"I was trying to analyse just what it was about the Kit Kats that intrigued me so. And I think the reason I was such a fan is because they had what it took to be a big group. Kit was a lunatic drummer. I mean he was loud, he was aggressive, he was brutal! But it was the drive that gave their songs their individuality. I mean, he was as good as any percussionist that was with a rock band in the day! And Karl - you know, I referred to Karl as 'Beethoven' because he could do anything on a piano. And he proved that with his Crazy Otto honky-tonk style, or when he was doing a symphony - he was just a master keyboardist. And they did their own arranging. John's voice was as good as anybody who was in the business at the time … Mama Cass had just one pure voice, and John was just one grade above it! I get goosebumps on the back of my neck talking about it now. And Ron was just … the bottom was there, the bass was always there. So it was a very tight group, they were very versatile, they knew how to play the audience, and if I live to be 105, I'll never know why they didn't make it, and I THINK, in retrospect, it was the name."


[ click on images to enlarge ]

L-R: Ron, John, Karl and Kit,
circa 1962.

L-R: Ron, John, Karl and Kit,
circa 1962.

Top: John. Bottom, L-R: Ron, Kit and Karl. Circa 1966.

Bottom: Kit. Top, L-R: Ron, Karl
and John. Circa 1966.

L-R: Karl, John, Ron and Kit, 1967.

L-R: Karl, John, Kit and Ron, 1970.


Such high praise comes from music industry veteran Tom Kennedy, head of promotions at Jamie Records during the Kit Kats' legendary run there. Kennedy's memories of the band are not unique; he eloquently summarized the feelings of many of the Kit Kats' fans and associates. But these sentiments raise a host of questions: Who exactly were these four extremely talented musicians? If they were so great, was an unfortunate band name really enough to stop them from making it? And if indeed they didn't make it, why does anyone still care about them today? These questions and many more will be answered shortly. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Kit Kats - what you are about to read will blow your mind.

John Bradley, a native of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was the son of musician and entrepreneur Harold Bradley. Harold's shop, Brad's Music Store, was located on Kensington Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, and John could often be found hanging out there. One friend that John made at the music store was Karl Hausman [1], a young piano prodigy from Fishtown, a working class riverside neighbourhood in Northeast Philly. Karl and John were both 13 at the time. Karl went on to play professionally starting at age 14, while John honed his guitar chops in a band called the Chancellors. In the summer of 1958, a 16-year-old Karl joined the Chancellors; however, John went into the Army the following year and the band broke up. Karl got a desk job until a rockabilly band from Ft. Wayne, Indiana asked him for help. Roscoe & the Green Men were working in the Philadelphia area, needed a new pianist, and just so happened to hear about Karl. When he joined this band, he had to adopt a gimmick that was most unusual at the time. You see, every one of the Green Men had green hair. [2] Karl toured with the band for a year; thanks to highly effective representation, they got to play on The Johnny Cash Show in Canada. Karl would even stay at their manager's house in Ft. Wayne whenever the rest of the band went home on breaks. It's remarkable, then, that the combo spent the entire summer of 1960 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and thus recorded Karl's only single with them in Philadelphia. This release paired a cover of 'Roll Over Beethoven' with a revival of the mouldy oldie 'Bye Bye Blues' and came out on the obscure Pontiac label. It was not enough for Karl, who felt like the group was not moving "onward and upward" and decided to leave.


The year 1961 saw Karl going back to a desk job, miserably playing the part of responsible young adult like everyone wanted him to. Everyone but his mother, that is. She encouraged him to follow his passion for music; luckily, John had just returned from his term of service and re-formed the Chancellors. Now 19, Karl re-joined John's band and they played on weekends in Northeast Philly bars. Enter Carson Wesley Stewart, Jr. and Ron Cichonski. [3] In his childhood Carson had earned the nickname Kit Carson, hence his more common moniker Kit Stewart. Ron, meanwhile, was not about to explain to every non-Polish rock'n'roll fan that his last name was pronounced "shi-HEIN-ski", so he adopted the stage name Ronnie Shane. Kit had learned to play the drums after getting out of the Navy, and Ron had a way with a Fender bass. Kit was looking to form a band, so he and Ron visited Brad's Music Store and asked Harold Bradley if he knew of a guitar player. Of course, Bradley recommended his son. When Kit and Ron attended a Chancellors gig to check out John, Kit was also impressed by Karl's piano stylings. Kit hadn't considered a piano player, but he had to invite this great talent to join his new group. As Karl recalls, "Kit came over to me, he said, 'You know, I'm starting this group. We're gonna be the Kit Kats.' And I said, 'Hold it right there. I don't like that name.'" The name was not derived from the candy bar (a UK brand that was not licensed for the States until 1969), but Karl does remember that "there were famous Kit Kat clubs around the world" and concedes that "it worked well with the kids when the records did come out. The name was, we didn't use the expression back in [the early '60s], but it was kind of bubblegum." So why didn't he like it? "I just thought it wasn't macho enough. It sounded light and airy." [4]

John left the Chancellors to join the Kit Kats, who at this time also included a sax player named Bob Seeger (note the spelling!). But Karl was not convinced that he should join until he saw the new band and was quite surprised by how good they were. He was particularly impressed by John's singing voice, which John had kept under wraps in the Chancellors. So, in February of 1962, Karl joined the Kit Kats. Drawing upon Kit and Karl's natural strengths, the band established a division of labour: Kit was the one who sold the band and did the bookings, whereas Karl was the group's arranger. Also, the Kats made it a point to respect each other's song choices. Karl: "We agreed in the beginning, whatever a guy wants to learn, bring the 45 to rehearsal, and we'll learn it. We will not argue."


Through an agent named Herb Lustig, the Kit Kats were able to start moving beyond the Northeast Philly bars to a downtown venue named Club 13. They worked there Monday through Saturday and began to learn what really goes on after hours. Karl has vivid memories of the weekends at Club 13: "Friday night and Saturday night, when we were done at 2am, part of our contract was, we would go upstairs and there was a private club that started at 2am, and we'd start playing up there. But there they had some pretty bizarre shows! Like, we would take a break and on would come a female stripper. And by the end of her act she takes off her pasties - and it's a guy! And all of a sudden, we looked at each other - I thought, 'Hey, I'm from Fishtown, but we didn't have this sort of thing in Fishtown!' So we had to admit, I was a little surprised! And the audience was, like, old fat bald guys with cigars, with young blondes! It was like, all these sugar daddies!"

