing musical affiliation with Mark and Jimmy dating back from the early 1970s.
Bubble Puppy's recent live performances included appearances at the Texas Legacy Music Awards in San Antonio, Texas (4 September 2011); the Saxon Pub in Austin, Texas (30 December 2011); and Antone's Nightclub in Austin, Texas (13 July 2012), and numerous appearances at Threadgill's World HQ in Austin, Texas. Summer of 2013 finds the band booked in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, South Padre Isle, and at the 5th annual Utopia Fest on Sept. 20th.
Rod Prince ‒ lead guitar, vocals
Roy Cox ‒ bass guitar, vocals
Todd Potter ‒ lead guitar, vocals
David Fore ‒ drums, vocals
Rod Prince ‒ guitar, lead vocals
David Fore - drums, groove
Mark Miller - guitar, vocals
Jimi Umstattd ‒ bass, vocals
Gregg Stegall ‒ guitar, vocals
Individual Biographies can be found at the website - http://bubblepuppy.com
1968: The Bubble Puppy ‒ "Hot Smoke & Sassafras"/"Lonely" (International Artists)
1969: The Bubble Puppy ‒ "Beginning"/"If I Had A Reason" (International Artists)
1969: The Bubble Puppy ‒ "Days Of Our Time"/"Thinkin' About Thinkin'" (International Artists)
1970: Bubble Puppy ‒ "What Do You See"/"Hurry Sundown" (International Artists)
1971: Demian ‒ "Face The Crowd"/"Love People" (ABC-Dunhill)
1969: Bubble Puppy ‒ A Gathering Of Promises (International Artists)
1971: Demian ‒ Demian (ABC-Dunhill)
1987: Bubble Puppy ‒ Wheels Go Round (One Big Guitar)
2000: Bubble Puppy ‒ Hot Smoke (Actual Artists)
And our own David 'Fuzzy' Fore as #4 Best Drummer! http://www.austinchronicle.com/austin-music-awards/year:2014/category:best-performing-bands/
With its ever-expanding music infrastructure and a deep bench of bands, it’s hard to imagine a Texas where Austin isn’t the focal point of Lone Star music. East 6th, Austin City Limits, Rainey Street, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Red River, Psych Fest, SXSW—there’s a reason why Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world. But if you look back to the 1960s, in one of the most fruitful periods in American pop, a different vision emerges; one where San Antonio and Austin share equal billing as the region’s hotspot for rock ‘n’ roll creativity, working in relative harmony to hook national acts and nurture a local scene in South Central Texas.
At the helm of this SA/ATX creativity was the then-young genre of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll, merging rock forms with new manipulations in sonic style and chemical balances in the brain. The left-field music of the 13th Floor Elevators and Jimi Hendrix coupled with the newly popular LSD wonder drug were opening porous young minds across the nation, not just along the I-35 corridor.
First synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938, LSD only became popular as a recreational trip in the 1960s, as advocates like Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary championed the stuff as a gateway to untapped consciousness. The word itself comes from psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who combined the Greek words “psyche” (mind) and “delos” (manifesting) to translate the experience into language. And like Osmond’s conversion, psychedelic musicians relayed the acid trip in their music, a synethesiac blend of rock ‘n’ roll and serotonin.
Go Southwest, Young Man
Though San Francisco marked the epicenter of the psychedelic shockwaves that swept the nation, South Texas recorded early and independent tremors, churning out a distinctly Texan flavor of psych—cactus kids dancing with California’s flower children.
A poster from the era, tacked to the bathroom wall of the South Texas Popular Culture Center (1017 E Mulberry, “Tex Pop” for short), reps a slightly doofy San Anto and a slightly hipper, mustached Austin basking in the lysergic embrace of Mother Texas. Proud of her fraternal cities, she sighs, “My children of tomorrow are becoming heavy!” Produced by SA poster artist Dan “Boogie” Wynans, the bill promotes an evening at the Sunken Gardens in 1969 featuring bands from both sides of the psychedelic I-35 nexus.
Margaret Moser, SA native, proprietor of Tex Pop and co-founder of the Austin Chronicle, points to surf rock as the instigator of SA psych. Like an older sibling turning the Alamo City on to the good stuff, band members from Bubble Puppy and the Laughing Kind came up from the coast in the early ’60s, bringing with them the carefree licks and early effects pedals native to that surf sound. “San Antonio probably had the biggest non-coastal surf scene of any city I ever saw,” says Moser, “certainly in Texas.”
