The Bubble Puppy – “Hot Smoke and Sassafras”


Career summary

The Bubble Puppy were a psychedelic rock band in the 1960s and 1970s. The original members were Rod Prince, Roy Cox, Todd Potter, and David Fore. Originally called Willowdale Handcar, they changed their name to Bubble Puppy and signed to International Artists, a famed Texas label which released their debut LP A Gathering Of Promises. The album yielded a Top 20 hit “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass.” Subsequent singles failed to chart, however. The band moved to Los Angeles and attempted to reinvent themselves from the bubblegum pop image they had experienced as The Bubble Puppy. They recruited a change of personnel and a new manager in Nick St. Nicholas (of Steppenwolf) But it proved fruitless; the band broke up soon after in 1972. The original lineup reunited in 1987 for the release of their second album Wheels Go Round, and in 2011 (with only three original members) for a one-off performance at the Austin Music Awards.


The formation of the Bubble Puppy

The Bubble Puppy was one fot the most successful of all the Texas psychedelic bands during the 1960s and the 1970s. They were formed in San Antonio, Texas in 1966 by founders singer/guitarist Rod Prince and bassist Roy Cox, who had been together in a previous rock group The Bad Seeds which was based in nearby Corpus Christi. The lineup was complete by the addition of drummer Clayton Pulley and guitarist Todd Potter. Pulley spent a very brief time with the band, and he was replaced by David Fore.

The band initially performed under the name Willowdale Handcare, but then finally changed their moniker into The Bubble Puppy in 1967. The band’s sound was a combination of psychedelic rock with raw garage rock, and that was exactly their way to their first contract with the famed Texas label International Artists.


Recording career

Bubble Puppy released their first LP under that label, A Gathering of Promises in 1969. Their debut single “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” was also included in the album, and written by Prince. It rose to the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at #14 in 1969. However, despite the success of “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” the band otherwise was encountering several conflicts with International Artists, leading to their disassociation with the label.

From The Bubble Puppy to Demian

The band enlisted the services of Steppenwolf manager Nick St. Nicholas. After the band relocated to Los Angeles, California, they changed their name to Demian. Part of the reason was that they wanted themselves to get away from the bubblegum music that they had been previously linked to. They also wanted to avoid their contractual difficulties with International Artists.

As Demian now, the band released a self-titled debut LP in 1971 on ABC/Dunhill label, and its accompanying single “Face the Crowd.” However, the single attracted little attention, and Demian disbanded in 1972 due to mounting financial difficulties.

Life after the band, and Bubble Puppy’s reunion

After the end of Demian, Potter remained in California, working as a session player and touring with Rusty Wier’s Fabulous Filler Brothers. He also jumped from band to band, working with Deadhorse Puppy, Manbeast, and the Prince Trio. Potter and Prince also teamed up to form their own act Sirius, along with bassist Georgre Rarey and drummer Mark Evans.

In 1987, the original lineup of Bubble Puppy reunited for a number of live performances and recordings. Under the Bubble Puppy name they released only their second album Wheels Go Round that same year.

After 25 years since their first reunion, three of the original Bubble Puppy joined forces again in 2011 to make an appearance at the Austin Music Awards, adding new members Mark Miller (guitar) and Jimmy Umstattd (bass). Since then, they have performed in a few more shows inlcuding the Texas Legacy Music Awards in San Antonio, the Saxon Pub in Austin, and Antone’s Nightclub in Austin, and made several other appearances and music fests particularly around Austin.

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