In the summer of 1962, the group really started to morph into what we now know as the Kit Kats. For one thing, Bob Seeger had to be dismissed from the band. It was nothing personal, but he simply had a hard time tuning his sax to whatever pianos were available at the venues they played. There were no hard feelings, and Karl thinks that Seeger went on to become a lawyer. On July 4th, 1962, the four-piece Kit Kats line-up made its debut. The last days of summer marked yet another historic debut by a fabulous foursome: the 4 Seasons with their first hit, 'Sherry'. The Kit Kats initially encountered disaster while trying to cover it. Karl sang lead on it originally, but being a natural baritone without Frankie Valli's amazing falsetto range didn't help one bit. "I sounded like I was yodelling," he jokes today. So at rehearsal, Karl suggested that John sing it. He was amazed by what he heard. "He sat there and naturally sang in his own voice and went all the way up," Karl marvels. "I said, 'You're not even singing falsetto, that's your VOICE!'" In fact, Karl insists that John's freakish range was totally natural: "He couldn't go falsetto, he didn't know how!" Even harder to fathom is that Karl started out giving John bass vocals - and John was happy to sing them! No more bass vocals for John; from now on, John would sing tenor or even soprano, Kit would handle the macho bass and baritone lines, and Karl would sing baritone or even lay a falsetto on top of John's high-pitched wailing. With the distinctive characteristics of each voice, the Kit Kats had some unusual harmonies indeed. Where was Ron in the vocal mix? "He never showed an interest in singing," says Karl. "When he did sing, we would give him bass parts, or if there were songs that would need a vocal intro, like he would do 'Hee hee hee hee, wipe out!'" Karl recalls that as the years went by, Ron developed a greater stage presence in an unlikely manner. "Now, Ronnie DID sing 'Woolly Bully'. That was his big claim to fame. It got to the point where the crowd was always yelling for 'Woolly Bully', just to hear him do his one song! So it was kind of a joke. Not the joke with Ronnie doing it, it was kind of the joke with the crowd, you know, 'Bring Ronnie up here!' 'Cause they all called him 'The Wooden Indian' 'cause he stood there in the back and never moved. When in reality, Ronnie himself said that he doesn't wear his glasses on stage, and he didn't wanna step off the stage accidentally! [laughs] Ronnie was a funny guy. He was quiet, but when he said something, he was very funny." [5] It's worth noting that the quiet Ron never committed his vocals to any of the Kit Kats' records.


To pick up where we left off, the band began to develop a following in the local clubs, and in the summer of 1963 they were playing at Tony Mart's in Somers Point, New Jersey. Who should be working next door but Philly rock'n'roll legends the Virtues. Frank Virtue introduced himself to the Kats and offered them "free" recording time (to be paid for through record sales, of course) at his studio. The group accepted his offer and recorded their debut single in short order. It was an unusual pairing for a rock'n'roll outfit. The A-side was a rather arch take on the old novelty 'Aba Daba Honeymoon', which the band hardly ever played live because, in Karl's words, "It just wasn't rock'n'roll." On the flip, meanwhile, was the bluesy instrumental jam 'Good Luck Charlie', which had even more unexpected roots. Karl: "Basically, we were doing that old ethnic folk song 'Mazel Tov' and they changed it to 'Good Luck'. That was Frank Virtue's idea for the title. I think they just threw Charlie on the end. Charlie seemed to be kind of a popular thing to say back then. 'Ah, good luck, Charlie.'" That a little rock'n'roll band out of Northeast Philadelphia (a part of town not known for its rich musical heritage, though it pains this Northeast Philly boy to admit that) could offer up such an eclectic choice of tunes on its first single proves that the Kit Kats were a cut above the rest. They cast a wide net in building a repertoire, and they could play anything and make it their own. In any case, Virtue arranged for the record to be released on the mighty New York indie Laurie Records, but a positive review from a San Francisco critic was about as far as it went.

So the band went back to business as usual, playing the clubs and recording sundry tracks at Virtue's. Of course, the year 1964 ushered in the British Invasion, of which Karl remembers, "We loved it because it gave us a chance to play real rock'n'roll again." There was a bit of a British Invasion vibe, mixed in with the band's '50s rock'n'roll roots, on their second single, 'You're No Angel'. Unfortunately, Virtue got the 45 released on Lawn, the sister label of Philadelphia's Swan Records. Swan was once one of the biggies, but it was now in serious decline without Dick Clark in its own backyard and Frank Slay on its payroll, and (to paraphrase kindly) Spectropop hero Jerry Ross once suggested that the company's executives were better suited to selling shoes than records. Besides, 'You're No Angel' was a tad dated when released in the context of late 1964. The flip-side was an early recording of their later favourite 'Cold Walls', with sparse instrumentation and 4 Seasons-styled harmonies throughout. Both sides were original compositions, which pointed to yet another division of labour: when it came to songwriting, Karl composed the music and Kit wrote the lyrics. For 'Cold Walls', Kit came up with a haunting tale of a man who was being released from a lengthy prison stay to the welcoming arms of his love. Speaking of love, Karl had none whatsoever for this storyline, hence comments such as, "Even though I wrote the melody for it, I really didn't appreciate it until I recorded it myself instrumentally. And then I listened to it and I thought, 'This is an absolutely beautiful song!'"


The failure of the second single must have caused frustration for the Kit Kats, and Karl started pushing for the band to go to California, believing that the Golden State would be a better launching pad to stardom. [6] Kit couldn't work out any deals for the summer of 1965, but thought that he might be able to set something up for the winter of '65-'66. Then fate intervened. And fate's name was Bob Finiz. Finiz had been the boss bass voice of Philly doo-wop favourites the Four J's, and he was now a staff producer and engineer at Jamie Records. Jamie was part of a large Philly music empire owned by attorney Harold B. Lipsius. [7] His domain included the Jamie/Guyden family of labels, plus local and national record distributors. Artists like Duane Eddy and Barbara Lynn, and producers such as Phil Spector, Lee Hazlewood and Huey P. Meaux had all gotten a huge boost from recording for, or partnering with, Lipsius. By 1965, Jamie/Guyden was poised to become the only Philly indie from the 1950s to successfully survive the onslaught of the British Invasion and the concurrent rise of the Motown hit machine. In other words, being noticed by somebody from one of Lipsius' companies was a big deal.


Finiz approached the Kats at The T-Bar, one of their favourite venues, which was located in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania. After talking some business with them, he told Lipsius about this great band he'd seen, at which point Lipsius asked to hear them on tape. So Finiz returned to The T-Bar and took the Kats to Jamie's in-house studio after their set was over. Karl recalls, "I didn't need to take the piano, but he wanted me to take the amplifiers anyway. That's why the piano sounds a little tinny on the recordings, because he wanted it through [the amplifier] like that. And the only reason I made it tinny was to cut through the guitar. If I'd had a natural piano sound, you'd have never heard me." And what kind of amplifier did Karl use? A ukulele pick-up, of course! It was a trick that he'd learned from Robbie Robertson of the Hawks (later the Band), whom he'd seen in Toronto when he was a Green Man, and at Tony Mart's in 1965.