At the time, San Antonio also had capable music venues to support local and touring bands. Spots like Fredericksburg Road’s adolescent-only Teen Canteen, already in operation pre-Brit Invasion, housed amateur groups looking to hone their talents in a dance-friendly setting. As musicians tightened up and committed to “really being bands all the time,” says Moser, “San Antonio tried to gussy itself up, too.” Shortly after the reveal of HemisFair Park for the 1968 World’s Fair, the Pusikat Club opened nearby at 120 Villita to showcase to the HemisFair crowd, according to Moser, “just how hip San Antonio was.”
As LSD hit Texas in the mid-60s, that surf sound got weirder and heavier. The spaced-out wave journeys got a little more ethereal, the guitar effects got a little more distorted and pretty soon SA artists like Lord August and the Visions of Lite, Swiss Movement and Bubble Puppy were playing what Austin’s 13th Floor Elevators were calling “psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll.”
The most commercially successful of any South Texas psych outfit, Bubble Puppy formed in San Antonio in 1966 when singer and guitarist Rod Prince moved from the coastal ’burbs to collaborate with his writing partner Roy Cox. “I was in Mathis then, having just returned from LA,” Prince says. “I had nothing else going, so I went to SA and Roy and I put the players together to form the first incarnation of what would become the Puppy.” At the time, Prince says the San Antonio music scene was “very tight-knit. Everyone knew everyone, like a family, without much in the way of showbiz competition.”
In 1969, Bubble Puppy landed a Top 20 hit with “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” a tight, six-string death punch over which Prince sings cryptically of “the place above where it began.” When Prince tells the Current that Bubble Puppy was “consumed with virtuosity,” it’s no joke. Through tempo changes and a wandering guitar interlude, “Sassafras” makes writing an intricate hit seem effortless.
With the opening of Austin Highway’s Mind’s Eye and Mystic Moor, venues as psychedelic as their names suggest, San Antonio developed a solid infrastructure to support local and touring genre players. “San Antonio was really poised in the late ’60s to be in the center of attention,” says Moser.
If Alamo City psych grew out in the open, up the road in Austin the music was nurtured underground, like pot plants growing in the back of a bedroom closet. The University of Texas was already cultivating a small, experimental folk community that attracted other young Texan beatkniks (like Janis Joplin, for a hot minute).
When acid emerged in Austin in 1965 and guitarist Stacy Sutherland, drummer John Ike Walton and songwriter and electric jug player Tommy Hall teamed up with the young, scabrous voice of Roky Erickson to form the 13th Floor Elevators, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll was born. With their debut release in 1966, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, the quartet, widely lauded as the architects of psych rock, were indeed the first band to use the word “psychedelic” to describe their sound.
From here, the folkers operating in Austin’s bohemian outskirts went electric, buying the necessary gear to turn on and drop out. “I would defy you to find an open psychedelic band operating as early as the Elevators were,” says Elevators contributor Powell St. John in Scott Conn’s rock-doc Dirt Road to Psychedelia. The Elevators were the centrifugal force for a scene that included bands like The Conqueroo, Shiva’s Headband and the Golden Dawn. To keep it in Texas, Houston’s International Artists records housed the Lone Star psych bands.
The Children of Tomorrow Come Together
When Austin’s Vulcan Gas Company opened its doors in the fall of 1967, the San Anto and Austin psych scenes sang in harmony, filling the dive with mind-manifesting rock. “When the Vulcan opened up,” recalls Moser, “I would say that fully half the bands that played there were SA bands. Austin was essentially a political capital and a college town. When a cool club came along like the Vulcan, it couldn’t really pull the stature of bands that were touring to San Antonio.” For instance, when Jimi Hendrix came through Texas in 1968 and 1970, he played San Antonio, oozing psychedelia and shattering minds at the Municipal Auditorium and HemisFair.
One imagines the blues-influenced Hendrix could have dug the South Texas psych sound as it grew up among the regional giants of blues history, from Blind Lemon Jefferson’s tinny 1920s classics to the swingin’ power of Big Mama Thornton.
“One writes what one knows,” says Rod Prince, “so environment plays a part for sure, and flavors any style of music. So I’d say that made the Texas psych offerings different from the city-oriented bands.” Perhaps that explains the squirrely squeal of Tommy Hall’s electric Elevator jug and Roky Erickson’s feral yells, cured from the best of the black blues musicians.
Young music freaks could often see the influencers on the same stage as the influenced. Accidentally ahead of its time, the Vulcan, out of necessity, booked blues greats like Big Mama, Freddy King, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed alongside rock acts. “They were part of that scene and part of that identity,” says Spencer Perskin of Shiva’s Headband.
