Strawberry Alarm Clock

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This article is about the rock band. For the breakfast show, see The Strawberry Alarm Clock.
Strawberry Alarm Clock
Strawberryalarmclock 4-29-07.jpg
Strawberry Alarm Clock in 2007
Background information
Origin Los Angeles
Genres Psychedelic rock, garage rock, acid rock, psychedelic pop, blues rock
Years active 1967–71, 1974–75, 1982–present
Labels Uni Records, Big Beat Records, MCA Special Products, One Way Records, Collector's Choice Music
Associated acts Thee Sixpence, Lynyrd Skynyrd = Oingo Boingo
Website Official website
Members Gene Gunnels
Mark Weitz
Randy Seol
George Bunnell
Howie Anderson
Past members See: Former members

Strawberry Alarm Clock is a psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles best known for their 1967 hit "Incense and Peppermints".[1] Strawberry Alarm Clock charted five songs including two Top 40 hits.


1966–1967: Formation and early success[edit]

A history of the band written by George Bunnell states that "The Strawberry Alarm Clock came about by parts of two bands, Thee Sixpence and Waterfyrd Traene, morphing into one." [2] The group originally named "Thee Sixpence" initially consisted of Ed King (lead guitar, vocals), Michael Luciano (vocals), Lee Freeman (rhythm guitar, harmonica, vocals), Gary Lovetro (bass), Steve Rabe (guitar, vocals) and Gene Gunnels (drums). Randy Seol (drums, vibes, percussion, vocals) and Mark Weitz (keyboards, vocals) joined to replace the departing Gunnels, Rabe and Luciano just as the name change to Strawberry Alarm Clock (SAC) was occurring. It was Seol that would eventually bring in songwriters George Bunnell and Steve Bartek, who participated in the writing and recording of SAC's first album.

The inception of "The Strawberry Alarm Clock" (SAC) from the non-Thee Sixpence side of things isn't well documented, largely because there were no releases of its recordings (now lost). However, according to SAC member George Bunnell, many SAC songs came from the band he had formed previously with Randy Seol, Steve Bartek, Randy Zacuto, Fred Schwartz, and Criss Jay, which performed under the names Waterfyrd Traene (pre-SAC), Public Bubble (during SAC), and Buffington Rhodes (post-SAC). There were two recording sessions with some of these personnel, one with Dave Hassinger at the Recording Factory and one with Bill Lazarus at Sunset Sound. There were probably 10 songs in all recorded but, states Bunnell, both masters were stolen. The post-SAC incarnation broke up before any success was realized.

Their first and most famous SAC single was "Incense and Peppermints", produced by Frank Slay and initially released by Thee Sixpence on All American Records, owned by Bill Holmes, the band's manager and producer. The band was not impressed by songwriter John Carter's singing, so Slay chose Greg Munford, a 16-year-old friend of the band who was from another group called "Shapes of Sound", to sing lead.[3] The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1967.

Mark Weitz and Ed King were denied songwriting credits by Slay because (according to him) they did not write the melody line or the lyrics, though the song was built on an instrumental by Weitz with a bridge by King.[4] This instrumental was originally intended as a B-side to "The Birdman of Alkatrash", which ultimately became the B-side to "Incense and Peppermints". The single stayed at #1 for one week with 16 weeks in total on the chart.[5] A gold disc was awarded for one million sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 19 December 1967.[6]

Shortly after recording "Incense and Peppermints", the band added George Bunnell (bass, rhythm guitar, vocals) before making their first LP in 1967, also titled Incense and Peppermints, which hit No. 11 on the US album chart. Bunnell would also become their main songwriter. Some early Strawberry Alarm Clock songs were penned by Bunnell with Steve Bartek (who would much later join Oingo Boingo, as well as orchestrate Danny Elfman's film scores). Bartek played flute on the first two albums and would continue to be involved with SAC in its later incarnations.

In November 1967, then again in April 1968, SAC toured on a bill with the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield. During the April leg of the tour, several dates in the South were canceled after national civil rights leader Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Ed King said the band all acquired handguns after King's assassination for the remaining shows in the south and carried it in his waistband onstage.

In their early days of touring, the band members would often sit on "magic carpets" as their roadies carried them to the stage and drummer Randy Seol would rig up wrist gas jets to give the illusion that he was playing the bongos and vibes with his hands on fire. This last gimmick was soon abandoned when it got to be too dangerous.