As you know by now, Harold Lipsius was pleased with what he heard and signed the band. Technically, though, the Kit Kats were still under contract to Frank Virtue. Lipsius, ever the skilful businessman, took care of that. Not that the band didn't like Virtue - as Karl remembers, "He was a quiet fellow, but very polite, very nice" - but they rightly believed that Jamie could do more for them. Jamie assigned Bob Finiz to produce the foursome, and this is where Tom Kennedy sees a major problem. Kennedy feels that Finiz was better off producing R&B acts because of his roots in doo-wop. Kennedy also finds it detrimental that Finiz was left to fly solo with the Kats, as opposed to his collaborative work on other artists' recordings (for example, he was under the influence of Gilda Woods when he produced Brenda & the Tabulations). Letting his imagination run wild for a moment, Kennedy fantasizes about what great work Tom Dowd could have done for the Kats, asserts that Felix Pappalardi would have "torn a new asshole" with them, and proclaims, "If Koppelman and Rubin had done the Kit Kats, they would've been the Turtles." Remember that last one.

Maybe they could have done better than Finiz, but it's hard to argue with the crash-boom-bang of the Kit Kats' first Jamie release, 'That's The Way'. Following, of all things, Crispian St. Peter's 'Pied Piper' in the Jamie singles catalogue, 'That's The Way' was retro-chic before the concept was in vogue. The doo-wop influenced vocals and Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano kept the boys grounded in '50s rock'n'roll, but Kit's lyrics betrayed something that is not normally associated with this band: a punk attitude. "You'd like to hear me say I'd change my ways for you/I wouldn't change for anyone, things I like to do! […] That's the way I'm gonna stay, nothing will change me!" As they modulated almost incessantly on the final choruses, they displayed a maturing musicianship that set them apart from most local combos of that or any other era, while the production included elements that were distinctly mid-'60s. The Spectorian echo employed by Finiz gave the record, in Karl's opinion, the feel of an early Sonny & Cher track, while Finiz also decided to throw in a harpsichord for a baroque pop feel. [8] On the flip-side was a rough recording of what would become the band's signature tune, 'Won't Find Better Than Me', sounding as close to garage rock as the Kats ever got during their Jamie days, but still keeping a classical element in Karl's fast-fingered piano solo. [9] In all, it was a highly impressive offering, and it paid off. The record was a hit in Philadelphia and all along the Jersey shore. Karl also remembers DJ Chuck Raymond of WLAN in Lancaster, Pennsylvania reporting to the band that 'That's The Way' hit #1 on that station's survey [10] and on a pirate radio ship in London!

With such a rockin' Jamie debut, the record-buying public might have been surprised to hear the sweet, romantic follow-up 'Let's Get Lost On A Country Road' (backed by the swinging 'Find Someone'). Its unconventional melody and arrangement were inspired by Aaron Copland, one of Karl's favourite composers. For the solo, John plucked away at a banjo, an instrument he'd often played when the Kats did their Mummers Medley on stage. [11] Otherwise, the record had a full-blown baroque pop production, complete with strings and horns arranged by Richard Rome. "What a nice guy," enthuses Karl. "He would sit right there on the piano bench with me and ask me to play the song and he would be writing away, putting down the notes that I was playing, and then he would come back a few days later with the entire string arrangement." The orchestration was overdubbed after the Kats laid down all their parts, and though Karl did not think the additional instrumentation was necessary, he liked the way it sounded. Nevertheless, the poppy sound of 'Country Road' indicated a growing disconnect between the live Kit Kats and the studio Kit Kats. "I didn't really write driving rock'n'roll melodies," Karl admits. "We couldn't duplicate what we really sounded like on stage 'cause we didn't write that kind of music." Nobody seemed to care. 'Let's Get Lost On A Country Road' was a big hit in several East Coast markets, Philadelphia being the biggest of them all. Its regional success allowed it to make the Billboard charts, although it only "Bubbled Under" the Hot 100 at #119. [12]

With 'Country Road' riding many regional hit parades, Tom Kennedy had an idea that he'd just as soon forget: releasing an instrumental version of 'Country Road' under a pseudonym. Why? "Because it was such a diversion from what the band was doing," he explains. "It was really a novelty approach. I think I heard Karl doing that in the studio and I thought, 'God, that isn't a pop song, but it IS a novelty song. It's like a Crazy Otto. That's a different kind of piano, and if we're gonna do it, let's not put the band in jeopardy.' I mean, who did I think I was? The 4 Seasons calling themselves the Wonder Who? But I just felt, you know, we don't wanna be hamstrung into this sound, and it's too diverse from what they're doing, it doesn't make sense. We'll put another record out and we'll just change the name." As it was, the instrumental 'Country Road' had two rides under two different pseudonyms, and the first time around it was the B-side of a Ramsey Lewis-inspired workout of 'Hanky Panky'. With regards to Tommy James' then-recent chart-topping version, Karl recalls, "I liked playing the instrumental version. I didn't like the hit version because of the vocal." This single was released in late 1966 under the name the Pablo Ponce Four, a nom de disque the origins of which are murky; it was definitely chosen around the time of the recording. 1967 saw a re-release of the instrumental 'Country Road' on the A-side of a 45 bearing the name the Tak Tiks. Tom Kennedy takes the blame for that one, adding amidst a sea of laughter, "Now, was that about as clever a way to disguise the name as you possibly could come up with?" To add an extra layer of mystery to the proceedings, both instrumental singles were issued on Guyden. The Tak Tiks' version of 'Country Road' did reasonably well in Philadelphia.

Returning to our normal sequence of events, the band's third Jamie single, 'You've Got To Know', came out in February of 1967, and Karl remembers its success being quite limited: "42 cities in Florida, it was a hit. And nowheres else. We talked to vacationers who had come back from Florida. Bands were playing it on the beaches of, like, Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale." It was a fast soul-influenced dancer, but the finished product was a bit problematic from Karl's point of view. "I thought, 'It's too goddamn fast!!! How the hell could we have recorded it that fast??? It was supposed to be slower!!!' I said, 'Karl, because artists have that problem. You get carried away with your enthusiasm, the beat goes faster! No one had any idea what tempo you wanted it!'" Unfortunately, that wasn't the only thing that was wrong with it. While in keeping with Kit's growing tendency to write didactic lyrics, lines like "You've got to know when to give in/You've got to know when patience is thin," "Every boy should have a girl who'll see him through," and "There are things that you must do/If you want to keep him […] And you know you'll need him, girl" might have come off to members of the burgeoning Women's Liberation Movement as a clarion call to all females to be servile to their men. Certainly, the song hasn't aged well and doesn't stand a snowflake's chance in Texas of being well-received in the era of political correctness. In response to these criticisms, Karl muses, "I'm glad I didn't pick up on that, we'd have had a hell of a fight. Because I always loved independent women." So what good can be said about 'You've Got To Know'? Karl is convinced that it inspired the melody of the Dells' 1968 hit, 'There Is', but doesn't mind that because he liked 'There Is'. Riding on the flip of 'You've Got To Know' was an altogether more promising side, an extremely baroque re-recording of 'Cold Walls', adding Richard Rome's orchestration and de-emphasizing the harmonies. [13]


The Kit Kats were proving themselves to be a big group on the East Coast, which led to a rather attractive offer from one John Caterina. Caterina owned a 1,600-seat nightclub in Wildwood, New Jersey called The Riptide; as you may have guessed from Bobby Rydell's 'Wildwood Days', the South Jersey resort town was successfully marketed to Philadelphians as an attractive oceanside summer getaway. But Caterina was not pleased with his club's performance and was looking to improve his fortunes. In March of '67, he offered to make the Kats summer regulars at The Riptide, in exchange for which they would receive a 40 percent cut of the club's profits. [14] They couldn't turn that down, so from Memorial Day to Labor Day they worked The Riptide seven nights a week plus two jam sessions on Saturdays and Sundays. This started in 1967 and continued through 1970, after which Caterina sold the club. With Caterina went the Kit Kats' deal, but they sure packed the place during those four years they were there.