In 1969, Shiva’s Headband released the definitive tune of this psych-blues nexus, the awesomely titled “Homesick Armadillo Blues.” Perskin trash-talks the Frisco rain and longs for the Texas sun, resolving on the twelfth-bar of the tune, “I don’t hate California, it just ain’t my style.”
The Head Trip Ends
The I-35 psych oasis wasn’t to last into Nixon’s second term. Just as the Manson murders and the Altamont meltdown deadened the good vibrations in California, police crackdowns in Texas put a damper on the music.
“I was living here [in San Antonio] in the early 1970s and there really was a sense of Feds and ‘heads all over again,” says Moser. “We got our one joint and we’re being chased down by a pile of cops … The paranoia was very real.”
Bubble Puppy’s Prince put a Texas twang on the situation, calling it “the longhairs versus the goat-ropers.”
The Austin Police Department looked to chop the head from the psychedelic snake by targeting the Elevators. “This was when the police in town were convinced if they could pick off the ringleaders, they cold nip it in the bud,” says St. John.
Already suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia, in 1969, Elevators singer Roky Erickson was convicted for possession of a lone joint and sentenced to the Austin State Hospital until 1972. As Erickson underwent electroshock therapy in a radically different psych scene, the Texas genre he inspired dissipated in the late ’60s. Police kept on busting, musicians moved out to California and in the summer of 1970, the Vulcan Gas Company closed its doors.
Though it was in operation for less than three years, the Vulcan Gas Company’s influence can still be felt in Austin. “Around 1970, Austin stole all the music thunder,” says Moser. “Partly it’s the booking policy of the Vulcan and Armadillo and their incredibly broad view of what kind of music you could play in front of people: ballet, Stanley Clarke, Chuck Mangione, Devo and the Clash. When you had that menu of music laid out to you week after week, night after night, there wasn’t any reason not to go. That spilled over into other clubs too.” While Austin diversified and its music clubs took off, San Antonio dug its heels into burgeoning punk and metal scenes.
Sometime in the mid 2000s, psych returned to Texas in a kaleidoscopic blaze. Since 2004, Austin’s the Black Angels have led the charge with five albums of revivalist psych as pure as a hit of Stanley Owsley acid. The Angels’ Christian Bland has his own theory on psych’s re-entry.
“It’s hearing real rock ‘n’ roll again on the radio,” says Bland. “I got into it hearing the White Stripes on the radio in the early 2000s and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The Warlocks, Clinic and the Brian Jonestown Massacre got me interested in trying to play the ’60s style, which I grew up listening to.
When I heard these newer bands bringing this sound into the modern day, that piqued my interest and I wanted to do the same.”
Moser, who saw it all as the Austin Chronicle’s music editor from its inception up until this year, understands the new attention a little differently. “Roky never went away,” she says with a smile. “Roky, like Willie Nelson, is one of those musicians who’s revered by everybody. Because the Elevators’ music really was born out of Austin, the city always kept it very close. So when it was time for a genuine revival in psychedelia like the mid-2000s and a band like the Black Angels comes along, they carry the Elevators’ gravitas.”
Marc Anthony Smith, a veteran of psychedelic San Anto, poses an alternative, lysergic account of psych’s return. In November of 2000, the DEA bagged William Leonard Picker, the Walter White of LSD. According to the US government, with Picker’s operation shredded, worldwide LSD availability dropped a staggering 90 percent. “When that happened, LSD was off the scene, too. If anyone said they had it, that was a lie ‘cause it was not anywhere in the South,” says Smith. “Sometime in 2005, it started coming back. And I do think it has something to do with it. If you’re a [air quotes] psych band, if that’s your ethos and there’s not anybody who gets it, that’s hard to play.”
Whether it’s a retro-regurgitation of pop culture, a guitar-rock renaissance, a great time for drugs or a confluence of it all, psych is booming in American music. “There’s a lot of bands playing in garage and psych, the ’60s kind of style,” says Bland. “There were some when we started, but there’s been an explosion that we’ve seen all around the country when we’re on tour.”
To help keep the psych movement churning, Bland and the Angels founded the Reverberation Appreciation Society. “Our goal is to preserve the heritage of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll that we believe started here in Austin and to keep the legacy alive and to push it into the future,” he says.
The Reverb Appreciation Society record label has recently pressed wax from up-and-comers Holy Wave and Night Beats, and Reverb’s annual celebration Austin Psych Fest has joined the big wigs of the Austin festival circuit.
