Lost in the ’70s: The Sugar Bears
Breakfast was the most important meal of the day for a child of the ’70s.Â Not because of the nutritional intake it provided to get a kid going in the morning, but because of the awesome toys and prizes shoved deep into boxes of sugar-coated oats!Â Each brand of cereal boasted an array of prizes – anything from plastic cars to iron-on transfers, and my favorite, actual records you could cut out from the back of the box and listen to on your Close ‘N Play phonograph.
While Honeycomb boasted records by the Archies and Bobby Sherman, Sugar Crisp (this was back when having “sugar” in the name of your product was a good thing) took marketing to a new level by creating their own pop group based on the brand, the Sugar Bears.Â Featuring mascot Sugar Bear, along with new companions – the Ringo-ish drummer Shoobee Bear, the purposefully named Doobee Bear, and the tranny hooker-looking Honey Bear – the Sugar Bears fronted bubblegum pop as sickly sweet as the frosted oats within the box.
What’s surprising is how competent and downright enjoyable the Sugar Bears material was.Â While not quite a superstar line-up, the actual non-bear people behind the music included a former member of the First Edition, a songwriter who wrote for artists as diverse as Sinatra and Ricky Nelson, and a female singer/songwriter just starting out in her career, who just a short ten years later would have one of the biggest hits of the ’80s.
In fact, reception to the throwaway songs on the cut-out records was so strong, Big Tree Records ended up compiling the lot along with some new material into a full-length album, Presenting The Sugar Bears.Â Big Tree even worked a single to Top 40 radio, “You Are The One,” (download) which made it halfway up the Hot 100.Â Take that, Dig ‘Em.Â I don’t see your single charting anywhere.
It didn’t hurt that “You Are The One” was classic bubblegum radio fodder.Â I love the fuzz guitar during the chorus, which is strangely out of place amidst all the strings and horn section.Â That’s ’70s AM radio pop for you, I suppose.Â What I never quite understood as a child was why Sugar Bear, who had such a cool, super-jazzy, low speaking voice, ended up singing like a wimpy, cut-rate Andy Kim.Â I mean, when he sang, “Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp” in the commercials, it sounded nothing like this bland Whitey Whiterson.Â Sorry, credited vocalist Mike Settle, formerly of the First Edition.Â There’s a reason Kenny broke out.
The other singer in this fictional combo fared a bit better.Â While she hadn’t quite perfected her raspy trademark voice (which would have been perfect for the beaten-by-the-streets look of Honey Bear!) a young Kim Carnes wrote and sang on a few of the album’s songs, including the sweet, if nonsensical “Feather Balloon” (download) (what the heck is a “feather balloon?”).Â Carnes’ soothing voice and Up With People compositions contrasted sharply with the sleazy, come-hither-behind-this-dumpster image Honey Bear was shooting out, but hey, we all gotta start somewhere.
Sadly, the Sugar Bears called it quits after failing to score a hit.Â Sugar Bear went back to hawking cereal full-time, eventually retiring after winning a lawsuit against Post for causing his adult-onset diabetes.Â Shoobee Bear was killed in a tragic woodland incident involving a steel-toothed contraption of some sort (it’s all very murky).Â Doobee Bear ended up serving nearly 15 years for heroin trafficking – no one’s quite sure where he is now, or if he’s even still alive.Â And Honey Bear fell in with a very wealthy antiques dealer from France who granted her life-long wish to become a real woman by financing her sexual reassignment surgery.
And it all started on the back of a cereal box.
“You Are The One” peaked at #51 in 1972.