May, 1967 brought a new single, 'Breezy', which suffered from bad timing - and bad titling. How could Jamie have known that the Association's 'Windy' was being released at the exact same time? 'Breezy' failed to become a hit anywhere, but with its French-influenced melody (and accordion solo by Karl) and breathy vocals it showed a softer, gentler side that made 'Country Road' sound positively bombastic by comparison. It was also Kit's favourite Kit Kats tune. For the first time, Jamie sent the band out of town to record it, which they did at Bell Sound in New York. The flip was a tighter re-recording of 'Won't Find Better Than Me', which appeared on some radio station surveys [15], while aggravating fans who did not want to see a song they already owned being recycled on the B-side.


It was about time to put together an album, and its title It's Just A Matter Of Time was Tom Kennedy's expression of faith that the Kit Kats would soon become national stars. The rather unattractive front cover was credited to Kennedy and Max Bodden, but it is the latter who must shoulder most of the blame. Kennedy: "Max was the art director for Jamie/Guyden, Phil-LA of Soul. He actually did our graphics and the artwork. I couldn't deliver a picture, I could only deliver an idea. I felt that they were just on the brink of making it, and it was a matter of time. And Max said, 'Well, look, why don't we put 'em around a grandfather clock?' And I said, 'That'll work.'" Kennedy reveals that the cover photo, featuring the guys gathered around a beaten-up clock with pissed-off expressions on their faces, was Bodden's idea. It's still a sore subject with Karl, as he groans at the very mention of it and exclaims, "I, uh, [laughs] I didn't like it! I remember the morning we went out there, it was a chilly morning. We went down around 2nd and Fairmount and found a vacant lot that was junky lookin' and somebody was there, Bob Finiz was there, somebody showed up with a grandfather clock!" [laughs] His next statements are quite telling: "They DID take some nice pictures! I liked the pictures where we smiled, you know, we looked great. We looked like the band was, we made people feel good. They picked the one that looked like we just went to our own funeral! We weren't that kind of band to say, like, we're bad!" There's a certain innocence to these comments that stands in stark contrast to the angst-filled cover shot. Indeed, the Kit Kats faced a problem that all good-time bands were forced to confront in the mid-to-late '60s. The times had become more turbulent, and rock music's trendsetters were no longer content to purvey songs that served as an escape from life's problems. As audiences responded to these artists' opuses of frustration, alienation, and disgust, they also found comfort in the rough and tumble bands whose "bad" attitudes reflected most listeners' inner turmoil. But the Kit Kats weren't interested in that. All they wanted to do was have fun and get you to have fun with them. They didn't even do heavy drugs because, as Karl himself will gladly attest, they were turned off by the effects such substances had on others. A music act that wanted to be so happy and clean-cut could have found a niche in the world of bubblegum, but the name the Kit Kats is as close to bubblegum as that band got. So where exactly did the Kit Kats fit in? On the Philly scene, this was not as much of a concern; after all, pure doo-wop records were still becoming local hits, and edgier styles like garage rock and psychedelia were mostly imported from other cities. But as Tom Kennedy pointed out, Jamie held high hopes of breaking the Kit Kats nationally with It's Just A Matter Of Time. It's likely that Max Bodden was painfully aware of the Kit Kats' potential for image problems on a national scale; why else would he have chosen such an ugly cover photo to depict a band that made such beautiful music?

Indeed, the music contained on the album was much more appealing than the packaging. Aside from all the Jamie A and B-sides (save for the 'Country Road' flip, 'Find Someone', and the original 'Won't Find Better'), there was a mind-bogglingly eclectic selection of covers, all of which came out sounding like no one but the Kit Kats. 'Nut Rocker' (a complete feature on which can be found elsewhere at Spectropop) was the band's set opener for many years, and it would also be used as the B-side of the Tak Tiks single later in 1967. [16] The folk tunes 'Cotton Fields' [17] and 'Liza Jane' got rocked up; Karl picked up the latter from Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks. It was a real barnburner which the Kit Kats used as a set closer when Karl got tired of ending with 'Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight'. Tom Kennedy remembers how powerful their live version was: "[Karl would] bang the shit outta the piano and John would sing it in the key of Q! And the place would shake for 3 minutes after they stopped playing." Karl agrees with Kennedy that the recording was missing one essential element: the crowd! Karl had also picked up a 45 of the Ivy League's 'Funny How Love Can Be' and presented it to his bandmates as a possible cover choice. Their rendition is breathtaking, especially with the band's full harmonies and Richard Rome's orchestration, but since the original version had not been a hit in the US, people thought the Kit Kats had written it. 'These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things' was the strangest inclusion, but it was a staple of the band's opening sets, when they played non-rock while people drank and started rocking when people were ready to dance. Karl believed it would work for the Kats: "I said to the guys one day, 'Why don't we do something like show tunes? We're not Broadway guys, but we could certainly do something classy.' So I happened to come upon that one and I said, 'This would be great with three-part harmony.'" Bob Finiz considered it worth including on the album to show the group's versatility, and that it does. 'Sea Of Love' was an obvious choice for a band whose roots were in '50s rock'n'roll, but their unique arrangement of it came about through a gradual evolution. They had been performing it since the beginning of the group, but after a few years Karl decided it needed embellishment. They started jamming on it, and one time Karl asked Kit for a drum reprise at the end, after which Karl let loose with a piano solo and the others fell in. Add some higher-than-high harmonies and a few light orchestral touches and you have the most distinctive version of this oft-covered chestnut ever recorded. (A September single release, which faded early on Karl's piano solo, would muster up enough regional success to hit #130 on Billboard, and a Canadian pressing on the Apex label did quite well north of the 49th parallel.)