“The idea came about in 2008,” Bland says. “Having been on tour for two and a half years at that point, we’d met so many cool bands around the country. We decided, ‘Why not throw a psychedelic gathering with our friends on the Saturday before SXSW?’” Since then, Psych Fest has ballooned from a SXSW satellite to its own three-day palooza on Carson Creek Ranch.
“It’s almost doubled every year since we started,” says Bland. “Last year we had 3,500 [attendees]. Our goal is to continue to grow every year. But not by sacrificing and having Toyota come in or something crazy like that. We want the organic and not [to] force any random bands that don’t fit Psych Fest. It has to be a psych-influenced band.”
For Psych Fest 6, “psych-influenced” takes a broad, poptimist definition, concerned more with the mind-manifesting spirit than with the psych rock style. Indie icons Avey Tare and Panda of Animal Collective both play solo sets on Saturday and Sunday, while vaporwave pioneer Oneohtrix Point Never plays Friday night. Of course, the Reverb Appreciation Society chartered some traditional acts too: The Black Angels, ’60s icons the Zombies, San Fran legends Flamin’ Groovies and South London’s Loop, touring the US for the first time since 1990.
In Austin, psych’s heartbeat obviously pulses strong, but if you roll your windows down for a Friday night drive on the St. Mary’s Strip, you’ll hear psych creeping back into SA’s sonic landscape, too. The chameleonic pop of the Flower Jesus Quintet, Crown’s pulsating blues-psych rhythms or Lonely Horse’s spiritual visions burst from SA venues on a weekly basis.
Marc Anthony Smith, who drums with Creatura, “of the Jefferson Airplane school,” and fronts and plays guitar in the Mockingbird Express, “from the Jimi Hendrix school,” credits SA’s psych interests in part to the vanguard up I-35. “It’s a feedover,” says Smith. “It’s like a watering hole. We go up there, get nourished, get worn out and come back. But it’s a return of the style, the psychedelic ethos never left.”
In 2014, with psych re-emerging via exciting new bands in SA and Austin, Texas’ children of tomorrow are becoming heavy once again. by Matt Stieb
For far too many, Houston’s role in music history has merely two stages. In the national media especially, our city’s contributions are typically limited to A) Beyonce and B) ZZ Top. Done. Maybe Townes Van Zandt will get mentioned if you’re dealing with a particularly sharp outsider who knows his Americana. Somehow all the tastemakers and journalists (and certainly all of today’s shallow-ass, poseur hipsters) seem to have never got the memo that for a period of a few short years during the sexual revolution, Houston was home to independent record label International Artists: a rare incubator for blues, rock and early psychedelic music, all with a distinctly Texas flavor. Unless you count the Red Krayola’s Mayo Thompson touring with an entirely new band (and doing mostly new music), or the 13th Floor Elevators’ Roky Erickson playing mostly post-Elevator material, the Bubble Puppy is the only IA band still gigging. Their insanely tight playing and Who-like vocal harmonies are something you’ll never hear on the Eagle, but the Bubble Puppy produced one perfect album at IA and every song on their set list is like a slice of warm, hallucinogenic, apple pie. They played the Continental Club in November and are set to play Dan Electro’s in the Heights on April 25th.
You have maybe one of the coolest rock monikers/reputations of any rock band from your era–that is “the most feared opening act in rock”. It appears many places. Who gave you that title and why do you think it stuck?
The most feared thing was from our habit of blowin’ most of the big name acts we played with off the stage. The Puppy was maybe the most well-rehearsed act out there in those days, when most others would just get out there and play. It was our life entirely, the music and the band–six to ten hours daily, every day, and that made us mighty tough to get the best of. I sometimes think it was a detriment to a degree, in that nobody wants to headline a show with an opener that’s gonna make you look shabby [laughter].
Did you guys get to meet The Who at all when you opened for them in San Antonio?
Ah, it’s common knowledge about the show with The Who. The day before the show, all of The Who except Roger came down to the club in San Antone where we rehearsed, and spent a couple hours jammin’. A fine time indeed for relative beginners like we were then, and after the show, Pete came to our place and we sat up most of the night talkin’ and joking. He’s a mighty fine person, and shared all manner of insights and career advice with us too.
Is it true that George Harrison wanted to do some kind of cover of “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass”?
Well, the actual story is that Apple wanted to lease “Hot Smoke” and promote it, but of course IA wouldn’t let anyone that knew what they were doing handle anything they considered their property. One more instance of the greed and stupidity of those people, and another chance to really exploit the worldwide hit that “Hot Smoke” was was lost to IA’s foolishness. They had no clue what to do with a major hit record, and their idea of touring the Puppy was to send us to Chicago and book us in every little surrounding town for a pittance, when the major agencies would’ve had us all over the planet. Sad but true.
