Buddah Records: The Bubblegum Label
It’s true. I have a bit of a love for the ooey gooey “bubblegum” records of the late 60s and 70s. As a child some of my fondest memories involve rummaging through my mother’s collection of 45’s, where the distinctive Buddah label often caught my eye and captivated my ears.
Buddah Records, a label that danced through the trends of music like a chameleon, was conceived in the vibrant year of 1967 by Art Kass of Kama Sutra Records fame. The creation of Buddah was a strategic move to break free from a distribution deal with the giant MGM Records. This bold step not only gave Kass control over distribution but also placed Buddah as the cornerstone for many successful labels that would redefine music for generations.
With a staggering catalog of over 700 singles and 100 albums, Buddah Records was a music enthusiast’s paradise, showcasing an array of genres. From the heart of the disco era emerged icons like Chic, Andrea True, and Melba Moore, who became synonymous with the Buddah brand.
The origins of Buddah Records can be traced back to Kama Sutra Productions, established in 1964 by the entrepreneurial quartet of Arthur “Artie” Ripp, Hy Mizrahi, Phil Steinberg, and later, Art Kass from MGM Records.
They branded their creations as ‘Good time music,’ and indeed, they were.
Acts like the Lovin’ Spoonful soared to fame with hits that became the anthems of an era, most notably “Summer in the City,” a song that continues to resonate with the heat of nostalgia.
As the summer of ’67 warmed the air, Buddah Records took its first breath, launching with a logo that paid homage to Kama Sutra’s heritage—a Shiva statue. Interestingly, the label’s name was spelled ‘Buddah,’ a quirky deviation from the traditional ‘Buddha,’ and whether by accident or design, it became a signature of sorts.
Under Kass’s guidance and the distribution genius of Neil Bogart, who would later pioneer Casablanca Records, Buddah became the nursery for Bubblegum music—a genre as catchy as its name implies. This light-hearted pop was the antithesis of the weightier rock sounds dominating the airwaves, offering a sweet escape to a world of simple pleasures and teenage dreams.
Buddah’s first chart-topper came with “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers in the fall of ’67. This victory opened the gates to a diverse array of hits that transcended genre boundaries, from the nursery-rhyme-like Bubblegum hits to the soulful melodies that would come to define the label’s later years.
However, as the 60s drew to a close, so did the fever for Bubblegum music.
Buddah pivoted, embracing a more Gospel-Soul flavor and capturing audiences across the Pop and R’n’B spectrum. The 70s brought with it a different sound and Buddah adapted once again, though its own hits were scarce, the distributed labels like Curtom flourished, with Curtis Mayfield’s “SuperFly” soaring on the charts.
As the disco wave surged, Buddah found its groove again. The label’s foray into this electric genre was marked by Andrea True’s provocative “More, More, More” in 1976, a hit that still echoes in discotheques around the world. Buddah’s embrace of the 12″ single format was a game-changer for DJs globally, making the label a pivotal force in the disco movement.
Throughout the changes, Buddah maintained a thread of success, which included signing Gladys Knight & the Pips and yielding the timeless hit “Midnight Train to Georgia” in 1973. Yet as the disco era waned, so did the label’s prominence, eventually leading to its closure.
As I reflect on the story of Buddah Records, it’s like sifting through my mother’s 45s all over again. Each song, each artist that Buddah brought to the spotlight, forms a piece of the tapestry of our musical heritage. In the quaint towns of Keene, Swanzey, and Brattleboro, and indeed across all of New England, the influence of Buddah Records is a testament to the enduring power of great music. The label may have had its ups and downs, but its legacy endures in the grooves of the records that I, and many of you, still cherish.
My connection with Buddah Records is more than just historical; it’s personal. Those 45s from my mother’s collection were more than just music; they were moments captured in time, a soundtrack to my youth, and now, they’re the stories I share on the air, bridging generations of music lovers.