Monday, July 31, 2017

Searching For Sugar Bears


After writing an article about hoarding (not for here, of course), I was inspired to do a deep clean into some drawers and closet space that haven’t been exposed to light for a while. As expected, most of the contents were junk that could be discarded, but in an album of old .45 records I found one with this label:




I don’t have a record player anymore but I did go to YouTube to listen to the song. The lyrics came back almost instantly, and before it got to the chorus I was singing along: “Baby you’re my morning sun, you are the one.” Here's the song:



It’s amazing how music can hide in the recesses of a memory for decades, only to pop out again when triggered.

The Sugar Bears are pretty much forgotten now and clearly I was among those who forgot them. All I could recall after hearing “You Are the One” was that they had an obvious connection to Super Sugar Crisp cereal and its familiar mascot, a hipster bear in a blue turtleneck. Never cared much for the cereal but I always liked him. 



Back when Saturday mornings were filled with cartoon characters pushing boxes of sugarcoated flakes as part of a nutritious breakfast, most of them acted so hyped up you could believe they were actually getting that much sucrose in their diet. The Trix Rabbit was a basket of neuroses (you would be too if kids kept grabbing cereal out of your paws), Quisp and Quake were always fighting about something, and somebody should have incarcerated Sonny the “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” bird for the safety of the community.



But Sugar Bear was the iconoclast. Cool and laid back where the others were frenetic, he had the voice of Bing Crosby and the detached demeanor of Dean Martin. Maybe that's why he was featured in his own cartoon series in the 1960s, while Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam couldn't get work outside of commercials. 



Where did the idea for music come from? I couldn't find a definitive explanation, but many of us recall that one of the popular cereal marketing gimmicks in the 1970s was printing actual, playable records on a cereal box. 



Post, the company that made Super Sugar Crisp, offered records from The Archies and The Jackson 5 on its boxes, and I guess someone in marketing decided that they could create their own band instead of borrowing music from others. Thus, America met The Sugar Bears, though the uninspired look of the characters suggests that not a lot of time and effort were devoted to the concept.

Sugar Bear was the front man, of course, though with his temperament he seemed more suited to forming a jazz trio than a bubblegum pop group. Rounding out the quartet were drummer Shoobee Bear, bassist Doobee Bear, and the lone female member on tambourine, Honey Bear. 



Far more interesting is the talent gathered to create the songs, which included Mike Settle, a member of The First Edition (once featuring Kenny Rogers) and Kim Carnes, who also wrote some of the songs and sang lead on the lilting “Feather Balloon.” She doesn't have the rasp yet that was so prominent in "Bette Davis Eyes," but I like this song too. Have a listen:



Baker Knight, who wrote for Rick Nelson and penned Elvis’s “The Wonder of You,” contributed three songs to the group’s only LP, 1972’s “Presenting The Sugar Bears”.




When “You Are the One” peaked at #51 and a second single (“Some Kind of a Summer”) failed to chart, the Sugar Bears disappeared faster than The Defranco Family. Super Sugar Crisp now called Golden Crisp because…well, nanny state nonsense. But surprisingly Sugar Bear is still around under the same name.

After listening to the rest of the songs on YouTube, I’m up for Rhino releasing their album on CD. As with The Archies and Josie and the Pussycats, there was more talent behind this project than it deserved. I’m still humming “All Of My Life” and “Someone Like You” since rediscovering them more than a week ago. If you click on the link below, those hooks might get into your head as well.


6 comments:

  1. Big Tree Records also released stuff by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

    BTW, Mr. Hofstede, have you seen ANY installments of the new version of "Battle of the Network Stars"? If so, do you consider it safe to say that the new version is NOT working? Perhaps I should be glad that Marcy Walker won't be seen participating even though her onetime fiancé Bronson Pinchot HAS participated already.

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    1. I watched the first 10 minutes of the first episode and turned it off.

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  2. I really didn't know about your article before. Thank you for sharing this article with us. It was a really good post. Keep sharing more.

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  3. I remember seeing that "Head over Heels" short once, before a movie I think, but because it was Sugar Bear, it felt like a commercial. I remember the "Chihuahua" song mostly.

    Granny sounds like Ruth Buzzi and may very well have been.

    The damsel in distress had a really weak cry for help. It reminded me of Willy Wonka mockingly calling "Help! Police!" when one of the bratty kids was in peril.

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