Do you have any plans to release Demian’s only album again?
We’ve talked of a remake of the Demian LP for sales at our shows, and I expect that to come to pass soon.
What are some challenges you encountered in your resurrection of the Bubble Puppy?
It’s been a challenge in a lot of ways, this return to performance. One of the toughest is the fact that I live two-and-a-half hours away from Austin, making rehearsal a major endeavor. Of course the major hard spot was the fact that I’d damaged my fretboard hand in ’90, and wasn’t able to play most of my old parts. This was neatly fixed by the genius of my old friend Mark Miller, who’s the only person I’ve ever know that could play my parts note for note, inflection for inflection–perfectly. In the time we’ve been together, I’ve gotten much better at it though, mostly from just playing again. But I sing more than I play these days, as you saw at the Continental. With those killer players, I don’t need to. This incarnation of the Puppy is more magical performance-wise than any other yet, and there’s no ego trips, no dissention or head games, just pure brotherhood and magic in the music. Mark, Gregg and Jimmy cut their musical teeth on the Puppy and Demian, so it’s been infinitely easy to make the band sound like the original. No, better than that, because of the joy and tight sense of family we all feel in the project. It’s a precious gift for me, and I treasure those guys.
“Bubble Puppy wins 4th Place for Best Performing Rock Band in the Austin Music Polls for 2013-2014! David "Fuzzy" Fore wins 4th place for Best Drummer! Thanks to All our Bubble Puppy Fans and Friends!”
“…..And so, without further ado, The One! The Only...the ones who opened up for the Who! The ones who opened for Steppenwolf and got more encores than Steppenwolf! They had a number one hit across the world! BUBBLE PUPPY! “
If you were at the Saxon show in August, you heard that very introduction from Ron Oliveria, a fixture on Austin television news for 30-years. The fans responded with an exuberance that echoed for the entire night!!
Bubble Puppy electrified the stage with their hits from the past re-igniting their infamous 60’s music souring into this millennium with renewed energy and amazing talent.
Original members, co-founder, Rod Prince, and David “Fuzzy” Fore, are now joined by Mark Miller, Jimmy Umstattd and Gregg Stegall. This band has not only launched a new wave of enthusiasm from fans, old and new around the globe, but the hard core talent generated from this union of brothers is positively dynamic!
When Bubble Puppy reunited upon request for the AMA’s Texas Hall of Fame award in March of 2011, and then the Texas Legacy award in San Antonio just months later, they are now responding to the call from fans and friends. The answer is…Bubble Puppy is back! With the help of social media, word is spreading that Bubble Puppy has returned to the stage. They’ve performed in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, the UtopiaFest 2013 and are now putting together another great Texas tour for 2014! ., Bubble Puppy is also one of the featured bands in the new book, The Boys from Houston.
“Since the winter of ’66 when me and (Roy) Cox put this together….in all this time, other than the core of the Puppy, and all the incarnations….even as short a time as we’ve had together, it’s these people you see right here…..I’ve never experienced the level of Brotherhood and Music and a Buzz that we have going on right here…..right now” Rod Prince, August 3, 2013.
Bubble Puppy was the second-most-famous '60s rock band named after writings by Aldous Huxley. Which isn't to diminish what the Texas psychedelic rock band accomplished during its four-year run, only to say that Bubble Puppy made one album with one formidable hit before bad business sunk the group. The Doors, which also looked to the English writer for its name, managed to stick around a little longer.
While the Doors' story has been documented to the point of comedy - "I'm drunk. I'm nobody. I'm drunk. I'm famous. I'm drunk. I'm dead," comedian Denis Leary quipped - Bubble Puppy didn't last long enough to be canonized the same way. But discerning '60s psychedelic rock enthusiasts still remember the band's hit "Hot Smoke and Sasafrass," a No. 14 single (more for its sound than spelling) in 1969. The band's sole album, "A Gathering of Promises," still sounds vibrant today; less trippy than much psychedelia, and more like a blueprint for '70s hard rock.
Bubble Puppy played a few reunion gigs, including one in 1985 with the original lineup. More recently, the band assembled in 2011 for the Austin Chronicle's Music Awards and Texas Music Hall of Fame induction.
Singer and guitarist Rod Prince and drummer David Fore have assembled a 21st-century version of Bubble Puppy with guitarists Mark Miller and Gregg Stegall, and bassist Jimmy Umstattd. This ensemble will play the Continental Club Friday night, the first Bubble Puppy show in more than 40 years.
