Rest in peace, Gershon Kingsley: Hot Butter, “Popcorn” (1972)

kingsley

Word is making the rounds that Gershon Kingsley passed away last week in New York City at the age of 97.

Kingsley made music that you know even though you might not know his name. He was one of the earliest pioneers of the Moog synthesizer. His work with Jean-Jacques Perrey yielded some memorable collaborations; perhaps the most recognizable is a song called “The Savers.” (I’ll give you a minute to recognize it. If you’re still stuck, picture Jack Barry yelling “Joker! Joker! And a triple!”) Also, since I am partial to the “One Note Samba” (at least as was done by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66), I need to bump the Perrey/Kingsley twist on it as well.

He also wrote “Popcorn.” There was no avoiding this piece in 1972, as it went on to become a #9 record with even higher charting positions on local station surveys. It was a solid #1 on Australian radio and in Tucson, AZ, and was #2 in places like Seattle and Ottawa, Canada. It’s a catchy bit of synth that just sounds like fun. While Kingsley didn’t perform the track – that was Stan Free – it’s indicative of the Kingsley composition style. My indelible memory of the song comes from being not exactly old enough to know any more about the record but remembering hearing it on WCFL coming out of the single speaker in the back of my dad’s 1968 Ford. There was a gravel road that kicked up rocks when we drove on it, and I recall referring to it as “the popcorn street,” inspired by the song. (Imagine if we had driven down the street while the song was on the air. Kismet.)

See if you can find a patch of gravel and play this one loudly. You can hear “Popcorn” by clicking here. (There’s also a groovy piece of video from 1969 of Kingsley’s version from Top Of the Pops, and that’s here.)

 

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