It's Just A Matter Of Time came out during the Summer of Love in a reverb-drenched mono edition and a "stereo" pressing that was entirely re-channelled. The back cover identified John as Big John, the nickname he had earned due to the changes wrought upon his body by too much of la dolce vita, while Karl, who had never requested an arranger's credit, was surprised and flattered to receive one anyway. Like most '60s albums, It's Just A Matter Of Time contained liner notes full of endless praise, bragging, and a little hyperbole for good measure. Quotes from deejays, program directors, and distributors all over the East Coast made the Kit Kats sound hotter than a bunch of jalapenos. "[S]ales of 37,000 records of 'Country Road' in Philadelphia alone was proof enough that this group is where it is," wrote Jim Hilliard of Philadelphia's famed WFIL. Dean Tyler of 'FIL rival WIBG (a.k.a. Wibbage) gushed, "[T]hey happen to be four of the nicest guys it has ever been my pleasure to meet in 16 years in radio and TV." [18] Kerby Scott of WBAL in Baltimore even offered a stern warning to the Beach Boys: "The Kit Kats are one of the few groups with enough talent and showmanship to bring the scene back to the East Coast - California beware!" Not surprisingly, It's Just A Matter Of Time didn't exactly become the next Pet Sounds. It did hold its own in the Philadelphia area, however, where Karl claims it sold over 80,000 copies.


It's Just Matter Of Time may have had to go up against Sgt. Pepper that summer, but in the fall it had a much more immediate competitor. Frank Virtue gathered up 'You're No Angel' plus 11 outtakes from 1963-64 and released them on his own label under the deceptive title The Very Best Of The Kit Kats. Much of the album suggests that the Kats were originally R&B-oriented, though Karl admits that "it just turned out that way, although we didn't have R&B voices. Our voices were simply too - we weren't gravely enough." Still, their rockin' renditions of Little Richard's 'Hey Hey Hey Hey' and 'Lucille' and the old Chubby Checker hit 'Good Good Lovin'' showed that they did have an understanding of rhythm and blues. They also cut an R&B-styled take on 'The Quiet Village', which featured the band making intentionally goofy bird call noises. The Virtue-penned instrumental 'The End' also brings in an R&B stomp, while their faux Merseybeat reworking of 'Stranded In The Jungle' sounds like a lost You Know Who Group recording. The band used to put on shows during their sets, hence the English accents and banter on 'Stranded', but Karl feels that it didn't quite come off on the record. The original material on the album indicated something different altogether. The unusually sombre, pensive 'Our Farewell' was firmly in the white doo-wop tradition - complete with Karl's melodramatic spoken passages - while 'From Here On In' comes closest to indicating the retro-contemporary direction the Kats would take at Jamie. Nevertheless, the Kats were embarrassed by the raw, primitive recordings on the Virtue LP and asked Virtue to pull it. Having no reason to do so, he didn't, and the band could only watch helplessly as fans purchased an album that siphoned sales away from their Jamie output. [19]

Around this time, Bob Finiz disappeared to California, leaving the Kit Kats without a producer. That wasn't the only change in store for the band's next 45; 'Distance' was the first single not written by Kit and Karl since 'Aba Daba Honeymoon'. The song had been cut by Spanky & Our Gang on the B-side of 'Sunday Will Never Be The Same', and it had some important Philly connections. For one thing, it was written by prolific arranger/composer/musician Joe Renzetti and the Spokemen's Ray Gilmore, who was also a DJ on Wibbage. Additionally, Spanky's version had been produced by Jerry Ross. Karl says this cover choice "was more or less set up with Kit talking to Jamie" and that the Kats didn't really appreciate the song until they learned it. Jamie sent them to New York to record it with Renzetti doing the arrangement and Artie Shroeck producing. Karl has vivid memories of the demanding Shroeck: "He was a taskmaster, but he made sure that when it was over and done with, we were glad he did. What he did was get out of you what you didn't know you had. And that was the interesting part about it. You understood when it was all over." Karl was not aware of Shroeck's impressive résumé (including arrangements for one of the Kit Kats' favourite bands, the 4 Seasons) until after the fact: "He was not a braggart, just a regular person. Which impressed me even more! I liked that." The winning combination of Shroeck, Renzetti, and the Kit Kats made for an excellent piece of ragtime sunshine pop, with John's chugging guitar, Kit's swinging drums and a thick wall of background harmonies; it was a much livelier reading than Spanky & Our Gang's languid, morose rendition, but John's lead vocal retained an appropriate amount of pathos and anger for the lyrics. Also, Shroeck's production included the only backwards tape effect ever to be found on a Kit Kats record. Unfortunately, the single failed to catch on anywhere.

As 1967 turned into 1968, the band nearly came apart at the seams. Kit, the businessman of the band, was becoming somewhat more ambitious. On the plus side, he produced the Cole Brothers, the Kit Kats' alternate band down the shore, for Jamie Records. [20] On the minus side, he got the idea to record John with session musicians - a means of pushing John as a star vocalist - while still crediting these records to the Kit Kats. This led to such highly unrepresentative singles as a heavily orchestrated cover of Neil Diamond's 'I Got The Feelin' (Oh No, No)', a silly piece of piffle entitled 'I Want To Be', and the cheery Cowsills-like 'Hey Saturday Noon'. [21] None of these singles made a commercial impact, and Tom Kennedy offers a good explanation why: "You would never have to take any one of [the Kit Kats] off the session to make it sound right, no matter who was producing it. There were concessions to, you know, 'If we spend more money on musicians, maybe we'll get a better sound.' And it wasn't terribly expensive, but it was a roll of the dice, and I think it just proved a point that augmenting them with studio musicians wasn't going to improve their sound that much if they weren't the nucleus of what was happening."

There were two 1968 sides on which the Kats were the nucleus of what was happening. Their swinging, mildly funky reworking of the Beach Boys' 'You're So Good To Me' was an obvious choice to record. As Spectropop's own Steve Harvey (not to be confused with the famous comedian) once recalled, "Kit Stewart told me they used to do that as a stomper, it was a real 'smack your feet into the floor of the club'-type tune." Karl got his arranger's credit on the single, but he was annoyed to see Kit credited as producer. "I said, 'Kit - where do you get producing? You came in as a studio musician same as we did.' He said, 'Well, you know, it was my idea to do the song.' I said, 'Why don't you have, 'Based upon an idea by Kit Stewart?' You didn't produce this - the band produced it!'" Karl has much fonder memories of the mixing process: "I remember when it was being mixed, and I said [to engineer Joel Fein], 'Do me a favour. Everything we have ever recorded sounds like it has no bass in it. Can you turn that knob up a little higher?' And he said, '[forebodingly] You're gonna push it into the red.' And I said, 'Put it into the fucking red! Please turn that knob!' And he said, 'Okay.' And you know it's the one song [we] recorded that actually has balls!" Maybe so, but the commercial success of 'You're So Good To Me' was confined to the Jersey shore - not enough to make it sell notably. [22]

The flip-side was a source of great resentment between Karl and Kit. Donnie Owens' 'Need You' had been one of the few hits for the Guyden label back in 1958, and it was a favourite of Karl's. Of all the live numbers that featured his lead vocals, 'Need You' got the most requests. It was a no-brainer to record, but when Karl heard Kit's florid production of the finished product, he was furious: "I wanted it to be like the Donnie Owens original version. Simple acoustical guitar, me singing it, brushes on the drums, and light bass. And I said, 'That's all, that's all.' And I said, 'You give me these frickin' strings, all this kinda crap you put the hell in there,' and he said, 'Well, you know, I wanted to fatten it up.' I said, 'Who the hell died and [made] you boss? I did the arrangements in this band and it did pretty goddamn good! You were the one that sold the band, but I gave you one hell of a product to sell. All of a sudden you decide that you're Mr. Producer!'" For what it's worth, Kit finally admitted that he had indeed ruined 'Need You' … a mere 32 years later.