Fore was in the audience at Bubble Puppy's first gig. The band's roots had started with the Bad Seeds, a garage-rock act singer and guitarist Prince started near Corpus Christi in 1964 with bassist and keyboardist Roy Cox. The band relocated to San Antonio and added guitarist Todd Potter. The members settled on the name Bubble Puppy, a variation on a title of a children's game in Huxley's novel "Brave New World."
Bubble Puppy's inaugural gig was opening for the Who at the San Antonio Coliseum in 1967.
Fore says he was "blown away, it wasn't like anything I'd heard." Shortly afterward he got a call from Prince, who was a friend, asking the teenager to quit school and join the band as drummer. The band moved to Austin as a psychedelic scene there began to coagulate. The four members lived together and rehearsed tirelessly.
Houston provided Bubble Puppy its first break. Prince and Cox were recording demos with a friend in town when they got an offer to record for the International Artists label, which also was home to Austin's popular psych-rock band the 13th Floor Elevators.
"In those days, you could do stuff like that," Fore says. "You didn't own that much stuff. So we got in a van and moved to Houston. Eight months later, we were on 'American Bandstand.' "
Houston wasn't the most welcoming environment for those into the psych scene in the day. Outside of the sanctuary of clubs like the Catacombs, Love Street and Club Fantastic, long-haired types were regarded with suspicion by the law.
"I got pulled over once in the middle of the daytime," Fore says. "The guy drug me by the collar and took me to a phone booth and slammed me against it. He called the police station to check on me, but I had no record at all. But inside the clubs the scene was fantastic."
The band had a number of issues with International Artists, as many acts did. Among them was a clumsy approach to releasing music. "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" was the B-side of the song "Lonely." Fore says the band thought "Hot Smoke" should've been the lead single with another B-side, and have "Lonely" released as the second single. KILT and other radio stations played "Hot Smoke," which quickly caught fire. "International Artists had nothing to do with it," Fore says. "We had the DJs to thank."
The song's appeal is obvious. It's tough and gentle, with a forceful beat and lighter harmonies, as well as some alterations in time signature that suggested future prog rock. The song retains a feeling of improvisatory jamming without meandering. The lyrics are the most psychedelic thing about it.
"Our songs were just poppy songs," Fore says. "A lot of them had uplifting themes. The psych part had more to do with the light show. You don't hear it quite as much in the songs. We didn't sound anything like the 13th Floor Elevators. I guess we have some of that reputation from the jamming."
Bubble Puppy hit with "Hot Smoke" before it had an album, "another IA oversight," Fore says. Eventually, "A Gathering of Promises" was assembled, and the band had a record to promote. The cover is a brilliant relic of its era, with the four members dressed by a theatrical costume designer.
"They interviewed each one of us and figured out our personality types," Fore says. "Rod was the Viking, a strong guy in leather. I was kind of a prince in crushed velvet."
Fore no longer has his costume. "I gave it to the world's foremost Bubble Puppy fan," he says. "I tried to wear it on stage, but it didn't work. It was too hard to play in it."
The band's trajectory at that point should've been upward. But International Artists was unable to capitalize on the success of "Hot Smoke," putting the group on strange tour routes that didn't maximize potential audiences. Bubble Puppy was on the same stage as the 1910 Fruitgum Company, a quintessential '60s bubble-gum band. Despite the differences in sound, the association was difficult to shake.
Bubble Puppy eventually shook free of International Artists, which was on the brink of collapse. The band moved to Los Angeles hoping to start anew, though it left things behind, including some recordings. Andy Bradley, chief engineer at SugarHill Studios, says a majestic 15-minute jam is in the studio's vaults.
The four men of Bubble Puppy didn't find fame out West. They made a terrific album in 1970 that documented the band making a transition from psychedelia into a more direct, powerful style of what would eventually become hard rock. "Demian" yielded no hits, but it remains a collector's item, with sellers seeking $50-$100 on eBay for a copy these days.
It was a self-titled recording because the band also left the name Bubble Puppy in Houston. When the group's members settled on "Demian," they became the second-most-famous band to pull a name from the writings of Herman Hesse, author of "Steppenwolf."
By the numbers, Bubble Puppy was a one-hit wonder. But that shouldn't be read as a pejorative. The band's output is rich and deeper than one song.
"A Gathering of Promises" and "Demian" boast a sound ahead of its time. Both deserve reappraisal and new discovery.
by Andrew Dansby
The last time Bubble Puppy took the stage in Houston, it was as the band Demian and it was at a club known as Of Our Own. And it was, to the best of David Fore‘s memory, sometime in 1970.
Friday night, Bubble Puppy finally returns to Houston for an appearance at the Continental Club.