1968–1969: Lineup changes[edit]

During the Strawberry Alarm Clock's short life it saw many lineup changes. Since Bunnell had become the main writer, he began playing more and more of the bass parts since he already knew the songs. Original bassist Gary Lovetro gradually moved over to the road manager's job, then was eventually bought out of the group after conflicts with the others before the second album, Wake Up...It's Tomorrow, was released. The single, "Tomorrow", from this album was a minor hit and their only other "Top 40" appearance, reaching No. 23 in early 1968. Later 1968 singles were "Sit with the Guru" (charted at No. 65) and "Barefoot in Baltimore" (which peaked at No. 67 and later was included in their The World in a Sea Shell record album), and was especially popular in its namesake city around its counter-culture neighborhood of Mount Vernon-Belvedere and its then famous Read Street "hippie" sub-culture colony on the East Coast by the Chesapeake Bay and received a lot of play time on local radio stations and even occasionally as a theme song in following decades in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bunnell and Seol left the band in late 1968 at the end of the sessions for the third album, "The World in a Sea Shell, because of disagreements with the band over their manager Bill Holmes' mishandling of their business affairs. Bunnell and Seol formed a new band, Buffington Roads, with Steve Bartek. Holmes was fired by the remaining band members and he angrily retaliated by putting together an alternate version of the SAC (with Bunnell and Seol) and sent them out on the road. The band countered with an injunction against Holmes but the damage was done when the lawsuits caused extreme confusion for promoters who became afraid to book either group.[citation needed]

Drummer Marty Katon then came aboard, along with new lead singer/guitarist Jimmy Pitman (formerly of The Nightcrawlers), and the band shifted to a more blues rock style. Ed King moved over to bass, as he had been playing many of the bass parts in the studio anyway. In early 1969, original "Incense and Peppermints" drummer Gene Gunnels rejoined SAC, and Katon, whose drumming style never quite fit the band, left.[citation needed]

In July 1969, Pitman left after their Good Morning Starshine LP record album failed to sell and was succeeded by Paul Marshall, who would remain with the group until they disbanded temporarily in 1971. The title track, "Good Morning Starshine", peaked at No. 87 in 1969, but was beaten out by Oliver's later version, which scored the bigger hit.

Weitz, discouraged over the band's falling fortunes and the lawsuits leading to a sharp drop in demand for gigs, quit by December 1969 to spend more time with his family.[citation needed] The group continued on as a quartet with Ed King, Lee Freeman, Gene Gunnels and Paul Marshall.

1970–1981: Break up and brief resumption[edit]

In 1970 the band appeared in the Russ Meyer cult classic film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. By this time the band's audience had mostly disappeared. They kept performing for a while and toured the South in 1970 and 1971 with Florida band Lynyrd Skynyrd opening for them. In the latter part of 1971, the group, now without a record label and in conflict over musical direction, opted to disband, with Ed King deciding to relocate to the South. King was invited to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in November 1972 and accepted, becoming a member from 1972 to 1975, then again from 1987 to 1996.

SAC reunited briefly in 1974–1975 with Bunnell, Seol, and Bartek (guitar, flute). The trio played some shows and contributed the theme song to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)'s late night televised concert series of rock music in the early 1970's In Concert. They also appeared on one of the smaller stages at the first California Jam on April 6, 1974.

1982–2001: Reunion[edit]

In 1982, Strawberry Alarm Clock reunited once again after guitarist Lee Freeman spotted a newspaper ad promoting an appearance by the group at a Los Angeles music club. Freeman knew nothing about this gig and went to the club to investigate. There he discovered that the advertisement had actually been a plot by the club's owners to get the real band to reunite. At this point, Freeman, Bunnell, Weitz and Gunnells got back together as Strawberry Alarm Clock. They were joined in 1983 by singer Leo Gaffney and Freeman's brother, Doug, to work on new material.

By 1983, the SAC lineup became Freeman, Bunnell, Peter Wasner (keyboards) and James Harrah (guitars). "Incense and Peppermints" was re-recorded the same year with a line-up of Freeman, Bunnell, Harrah, Bartek and Clay Bernard (keyboards), with Bob Caloca on lead vocals and produced by Dennis Dragon (brother of Daryl Dragon), who also played percussion on the track.

After that, Freeman, Bunnell, Harrah and Bernard continued on, with Randy Seol rejoining. Seol left in 1984 once again, and Harrah and Bernard were replaced by actor/musician Jon Walmsley (guitars, keyboards, vocals). Bruce Hubbard, who had earlier played with Bunnell in Buffington Roads, took over percussion duties. Walmsley was out by 1986, and guitarist Howie Anderson was in, along with a returning Clay Bernard. Anderson also handled keyboard parts via his synth guitar after Bernard left once again, this time to relocate to New Mexico at the end of the 1980s.

