Lemon Pipers: More than 'Green Tamborine'
By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer
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
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
"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
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
We honor the Lemon Pipers Sunday with a Michael W.
Bany Lifetime Achievement Award, not just for bringing a No. 1 single to
the Tristate 35 years ago, but for contributions before and after their