Bubble Puppy, if you don’t remember, was a Texas psychedelic band that recorded for International Artists and had a pretty huge hit in 1969: “Hot Smoke and Sassafras.”
After trouble with record companies and a name change, they called it quits in 1971. They got back together in 2011 when they were inducted into the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame. Since then they’ve played sporadically, mostly in the Austin area. Just recently they headlined the second night of the Utopia Fest. The band has been honored at the Texas Legacy Music Awards in San Antonio and has a star on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in Corpus Christi.
Bubble Puppy formed in San Antonio in 1966 and played its first live gig as the opening act for The Who at the San Antonio Coliseum. Fore, a Corpus Christ kid who played drums, knew members of the band. “They completely blew my mind,” Fore said. He was invited to join the band in the summer of 1967 and the lineup for Bubble Puppy was set: Rod Prince on lead guitar vocals, Todd Potter on lead guitar and vocals, Roy Cox on bass and vocals, and Fore on drums.
Bubble Puppy moved to Austin in the summer of 1967, where they live in a house in the country, practiced nonstop and played a couple times a month at the Vulcan Gas Company.
In 1968, Bubble Puppy had taken up residence in a farm house owned by Prince’s grandparents on East Mount Houston Road and were wood-shedding surrounded by 10 acres of pine trees with no neighbors to complain about the noise. They had only three albums to keep them company, Fore said: Steppenwolf, Bread and Wheels of Fire. It was at that house where their sound developed. “We could practice all night, which we often did,” Fore said.
It was on an earlier trip to Houston that Prince and Cox had hooked up with International Artists and abandoned Austin — for a while. Ray Rush, who was to become the Bubble Puppy’s producer, heard some of the band’s original songs and was blown away.
“He thought that we were going to be bigger than The Beatles,” Fore said, adding that’s what everybody said back then. Prince and Cox telegraphed the other band members: “Load the van. Move to Houston.” So they did. “Todd and I were both 17. Rod and Roy were both like 19,” Fore said. They began playing at the local clubs. “I think our first gig was at the Catacombs,” Fore said. After that, they played Love Street mostly.
“We were having so much fun,” Fore said.
In December 1968, Bubble Puppy released its first single on IA records — and it was a hit. It hit No. 14 on the national charts and was No. 1 in Chicago and Miami. Bubble Puppy released its debut album — A Gathering of Promises — in 1969, followed by two other singles that failed to make much of a dent.
Frustrated with the lack of support from IA, they packed it in and moved back to Austin. Fore said in retrospect, it was a bad idea to leave IA because the band was separated from it unreleased recordings. “There are supposedly a lot of master tapes floating around out there that will probably never see the light of day,” Fore said. “I’d just like to hear them again.”
But on the upside, Bubble Puppy got a record deal with ABC-Dunhill Records immediately in Los Angeles and changed its name to Demian. Demian released an album in 1971, but its failure to perform on the charts led to financial difficulties with the label. The group broke up in 1972.
One Bubble Puppy’s website, Prince says, “The years of brutal rehearsals and the live shows we performed every week made us the deadliest of acts to follow.” The motto on the Puppy’s homepage: “The most feared opening act in rock ‘n’ roll history.”
Bubble Puppy toured with the Grass Roots, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Spirit and Steppenwolf.
“Back then, encores weren’t guaranteed. What would happen is, we were touring with Steppenwolf, we would always get one and they sometimes would. It kind of got to them after a while. Their bass player (Nick St. Nicholas) later became our manager, so I confirmed this with him. They would stay at the hotel until we finished playing — finished doing our encores. Then their roadies would call and they would come over after we finished. So that’s where that motto came from. It was true at the time.”
Ray Rush might have been on to something when he mentioned Bubble Puppy in the same sentence with The Beatles. But International Artists got in the way. Fore said he’d learned about 10 years ago that Apple Records wanted to release Hot Smoke as its first single. Fore said he’d never heard a thing about that. But he was able to later confirm it at a reunion of Corpus Christi friends, when Carl Becker of J-Beck Records told him the story.
“He took a suitcase full of records over to Europe. One of them was ‘Hot Smoke.’ He met with George Harrison, who was already fully aware of Hot Smoke. (Harrison) said, ‘We want to license that.’ So Becker came back to the United States and talked to IA about it. They said they wouldn’t do it because they were going to open a London office. They couldn’t even open a can of tuna. So the story is true. Things would have been so different if they would have done that.”
Today, Prince and Fore are joined by guitarist/vocalist Mark Miller and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Umstattd. Gregg Stegall replaced Potter when he left the band. Cox died in April.
