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The Ohio Express

The Ohio Express was a bubblegum pop/garage band that fronted for Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz's Super K Productions, an assemblage of studio musicians working out of New York, including singer/songwriter Joey Levine. The band is probably best known for their hit single "Yummy Yummy Yummy".

The band is strongly associated with the bubblegum group 1910 Fruitgum Company. Both groups were partially faceless studio assemblages, and partially a real group.

Career

Beginnings: The Rare Breed (1966-67)

The question of who is the 'real' Ohio Express is a thorny one. The first record credited to The Ohio Express was "Beg, Borrow And Steal", a top 40 hit in the US and Canada in late 1967. However, the exact same record had initially been issued as by The Rare Breed in early 1966. After the single failed to chart, The Rare Breed apparently had some sort of dispute with Super K Productions, and left the company. The single was then re-issued, credited to The Ohio Express.

There is little information as to who the members of "The Rare Breed" actually were. The Nuggets box set suggests they were from New York or New Jersey, but offers no other data, while other sources imply that the group was essentially Kasenetz and Katz themselves, augmented by studio musicans (including an unknown vocalist.)

Sir Timothy & The Royals take over (1967)

With no group available to promote the single by playing live dates, Super K Productions drafted a Mansfield, Ohio band known as Sir Timothy & The Royals and re-named them The Ohio Express. The lineup consisted of Doug Grassel (rhythm guitar), Dale Powers (lead guitar), Dean Kastran (bass), Jim Pfahler (keyboards), and Tim Corwin (drums). This group toured as The Ohio Express, and their touring commitments (and Ohio home base) made it difficult for them to head in to the New York-based Super K offices to record a follow-up single to "Beg Borrow and Steal". Of the "official" group members, only Dale Powers (lead vocals) appeared on the second single credited to The Ohio Express, a cover of The Standells' "Try It".

The group soon after recorded an album called "Beg Borrow and Steal". It mixed the original Rare Breed title track with tracks recorded by the Ohio Express touring group, as well as tracks recorded by the Super K staff musicians with vocals by Powers. The LP came out on Cameo-Parkway Records of Philadelphia in the autumn of 1967. Unfortunately, the record label went into bankruptcy shortly after that and was purchased by music business mogul Allen Klein, who still owns the masters to this day.

(It has been rumored that a young Joe Walsh, later of the James Gang & The Eagles, was part of this band but left after the "Beg Borrow & Steal" LP was recorded. A photograph on the cover of the sole Cameo-Parkway album shows a photo that bears a striking resemblance to Walsh.)

The Joey Levine years (1968-69)

The Ohio Express then moved to the home label of bubblegum pop, Buddah Records (purposely misspelled so as not to be sacrilegious). As the same time, Joey Levine (who had co-written "Try It") was coming up with new material for The Ohio Express at the behest of Super K Productions. He recorded a demo version of the track "Yummy Yummy Yummy" with Super K staff musicians and his own guide vocal for the Ohio Express to record over. However, Buddah head Neil Casablanca liked the demo enough that he released the record "as is", with Levine's vocals intact and no input at all from the touring version of The Ohio Express.

This set a pattern for the Ohio Express: they released four LPs and a multitude of singles for Buddah between 1968 and 1970, but the "official" group that appeared on album sleeves and at live shows contributed not a single note to their hit singles. Instead, New York studio musicians, augmented by the distinctive vocals of Joey Levine, were heard on the singles (and many album tracks) while the five lads from Ohio could only be heard on a few of the album tracks. There are no known occasions of Levine ever performing with the actual Ohio quintet, either live or in the studio.

The Post-Levine era (1969-70)

After five straight singles co-written and sung by Joey Levine (four of which made the US and Canadian Top 40), Levine grew dissatisfied with the amount of money he was receiving from his production deal, and left Super K Productions. The company then turned to other hands to write, produce and perform Ohio Express singles. The Ohio touring quintet was not among them.

Post-Levine, the Ohio Express never again made the top 40, although three 1969 singles made the lower reaches of the US and Canadian singles charts. One later minor hit single, "Sausalito {Is The Place To Go}" was co-written and sung by Graham Gouldman, and performed by the four musicians who would later make up 10cc.

By 1970, with the hits having stopped, the group name The Ohio Express was quietly retired. (There was a one-shot 1973 Buddah release credited to Ohio Ltd.)

