1910 Fruitgum Co.

The 1910 Fruitgum Co. reached the top five three times in the late 60's with some snappy tunes that helped to define what became known as bubblegum music.

Frank Jeckell, Steve Mortkowitz and Mark Gutkowski were playing in a group called Jeckell and the Hydes. In 1966 they recruited a well-known local drummer, Floyd Marcus, and Marcus' recommendation, Pat Karwan, and together the five had a new band. They named it the 1910 Fruitgum Co. after an old gum wrapper that had been found in a trunk in an attic. All were from Linden, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Staten Island.

The group did not set out to be one that recorded bubblegum music. They fancied themselves as a rock band something along the lines of Vanilla Fudge, another New York area band that was popular at the time. Through a member of their own group, they came in contact with record producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Kasenetz and Katz had formed a production company that they called Super K, and had produced a very successful number two hit with the Music Explosion's Little Bit 'O Soul and another lesser hit with Beg, Borrow And Steal by Ohio Express in 1967.

Kasenetz and Katz took a song that had been recorded earlier in Philadelphia by a different group, Simon Says, and asked 1910 Fruitgum Co. to record it. The group balked at first, claiming it was not their style, but eventually relented and made the recording. They made their own arrangement and gave it a Wooly Bully type of beat. It entered the charts early in 1968 and became a huge hit, eventually reaching the number four position. The surprised members of 1910 Fruitgum Co. had been performing locally, but quickly became very well-known nationally. They flew to Los Angeles and made an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand television program in March of 1968. The group began to tour, primarily in the Midwest. Although it was not what they had in mind originally, they became bubblegum stars, playing primarily to crowds of pre-teen girls. At one point they toured through the South with the Beach Boys.

Bubblegum music is music that is happy and upbeat and has a snappy beat, sometimes nursery-rhyme type lyrics, and of course, a memorable hook. In August of 1968 the 1910 Fruitgum Co. released 1,2,3 Red Light. With vocals by Mark Gutkowski, the record soared into the top five.

All of the group's hits were recorded on Buddah Records. Buddah did not have its own studio, so all of the recording was done at various recording studios in the New York City area. The original members of 1910 Fruitgum Co. were not veteran studio musicians; they honed their craft in live performances around New Jersey and New York. They handled their own vocals. Stories that Joey Levine sang lead for the group are not true; Levine sang for Ohio Express. Some of the members of 1910 Fruitgum Co. became disenchanted with the bubblegum image, and left. There were some personnel changes, and new members came into the group, such as Bruce Shay, Rusty Oppenheimer and Larry Ripley. Goody Goody Gumdrops was 1910 Fruitgum Co.'s last hit song of 1968.

The group wasn't through yet. Their song Indian Giver was their third one to reach the top five, and before the bubblegum craze expired at the end of the 60's, they had another lesser hit with Special Delivery.

Early in the twenty-first century original group members Frank Jeckell and Floyd Marcus teamed up with lead vocalist and partner Mick Mansueto and recruited 3 new members. The 1910 Fruitgum Co. was back in business, negotiating to tour with other groups and performing for a perspective on bubblegum music put together by VH1.

Most Recent Update: September 13, 2007

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Send email to the author, Tom Simon tsimon@tsimon.com.