Bubble Puppy is scheduled to play at 10 p.m. followed by Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios at midnight. Rich Hopkins should be very afraid.
by Rick Campbell
Hooray For Earth cooled things off as the sun went down before famed Austin '60s psychedelic act Bubble Puppy brought all of the older attendees down from their campsites. The 'most feared opening act in rock' performed a burner of a set that came to a peak during their hit "Hot Smoke and Sassafras."
This local group were amongst a handful of Sixties psychedelic bands like the 13th Floor Elevators that put Austin on the map as a counter-cultural oasis in the middle of a red state. If you haven't heard of Bubble Puppy you have still probably heard their Top 20 Hit "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" without even knowing the band. The incessant pounding drumbeat keeps the songs thoroughly rocking along with trippy guitar noodling and stoney vocals. We are lucky that classic bands like Bubble Puppy still play, and their performance at UTOPiAfest is guaranteed to bend your mind maaaaaaan.
Bubble Puppy's hit song Hot Smoke and Sassafras is on the Billy Bob Thorton movie soundtrack for the Jane Mansfield's Car Movie. Starring Billy Bob Thorton, Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon.
Bubble Puppy, Austin Music Hall, Saturday night. In 1969, this San Antonio unit had a brief moment in the sun – their burbling garage-on-the-verge-of-psych nugget "Hot Smoke & Sassafrass" reached No. 14 on Billboard's pop chart. They later moved to California and evolved into an ominous proto-metal band called Demian. Forty years ago, they broke up; there was a brief reunion in the mid Eighties, but nobody much noticed. Still, there they were on Austin Music Hall's stage Saturday night as part of an Austin Music Awards event – five men (three guitars, bass, drums) probably all in their sixties, one with a mullet and one with a British Invasion moptop and the most balding one brandishing the most demonic voice, having the time of their lives and letting stoner-rock whippersnappers know how it's done. (One hint: bands back then had to be able to sing). A huge sound, and kind of gorgeous, too – showed how psychedelia presaged not just metal, but the Western country-rock of, say, the Marshall Tucker Band.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/blogs/festivals/the-bands-you-didnt-see-but-maybe-should-have-at-sxsw-20110320#ixzz2qgMmtvyp
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Tex Pop's Night at the Pusi-Kat with Bubble Puppy and more!
Come on out for a great show! Bubble Puppy with Dawn Maracle and Crystal Image! $10.00 door
More info coming soon!
More info coming soon!
Houston! Bubble Puppy returns to Houston! Tickets available soon!
Special Matinee show for SXSW
With The Dead Pyrates Society... more info coming soon
Riverside Dr, Austin. With Shiva's Headband and the Naked Maja.
with the Mo-Dels
With the Naked Maja
Festival Starts at 2pm with some great bands.
With the Dead Pyrates Societ and the Naked Maja. Pre-sale tickets $15.
more info coming soon
Bubble Puppy with The Dead Pyrates Society and the Krayolas
Fuzz-A-Rama Festival Featurig Bubble Puppy! https://www.facebook.com/events/892936887407411/
Bubble Puppy and Alan Haynes ! Don't miss this show!
Tickets on sale now!
Join Bubble Puppy and other famous Texas Bands for the Grand Opening of the New Texas Musician's Museum. 222 E. Irving Blvd
Bubble Puppy will be performing along with Todd Rundgren, The Black Angels, Ian Moore, Patrice Pike, Gina Chavez, Big Cat, (with Malford Milligan and Dave Sebree) Water and Rust and more! All-ATX show for the benefit of HAAM.
With the Stratoblasters! Get your tickets at https://threadgills.frontgatetickets.com/event/knkjoo7hqft8ye8k
Bubble Puppy will be featured for the KZEW Roctober Reunion! http://www.guidelive.com/things-to-do/264858/kzew-rocktober-reunion-show-bubble-puppy-first-rush-texas-musicians-museum-irving
Ray Bonneville opens for Bubble Puppy for a very special night!
Bubble Puppy will be taking the stage with our dear friend Jeff Clark with his latest rendering of Too Smooth, "Jeff Clark & Friends", Special guests galore! Doors open at 7pm. Limited seating. $20 Door
An afternoon with Bubble Puppy! More details coming soon!
Bubble Puppy and Jeff Clark & Friends! Texas Rock Legends night at Threadgill's! Tickets on sale Now!
Bubble Puppy with Los #3 Dinners.
More Details coming soon!
Come on out to Threadgill's on March 24th! Bubble Puppy with special guests, Woot Talley and the Box! $10 Adv. $15 Door