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Bubble Puppy in 1968. Labeled as a progressive rock and psychedelic ensemble, the group formed in San Antonio and, though short-lived, achieved some commercial success with its hit “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass.” Courtesy of SugarHill Studios archives.
BUBBLE PUPPY. Bubble Puppy was a band that successfully combined psychedelic rock of the 1960s with hard and progressive rock sounds of the 1970s. Band members Rod Prince (lead guitar and vocals) and Roy Cox (bass guitar and vocals) started their musical careers in the Corpus Christi garage band the New Seeds in 1966. As their musical talents matured and their local opportunities dwindled, they moved to San Antonio where they joined up with Todd Potter (lead guitar and vocals). Clayton Pulley and Danny Segovia were also original members of the group. The newly-formed band took the name “Bubble Puppy” from the fictitious children’s game “Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy” in Aldous Huxley’s novel A Brave New World. The group rehearsed at the PussyKat Club in San Antonio. In 1968 Bubble Puppy got its first major break. A far cry from the previous days of garage band jams and late night rehearsals, the band landed an opening gig for the rock group The Who at a live show in San Antonio. After this performance, David “Fuzzy” Fore, having come up from Corpus Christi to watch the show, joined the band as the new and permanent drummer and guitarist. With this final addition Bubble Puppy was solidified.
Soon after its performance with The Who, Bubble Puppy relocated to Austin. They used the Vulcan Gas Company as a rehearsal place and opened for acts such as Johnny Winter and Shiva’s Head Band. In the fall of 1968, the band traveled to Houston for a performance at the Love Street Light Circus. A few days after this show, the Houston-based record label International Artists signed the group. Bubble Puppy worked with producer Ray Rush at the label’s Gold Star Studios (now SugarHill Recording Studios). In December of that same year, the band released the hit song “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” (titled after an exclamation uttered by the character named “Granny” on the television show The Beverly Hillbillies.) The song was a smash hit in foreign countries and rose to Number 14 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., making it International Artists’s biggest hit single. Bubble Puppy appeared on American Bandstand the following spring.
The band released its one and only full-length LP, A Gathering of Promises, in 1969. Even with the band’s regional popularity and a song on the Billboard 100, the album did not generate as much profit as International Artists had hoped. Furthermore, the label had rejected a licensing deal with the Beatles’ Apple Records. Though established as a local and regional favorite for live performances with their distinctive sound of dual lead guitars and layered harmonies, the band began to suffer from financial difficulties and conflicts of interest rising from within the label’s management. The band moved back to Austin for a time in 1970. Then, in an effort to leave their professional troubles behind, the band moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue new musical opportunities.
Once in California, the band signed with ABC-Dunhill Records, and Bubble Puppy changed its name to Demian in the effort to avoid contractual conflicts with International Artists. They recruited Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf as their new manager. In 1971 the new group recorded and released one self-titled album. One year later, after Demian failed to garner much public attention and ABC proposed a reduced budget for a follow-up record, the band dissolved.
After the breakup the members returned to Austin where they remained involved in the music scene. Todd Potter played with Texas musician Rusty Wier. Dave Fore played with Steven Fromholz but later switched from drums to guitar and co-wrote the popular punk rock song “Too Young to Date” in 1979. Hot Smoke, a compilation of tracks, was released in 2000. In 2005 Roy Cox was performing with the coastal Texas band, High in the Saddle. Though never attaining the level of stardom the group had hoped for, Bubble Puppy made the ranks of some of the most talented psychedelic bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cofounder Roy Cox died on April 3, 2013.
The band is honored in the South Texas Music Walk of Fame. In 2014 Bubble Puppy consisted of Rod Prince and David Fore along with newer members Mark Miller, Gregg Stegall, and Jimmy Umstattd. The group was voted No. 3 in the category of Rock—Best Performing Bands for the 2014 Austin Music Awards. Bubble Puppy played a number of engagements in Texas, including shows at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio, Executive Surf Club in Corpus Christi, and Fitzgerald’s in Houston.
Austin American-Statesman, February 23, 1994, August 12, 2005. Austin Chronicle, May 7, 2004. Andy Bradley and Roger Wood, House of Hits: The Story of Houston’s Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). Bubble Puppy (www.bubblepuppy.com), accessed September 16, 2015. San Antonio Current, June 10, 2014.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Sandra George, "Bubble Puppy," accessed February 21, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgb05.
Uploaded on June 11, 2014. Modified on September 16, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.