It wasn't just internal tension that threatened the band's well-being. 1968 saw the return of Bob Finiz, who sued the Kit Kats for not paying him as their manager. Never mind the fact that Finiz didn't manage the Kats; they still had a percentage of their salaries held in escrow until the matter was settled. That is, if you can consider the matter settled. Karl picks up the story from here: "The bottom line on the thing was, we all go to court and Bob Finiz WINS! He wins, but get this - we not only didn't get our money back, HE didn't get any money back, it got locked up between the judge and the lawyers! And that's what Bob Finiz said, because we said, 'You son of a bitch, how the hell could you do something like that?!?!' He said, 'Well, guys I really didn't wanna do it, but I was told I was within my rights.' I said, 'You had no rights! You were no manager! You were with the recording end, but you CERTAINLY didn't manage us!'" With the hard feelings long over, Karl now maintains that Finiz was put up to suing the band, though he doesn't know who put Finiz up to it. [23]

Even amid such turmoil, the Kit Kats continued to be a huge draw in person. Their set list was always eclectic, with such crowd favourites as 'Malaguena', '500 Miles', the 4 Seasons Medley and a host of Motown hits. (In later years, performances of Abbey Road and Tommy were real crowd pleasers as well.) Big John, the only non-smoker in the band, proved to have amazing stamina, never finding the high notes a challenge unless he had a cold. Tom Kennedy is still dazzled by the memory of their live shows: "People hated to hear the last song. They just got on stage and perennially cooked through the whole set. They were dynamite in person, and the amazing thing was, if Finiz was getting something on the records that sounded big - they were getting it in person. Their sound in person was probably as good as, if not better than, their recordings. I don't think [the recordings] could capture the fullness of the band." Kennedy also remembers how, in a matter of seconds, the Kats were always ready to rock'n'roll: "There were a lot of bands that, when they came on, they spent an eternity tuning up, soundchecking … it was annoying. In my eyes, it was very unprofessional. When the Kit Kats came on stage - I don't know if they waited out in the parking lot and tuned everything up - but they got on and in a minute they were ready to play and they were right on." The band always took great pride in developing a personal rapport with their fans, especially with Big John walking out into the crowd and greeting people or joking with the audience from the stage. As Kennedy recalls, "You know, they had such a following, it was almost like a first-name basis. John would point - 'Johnny, welcome!' - you know, and he'd point to a guy. I mean, it was a following and they were very connected with their audience." So popular were the Kit Kats in person that they even found themselves becoming the subjects of tributes. Karl: "There was a group who used to play in the Philadelphia/Jersey/Jersey Shore area called Jimmy & the Tropics. They would do a whole Kit Kats medley. Matter of fact, they're still together. They would warm up or play during our breaks, or we would alternate with them, anyway you wanna put it, if the place would have two bands. They actually surprised us one night. They said, 'Would you stick around and listen to our set?' And they did the Kit Kats Medley and they had been doing it for quite a while. I just couldn't get over it. I felt embarrassed, I felt like, 'Why would you want to do that?'"


It made sense, then, that the Kats' next record - indeed their only release for most of 1969 - was a live album. The Kit Kats Do Their Thing Live was recorded in November 1968 at The T-Bar, and featured none of the group's hits. Instead, it contained an incredibly diverse list of covers, from the Roy Orbison hit 'Candy Man' (featuring Karl on harmonica) and the Mamas & the Papas' 'Words Of Love' to 'Great Balls Of Fire', 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', 'Little Queenie', 'Those Were The Days' and an almost psychedelic reading of 'Distance' (prominently featuring the Rock-Si-Chord, an electric keyboard that Karl set up on top of the piano). The inclusion of Phil Ochs' 'Draft Dodger Rag' showed the band incorporating topical songs into their repertoire, but don't think the Kats were suddenly getting political: "It was just the times," explains Karl. "We never discussed politics. We never knew how each other voted or anything like that. I don't even know if the other guys even voted!" [24] The live album may have captured the group's versatility, but the sound quality was nothing to cheer about - even though it was true stereo. "It was so much treble," moans Karl. "It sounded so tinny that it was actually horrible. I think what they did was actually record it just the way it was, but there was no bass in there. The piano sounded like a harpsichord on that album!" Furthermore, the back cover made the stupid mistake of claiming that The T-Bar was located in Broomall, Pennsylvania, a factual error that has muddied the band's history ever since. Nonetheless, the album sold very well in the Philadelphia area and down the shore upon its release in early 1969.


A fortunate turn of events for Jamie also proved pivotal for the Kit Kats that year. Jamie/Guyden picked up a small Florida label, Sundi, whose release of Mercy's 'Love (Can Make You Happy)' was burning up the charts in the Sunshine State. With Jamie's distribution, the record became a national smash in the spring and summer. One of its producers was the eccentric Mike Apsey, who convinced Harold Lipsius to hire him to work for Jamie. He became the Kit Kats' new producer, although it was not quite as cosy an arrangement as the band had once enjoyed with Bob Finiz. Whereas Finiz attended the band's shows frequently, Apsey was only an occasional spectator. The Kats had socialized with Finiz, while their relationship with Apsey was more businesslike. Apsey seems to have been more interested in Karl than the rest of the group; he would call Karl into the studio to add background parts or smooth out rough edges after the foursome had laid down their tracks. Nonetheless, the producer had one hell of a trick up his sleeve: recording yet another version of 'Won't Find Better Than Me' to be released undoubtedly as an A-side. Karl came up with a gorgeous new arrangement, placed firmly in the soft rock vein but with all the elements of the Kit Kats' sound: powerful drumming, country-rock guitar work, lively bass, and classical piano. A slight Latin tinge made the record all the more distinctive. The band's signature harmonies were as strong as ever, but Karl reveals that he played a bigger role in them than usual: "On 'Won't Find Better Than Me', I'm the only one doing background. We eliminated the three-part harmony that was on there, and I think I said, with no - you know, not cutting out the other guys - but I said, 'Bottom line is, we want it to sound better.' And so what I did was just work with Mike, and I just kept doing vocals in layers ... 3 of my own voices, and that's it. And it worked out fine." Since the song had already been out twice under the Kit Kats name, Apsey (credited as Mike for some reason) thought that a new name was in order. New Hope, Pennsylvania was (and is) a small town known for its tourist-baiting arts scene; thus Apsey chose to rename the band the New Hope, which was later shortened to New Hope. Karl was happy to lose the Kit Kats moniker, but he didn't think New Hope was much of an improvement: "I said, 'Mike, you have to look at it as a cynical Philadelphian. People are gonna call us No Hope!' And sure enough, we did [veteran Philly deejay Ed Hurst's afternoon dance show]. So one day he introduced us as New Hope and he said, 'Oh! I almost said No Hope.' I said, 'Son of a bitch, I was right!'" Fortunately, the band lived up to the name New Hope, not No Hope. The new 'Won't Find Better' was released at the end of 1969 and, in the biggest development yet in the group's lifetime, made Billboard's Hot 100 in January of 1970. It peaked at #57 in a nine-week chart run, but it was a much bigger hit in many cities across America. Why did this record do so much better than anything before it? Karl's answer is simple: "I think it sounded good." At any rate, Jamie rewarded the guys by sending them on all-expenses paid trips to the record's biggest cities whenever the band was available. It's worth noting that at the clubs back home, the group stuck with the name the Kit Kats because it was still a draw under that name.