The Ohio Express today

A new touring version of The Ohio Express was convened sometime in the 1980s, and today, a lineup led by original drummer Tim Corwin (and featuring occasional appearances by original guitarist Doug Grassel) tours the oldies circuit with their bubblegum classics. Original keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Jim Pfahler died in March 2003. Bassist Dean Kastran now plays bass for Ashland, Ohio based bluegrass band Faces Made for Radio.

Discography w/ peak chart positions

Singles

Charted singles in bold.

US Release Date A-Side B-Side Label Chart Positions
US Hot 100 Australia Canada UK Notes
October 1967 Beg, Borrow and Steal Maybe Cameo 483
#29
-
#17
-
A-side is the same exact recording as by The Rare Breed (Attack 1401, 1966). B-side is an instrumental alternate version of the group's Cameo LP track "And It's True"
February 1968 Try It Soul Struttin' Cameo 2001
#83
-
-
-
A-side is a "clean" version of The Standells' "banned" version
May 1968 Yummy Yummy Yummy Zig Zag Buddah 38
#4
-
#1
#5
B-side is the instrumental backing of 1910 Fruitgum Company's "(Poor Old) Mr. Jensen" recorded backwards, a common practice of producers Kasenetz & Katz to discourage double-sided hits
August 1968 Down At Lulu's She's Not Comin' Home Buddah 56
#33
-
#25
-
October 1968 Chewy Chewy Firebird Buddah 70
#15
-
#2
-
February 1969 Sweeter Than Sugar Bitter Lemon Buddah 92
#96
-
#64
-
B-side is the A-side recorded backwards
March 1969 Mercy Roll It Up Buddah 102
#30
-
#24
-
June 1969 Pinch Me (Baby, Convince Me) Peanuts Buddah 117
#99
-
#61
-
A-side lead vocal by Buddy Bengert
September 1969 Sausalito (Is The Place To Go) Make Love Not War Buddah 129
#86
-
#71
-
A-side performed by the members of 10cc, 3 years before they adopted that name. Lead vocal by Graham Gouldman. B-side is the same exact recording as "Road Runner" by The Music Explosion (Laurie 3429, 1968)
November 1969 Cowboy Convention The Race (That Took Place) Buddah 147
#101
-
#53
-
1970 Love Equals Love Peanuts Buddah 160
-
-
-
-
1970 Hot Dog Ooh La La Super K 14
-
-
-
-
1973 Wham Bam Slow and Steady Buddah 386
-
-
-
-
Shown as Ohio Ltd.

Albums

  • Beg, Borrow and Steal -- Cameo C-20000 (Mono) / CS-20000 (Stereo) -- 1967

Beg, Borrow and Steal / And It's True / Had To Be Me / Let Go / Soul Struttin' / Try It / I Know We'll Be Together / I Find I Think Of You / Stop Take A Look Around / Hard Times / It's Too Groovy

  • Ohio Express (#126) -- Buddah BDM-1018 (Mono, promotional release only) / BDS-5018 (Stereo) -- 7/68

Yummy Yummy Yummy / Winter Skies / Into This Time / First Grade Reader / Mary-Ann / Down At Lulu's / Turn To Straw / Vacation / She's Not Comin' Home / It's A Sad Day (It's A Sad Time) / The Time You Spent With Me

  • Chewy Chewy (#191) -- Buddah BDS-5026 -- 2/69

Chewy Chewy / Nothing Sweeter Than My Baby / So Good, So Fine / 1, 2, 3, Red Light / Yes Sir / Let It Take You / Little Girl / Fun / Firebird / Simon Says / Down In Tennessee

  • Mercy -- Buddah BDS-5037 -- 1969

Mercy / Lucky / Sha La La / Nighttime / Peanuts / Up Against The Wall / Sweeter Than Sugar / Jacksonville Station / Ooh La La / Come On Down Maryann / Gimme Gimme

Compilations

  • The Very Best of The Ohio Express -- Buddah BDS-5058 -- 1970

Cowboy Convention / Yummy Yummy Yummy / Chewy Chewy / Sausalito (Is The Place To Go) / Sweeter Than Sugar / Mercy / Down At Lulu's / Pinch Me (Baby, Convince Me) / Down Tennessee / Shake

  • Yummy Yummy Yummy--The Best of The Ohio Express -- Buddha 99800 -- 2001

Yummy Yummy Yummy / Nothing Sweeter Than My Baby / Lucky / Sweeter Than Sugar / Nighttime / Chewy Chewy / She's Not Comin' Home / Gimme Gimme / 1, 2, 3, Red Light / Down At Lulu's / Firebird / Sausalito (Is The Place To Go) / Pinch Me (Baby, Convince Me) / Mercy

Trivia

External links

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