The band began performing on oldies concert tours during the 1980s, usually alongside other late 1960s era acts such as Moby Grape, The Seeds, and It's a Beautiful Day. The Freeman/Bunnell/Hubbard/Anderson grouping was their longest lived, lasting from 1989 to 2001. During this time, the SAC did not devote 100% of their time to the band, and the members continued to work on new material and make occasional concert appearances, while also pursuing their other individual careers.

Also in 1982, late 60s SAC member Jimmy Pitman found himself in Salt Lake City, Utah, playing with a band called Thunderchicken and it was there that he decided to recreate his own version of SAC, teaming up with Preston Kofoed (bass), Mordecai Noble (guitar), Dave Stone (keyboards) and Dave (Plumb) Derrick (drums). This group played a benefit for the Veterans of the Vietnam War at New Faces Roadhouse and toured extensively throughout the Western U.S.A. They disbanded a few years later in Jackson, Wyoming.

2001–present: new releases[edit]

On June 16, 2001 the group appeared in San Diego's famed enormous urban forested island of Balboa Park with Jefferson Starship, Moby Grape, Iron Butterfly, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe McDonald. Randy Seol and Gene Gunnells joined Freeman, Bunnell, Anderson and Hubbard for this show.

On October 23, 2003 the above line-up was joined by Steve Bartek and Paul Marshall for an appearance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood to celebrate the DVD release of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

In December 2004 Mark Weitz and Ed King were slated to reunite with Seol, Freeman, and Bunnell, along with original "Incense" singer Greg Munford for a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) special on 1960's-era rock music; but Bunnell said in interviews that PBS never sent the proper contracts to them.

By 2006, Weitz, Bartek, Bunnell, Seol and Howie Anderson were back playing shows with the group. Ed King, Lee Freeman, Paul Marshall and Gene Gunnels joined them to perform at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois on April 29, 2007. The event was part of the last day of TV's syndicated movie critic Roger Ebert's ninth annual Overlooked Film Festival and was preceded by a screening of the movie sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Freeman, Weitz, Bartek, Bunnell, Seol, Gunnels and Anderson then continued on making further 2007 concert appearances.

By 2008, an ill Freeman was sidelined and in 2010, Bartek began to cut back his appearances with the group.

In January 2010 SAC started recording new material for the record label inaugurated by Billy Corgan. SAC keyboardist Mark Weitz said, "We’re picking up where we left off, but with a modern sound." The band also reworked some of its 1960s songs.[7]

On February 14, 2010 founding member Lee Freeman died at the age of 60, from complications arising from cancer.[8]

Carrying on as Strawberry Alarm Clock are Mark Weitz, Randy Seol, George Bunnell, Gene Gunnels and Howie Anderson (Steve Bartek still appears as his schedule permits). SAC performed live during 2012 around southern California, including appearances at The Satellite in Los Feliz, the Whisky a Go Go, the Echoplex for the Echo's West Psych Fest, the Adams Avenue Street Fair in San Diego and the 29th annual Love Ride benefit (with Grand Marshals Jay Leno, Peter Fonda and Robert Patrick) on October 21, 2012 in Glendale.

Immediately following their appearance at Love Ride 29, the band was awarded proclamations from the City of Los Angeles by City Councilman Tom LaBonge, Eric Garcetti and Jay Leno to commemorate the 45th anniversary of "Incense and Peppermints" reaching number one in the nation. The band accepted plaques for Lee Freeman posthumously and Ed King, who by this time was happily retired in Nashville, Tennessee. Steve Bartek was on hand for their performance as was the Neville Brothers' long time harmonica player, Robert Cowan.

On July 27, 2013 Chaz Ebert asked SAC to appear at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, in a tribute to her late husband, film critic Roger Ebert, (1942–2013), (of the Chicago Sun-Times, long-time partnered with Gene Siskel, (1946–1999), of the competing paper Chicago Tribune on the syndicated movie review TV show Siskel and Ebert). After they performed a half dozen songs, there was a screening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, for which Roger had written the screenplay. Charles Dierkop, veteran character actor and a long time friend and supporter of SAC, introduced the band. In the months after the Saban Theater engagement, SAC made plans to write and record new material, with a view toward releasing an EP of all new songs to follow 2012's Wake Up Where You Are LP.