The next New Hope single came in April, and it was a peculiar offering. 'Rain' was a catchy tune from outside writers, but its soft rock sound was a tad too sweet and polished; not surprisingly, the instrumental tracks were cut with session players. John, Kit (who takes the lead on the bridge), and Karl were the only Kit Kats on this record, and their contributions were strictly vocal. Even though it followed a hit single, 'Rain' failed to make a splash. Oddly, the B-side was 'Let's Get Lost On A Country Road' with horn overdubs, showing that Mike had a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the Kit Kats' oldies. Karl remembers that Mike "liked our old material and wanted to do 'em over again. And even I said, 'Why? Kit's got songs, I've got songs … we've got a whole bunch of new stuff'… but somehow they felt like they should [laughs] just take our old songs, basically, and take some of the echo off. And that was it! And then of course we re-recorded some of the songs."


These bizarre ideas led to a mess of an album. To Understand Is To Love (commonly referred to as The New Hope LP) was released in August to undeservedly good sales. The album was a pathetic mishmosh that was never quite what it seemed to be. Apsey had Karl record a long piano-and-harmonica intro for 'Won't Find' and tacked it onto the main track; somebody (perhaps Kit) also added an unnecessary tambourine overdub. 'Gregorian' was simply the first verse of 'Won't Find' sung like a group of monks; it was intended as a joke but even Karl found it embarrassing. 'You're So Good To Me' was included in a weak stereo mix that surgically removed the 45 version's "balls", while Apsey presented 'Distance' in stereo with the first half of the intro lopped off. 'Country Road' appeared with the original mono 45 master drowned in obtrusive stereo horn overdubs, while 'Breezy' was resurrected in mono with some stereo elevator music thrown on at the beginning. The guys re-recorded 'You've Got To Know' in a deliberate tempo meant to rectify the excessive speed of the original, but the new version lacked the original's fire. 'Find Someone' also got a needless makeover, with smoother but less interesting harmonies and an instrumental tag that segued awkwardly into 'They Call It Love', the dull soft popper that had occupied the B-side of the first New Hope single. [25]

The ridiculous 'Won't Find Better Than Me Medley' was not even supposed to be released, nor did it take shape as originally planned. Karl had the idea to do 'Won't Find' in the styles of various '50s artists, with each singing Kat taking his turn on lead. However, Apsey insisted that he had to leave town and rushed the band to finish the album; thus, Karl sang all the 'Won't Find' segments and Apsey broke them up with snippets of the Kit Kats' covers of 'Need You' and Bertha Tillman's 'Oh My Angel'. [26] Karl's memories of this artistic misfire are understandably bitter: "It wasn't supposed to happen. It was just something I came up with and thought it'd be fun to do for the hell of it, I think for our own enjoyment. Give the guys each a copy and send us home. And he stuck it in the album and I thought, 'Nobody's gonna understand this! It makes no sense!'"

With 'Rain' also on board, the album was starting to look like a loser. Fortunately, the fantastic foursome provided two new originals that showed promise - even if they were both rather extreme departures from the Kit Kats' formula of churning out goodtime pop tunes with traditional boy-girl storylines. 'Look Away' was a long, progressive pop opus with extended instrumental passages and choir-like vocals. Kit's lyrics were so obsessively preachy that they bordered on nitpicking: "People talking everyday, but ask them what they want/Speak their minds in every way, but never lift a thumb/Always want to have their say, but saying's all they want." But the point that some people talk a great talk and never actually do anything was a good one, and the musical experimentation was really the main attraction of the recording. Karl's vibrant piano and accordion solos ('Won't Find Better Than Me' is in there somewhere) were complemented by some very cool bagpipes, which came about because Karl wanted to go for a Scottish marching band feel. To achieve this end, Jamie hired Rufus Harley, master of the jazz bagpipes. [27] Karl has fond memories of the off-the-wall jazzman: "I remember, he comes down - a really elegant guy, you know, and he had one of these Yemen-type caps on, and he goes into the office and he says, 'Yeah, I'll do the session! I got my bagpipes with me … I want 400 dollars.' Jamie says, 'Will you take 100?' He said, 'Sure!' So that was a quick settlement! So he comes upstairs and he said, 'Uh-huh! Glad to be workin' with you guys!' And we said, 'Oh, we're honoured you're here!' And the funny thing, he really just made us laugh when he opens up the case, takes out the bagpipes and says, 'We'll be in business soon as I blow these motherfuckers up!' [laughs] So anyway, he did, and he played right along with us, and we had a fun afternoon with the guy." Fun was not in order for the other new selection, 'The Money Game'. Though rock critic Richie Unterberger resists no opportunity to compare this track to the Easybeats, it was actually inspired by the Beatles. Karl had composed a soft and lilting melody a la 'Martha My Dear', but Kit's lyrics were unexpectedly hard-hitting: "All the things that I've been thinkin', all the things I say/No, I never would be heard, no, without the money game!" So Karl upped the ante on the arrangement: "I said, 'John, get a fuzz-tone. And I want Kit to do his boom-bum-bum-boom,' which is basically a strip beat speeded up. And I said, 'I'll just do the piano more classical.'" Kit laid down a vicious lead vocal, and the track rocked harder than anything the band had previously committed to vinyl. The two "statement songs" were paired on a 45 that August, but 'Look Away' rode on the A-side in a most altered state. As Karl laments, "I rode with Harold Lipsius to New York, and we took it up to a studio - I don't remember which one ... we spend the afternoon while we watch the engineers MURDER MY BABY! And I told them, 'You murdered my baby!!!' And the engineer looked at me and he said, 'Ah, you Beethovens are all alike! Look, you hand me a seven-minute song, I gotta cut it down to three - don't worry so much! It'll sound great on the jukebox!'" That engineer was wrong. The 45 edit of 'Look Away' was indescribably horrible; the word "abomination" does not even come close to explaining what a pointlessly embarrassing train wreck it was. Not surprisingly, it tanked, and that proved to be the last straw for the band. They were disillusioned that they had not become bigger after so many years and depressed that Jamie could not build on the new hope offered by the success of 'Won't Find Better'. They'd had great expectations for 'Look Away', but the failure of that song put them further in the dumps than they'd been in a long time. They were ready for a change, and one was about to come their way thanks to an extremely unlikely source.


