Classic Rock Profiles: The Lemon Pipers

A short introduction to The Lemon Pipers

The Oxford, Ohio band The Lemon Pipers are best known for their 1967 bubblegum-pop hit single “Green Tambourine.” The band was signed to Buddah label, which was then run by the late record executive Neil Bogart. The band’s first single “Take A Look Around” didn’t chart, but their second one “Green Tambourine,” shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Green Tambourine”, as well as the band’s other follow-up numbers, were written by Paul Leka and Shelley Pinz. The Lemon Pipers, whose personal preference veered toward psychedelic music, were pressured by the label to remain in the bubblegum genre; they reluctantly recorded “Green Tambourine” because Buddah would drop them had they refused. Eventually the band left Buddah and broke up for good in 1969.


The formation of the classic Lemon Pipers lineup

The Lemon Pipers were formed by college students from Oxford, Ohio in 1966. Originally, the band was a four-piece, consisting of keyboardist Robert G. “Reg” Nave, guitarist Bill Bartlett, bassist Ron “Dude” Dudek, and drummer William E. “Bill” Albaugh. Each of the band members had previously played at college bars with other groups. They also had regular gigs at local clubs and underground rock venues around Oxford and nearby Cincinnati, and even participated in a local rock band contest, where they lost out to another would-be rock legends James Gang.

Actually, the Lemon Piper’s future lead singer Dale “Ivan” Browne was a university student in Miami, Florida at the time when the band recruited him. Dudek was later replaced by new bassist Steve Walmsley. Then they hooked up with manager Mark Barger, who helped the band secure a recording contract with Buddah Records which was then run by the late industry veteran Neil Bogart. Apart from a recording contract, the Lemon Pipers also secured a music publishing deal with the label, through Barger’s recommendation.



The band’s number one hit single “Green Tambourine”

The band’s first released single was the Bartlett-penned “Turn Around and Take a Look.” When it bombed on the charts (at #132), it prompted Buddah to recruit two Bill Building-trained tunesmiths: record producer Paul Leka and songwriter Shelley Pinz.

Leka and Pinz were tasked to write a possible hit tune for the Lemon Pipers. Finally, they came up with a song called “Green Tambourine,” whose style is more like bubblegum pop which was in trend during that era. Unfortunately, the hard rock-driving Lemon Pipers were resistant to the new song’s musical style. However, knowing that Buddah might drop them, the band reluctantly went to record it.

“Green Tambourine” paced the charts in 1967, leading all the way to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at #7 on the UK singles chart. It sold a million copies leading to a “gold” record status. Their next single was “Rice Is Nice,” which was also composed by Leka and Pinz. It went to #46 on the Hot 100 and #41 on the UK charts in 1968. Both tracks apparead on the band’s debut album Green Tambourine which placed #90 on the Billboard 200 album chart.


The Lemon Pipers’ problems with Buddah Records

However, not all is well between the Lemon Pipers and Buddah Records. The band wasn’t too happy with the state of their career, especially when they were feeling the pressure to remain in the bubblegum genre. The gap between the band and the label deepened, as evidenced by their debut LP.

The Lemon Pipers’ last charting single was another Leka/Pinz composition “Jelly Jungle (of Orange Marmalade).” Another song of the bubblegum pop vein, “Jelly Jungle” was from the band’s last studio album Jungle Marmalade. It reached #51 on the Hot 100.


The band’s split; the members’ post-Lemon Pipers lives and careers

The Lemon Pipers left Buddah and called it a day in 1969. In their post-Lemon Pipers career, Bartlett, Walmsley and Nave became members of a new band called Ram Jam. The individual members then went on with their own lives and occupations, most of them concerning with the music business and performing. Ex-Piper drummer Albaugh passed away in 1999, aged 53.