Band members[edit]

  • Gene Gunnels – drums, percussion, vocals (1967, 1969–1971, 1982–1983, 2001, 2003, 2007–present)
  • Mark Weitz – keyboard, vocals (1967–1969, 1982–1983, 2006–present)
  • Randy Seol – drums, vibes, percussion, vocals (1967–1968, 1974–1975, 1983–1984, 2001, 2003, 2006–present)
  • George Bunnell – bass, rhythm guitars, vocals (1967–1968, 1974–1975, 1982–2001, 2003, 2006–present)
  • Howie Anderson – lead guitar, vocals (1986–2001, 2006–present)
  • Steve Bartek – guitars, flute, Producer (1967–1968, 1974–1975, 1983, 2003, 2006–present)
  • Lee Freeman – rhythm guitars, harmonica, vocals (1967–1971, 1982–2001, 2003, 2007–2008; died 2010)
  • Ed King – lead guitars, bass, vocals (1967–1971, 2007)
  • Gary Lovetro – bass (1967)
  • Marty Katin – drums,
  • Jimmy Pitman – guitars, vocals (1968–1969)
  • Paul Marshall – guitars, vocals (1969–1971, 2003, 2007)
  • Leo Gaffney – vocals (1983)
  • Doug Freeman – vocals (1983)
  • James Harrah – guitars (1983–1984)
  • Peter Wasner – keyboards (1983)
  • Clay Bernard – keyboards (1983–1984, 1986–1989)
  • Bob Caloca – vocals (1983)
  • Bruce Hubbard – percussion (1984–2001)
  • Jon Walmsley – guitars, keyboards, vocals (1984–1986)

Television and films[edit]

Among the Strawberry Alarm Clock's television appearances were American Bandstand, Happening '68, The Steve Allen Show, and the first episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Drummer Randy Seol made an appearance as one of three eligible bachelors on The Dating Game and was chosen by the girl. SAC also made two notable appearances in films; firstly in the 1968 Jack Nicholson movie Psych-Out, where they played several songs, including "Incense and Peppermints", "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow" and "The World's on Fire". "The Pretty Song from Psych-Out" was re-recorded by a San Fernando Valley garage band, The Storybook, for the soundtrack album, but it is the SAC's version that is in the film. That song is also on SAC's 1968 "Wake Up It's Tomorrow" LP. The band's second movie appearance was in 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, where they played "Incense and Peppermints", "I'm Comin' Home", and "Girl from the City". The latter two songs were written by Paul Marshall.


Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Best of the Strawberry Alarm Clock (1970) (including two new tracks)
  • Changes (1971)
  • Incense & Peppermints (1990)
  • Strawberries Mean Love (1992)
  • The Strawberry Alarm Clock Anthology (1993)

Their music also appeared on the soundtracks of Psych-Out and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the latter featuring two songs not on any previous albums and new lead singer Paul Marshall. The group also appears on a rare Decca Records LP with one side of songs by The Strawberry Alarm Clock and one side of songs by The Who.[9]


Year A-side/B-side
Both sides from same album except where indicated
U.S. Charts Album
Billboard Cashbox
1967 "Incense and Peppermints"
b/w "The Birdman of Alkatrash" (Non-album track)
1 1 Incense and Peppermints
1968 "Tomorrow"
b/w "Birds in My Tree" (from Incense and Peppermints)
23 14 Wake Up, It's Tomorrow
"Sit With The Guru"
b/w "Pretty Song from 'Psych-Out'"
65 56
"Barefoot in Baltimore",
b/w "An Angry Young Man"
67 54 The World in a Sea Shell
"Sea Shell"
b/w "Paxton's Back Street Carnival" (from Incense and Peppermints)
- 98
1969 "Stand By"
b/w "Miss Attraction"
- - Good Morning Starshine
"Good Morning Starshine"
b/w "Me and the Township"
87 85
b/w "Changes" (from Good Morning Starshine)
- - Best of Strawberry Alarm Clock
"Starting Out the Day"
b/w "Small Package" (from Good Morning Starshine)
- -
"I Climbed the Mountain"
b/w "Three"
- - Non-album tracks
1970 "California Day"
b/w "Three"
- -
"Girl from the City"
b/w "Three"
- -


  1. ^ "Strawberry Alarm Clock â€" Songs & Albums". Rhapsody. 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  2. ^ Bunnell, "Pre-Strawberry Alarm Clock" "Pre-Strawberry Alarm Clock". 
  3. ^ Bruce Eder. "Strawberry Alarm Clock | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  4. ^ Ed King. [[1] "Ed King Forum Post"]. 
  5. ^ "The Hot 100 : Nov 25, 1967 | Billboard Chart Archive". Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 231. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  7. ^ "Strawberry Alarm Clock - psychedelic rock on Billy Corgan label". 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  8. ^ "R.I.P. Lee Freeman of Strawberry Alarm Clock; Nov 8, 1949 – Feb 14, 2010". Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  9. ^ "Double Star Series Featuring The Who & The Strawberry Alarm Clock". Retrieved 2014-08-23. 

External links[edit]