In November of 1970, Kit received a phone call from a producer who wanted to offer the band a deal with Paramount Records. That producer's name was Bob Finiz. Finiz was now working for Koppelman-Rubin Productions and had contacts at Paramount, a label he believed could promote the Kats better than Jamie. The band still felt the sting of the lawsuit, but Finiz made nice with them and set up a meeting with Charles Koppelman in New York. Koppelman asked the guys to return to the Big Apple and do a live show for some of Paramount's staff, which they did in early 1971. Duly impressed, Paramount agreed to sign the group, who reverted to the name the Kit Kats because that was still the name under which they were the biggest draw. [28] Finiz took them into Media Sound Studios in New York to cut their Paramount debut, 'Taking My Time'. It was a simple number, but Kit's lyrics really packed a punch. With lines like "People talkin' and they wonder why I don't have time to make some money," and "Taking my time, taking it slow/Nobody's shown me where to go," it was the unmistakable anthem of the average American 20-something: he's confused and desperate to find a direction in life, but people would rather bug him about it than actually help him find something he can really sink his teeth into. You might consider it a close cousin of the Beach Boys' 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times', except Brian Wilson was in his twenties when he wrote that tune, while Kit was a full 31 years old when he penned the lyrics to 'Time'! And Kit's inclusion of the line "I fill my body with the magic wine, I wonder why my life's still lonely" raised Karl's eyebrows: "I listened to this, I said, 'What, are you on drugs now?' He said 'No!' [laughs] I said, 'Your lyrics have changed! It's no more June, croon, spoon, honeymoon crap!'" Sadly, the potent lyrics and Karl's strong melody were sabotaged by Bob Finiz, who insisted on an annoyingly gimmicky arrangement. Finiz called for tempo changes, abrupt stops and starts, and a fast cadence. Karl: "I said, 'For Christ's sake! It's not a march!' By the time it was finished, it sounded more like I could picture the seven dwarves marching …" Karl does admit that he asked for the goofy horn overdub (which was done at Finiz's house in Cherry Hill, New Jersey), but he also admits that it "sounds dumb now." There were some tasty Rock-Si-Chord passages, but Finiz edited out the lengthy psychedelic instrumental breaks so that the song would clock in at slightly over two minutes - an unnecessarily short running time for an early '70s single. Still, 'Taking My Time' had a lot to offer, and with the promotional backing of a larger label it stood a good chance of taking off. Released in the fall of 1971, it went absolutely nowhere. "Not a great promotion staff, Paramount," moans Tom Kennedy. "That was Famous Music, and I don't think they could deliver lunch in a bag."

Too bad, because the B-side of 'Taking My Time' was an especially delicious feast. 'That You Love' came totally out of left field, with lyrics like "I know what I have to be and it offends you/It ain't natural, so you say/For someone to love my way/If you think I'm wrong, I wish you'd understand: it's not who you love, it's not how you love, it's that you love." The song was of course light years ahead of its time, and it was written solely by Karl [29], which is quite surprising in retrospect. After all, Kit had clearly developed an interest in statement songs, but what possessed Karl to get on his soapbox as well? As it turns out, Kit had something to do with it. One night in 1971, he invited Karl to see the Frisco Follies, a gay revue featuring male performers who impersonated female singers such as Barbra Streisand. Karl was not terribly keen but Kit convinced him to give it a chance; Karl ended up enjoying the show and was particularly moved by what one of the performers said at the end: "Just remember, ladies and gentlemen: It's not who you love; it's not how you love; it's that you love." Karl was in complete agreement: "I said, 'You know? They are RIGHT! Absolutely right! It's that you love! Nobody's ever hurt anybody with that.' And it was sometime after that I went down just a few months later and I came up with that song. And I thought, 'I'm gonna write something in defence of gays.'" But in his mind, Karl had a crisis of intentions: why was he writing a song in defence of gays? He wasn't gay, and the only gays he knew were people he talked to in the music business. After thinking it through, he came up with the best reason anyone in his position could come up with for writing such a song: "All of a sudden, I felt pity for people being treated shitty just because they are who they are." Along those lines, Tom Kennedy offers some intriguing insight into his old friend's character: "Karl has very high standards. I mean, he is a beautiful man, and I'm sure that even if he didn't feel it was a lifestyle, it was something that should have been voiced."

But like Karl, the rest of the Kit Kats were straight - so how did his bandmates feel about the song? "They didn't say a word about it, they just went right along with it," reports Karl. "They never snickered or laughed or anything. I think as musicians, you're more broad-minded. I don't know why." Even Big John had no problems singing the song in the first person, as Karl happily recalls: "Even I said to John, 'If anything would ever happen with this song,' and he says, 'Ah, what the hell do I care? Anybody that knows me knows where it's at! I don't give a shit!' John used to go like that. His favourite expression was, 'Who gives a rat's ass!'" Soundwise, session players sat in on bass and drums (the legendary Gary Chester on the latter) to get a better feel for the Latin beat, and John ripped out a mean fuzz-tone while the group's harmonies took on a mournful tone. Sadly, Bob Finiz was too hung up on 'Taking My Time' to see that he had an even greater gem staring him right in the face. Riding on the flip of a flop doomed 'That You Love' to oblivion - but maybe that wasn't all bad. John's voice was so high and sweet on this track that some of the few people who heard it thought it was the work of a female singer. Consequently, lines like "You like to knock me on the floor […] Do you beat up women, too?" were rendered inane.


Paramount had promised the guys four singles a year, but the company was slow to make good on its promise. Karl had written a painfully frank, Jimmy Webb-styled ballad entitled 'Can't Go Home No More', a song that was simultaneously beautiful and devastating. The Kit Kats' recording featured Karl's plaintive vocals and instrumentation primarily by Burt Bacharach's orchestra. Karl was excited about the song, and he wasn't alone. "They all raved about it," he remembers, "even the guys in the band and even Gary Chester, who used to record with Frank Sinatra. He said, 'I'm not hypin' you, kid, but if Sinatra wasn't in retirement, he would record this song. If it comes out, he may yet.' Musicians don't talk that way, you don't get the phony baloney stuff from musicians." 'Can't Go Home' was slated to be the next Paramount single, but with the label taking its time, taking it slow, the group had a chance to unravel. For no apparent reason - other than being in the same band for too long - Kit and John became like oil and water. The Kats' plans to record more material kept getting delayed as a result of the internal bickering. With the two longtime friends now at each other's throats, things came to a head and one night Kit, the founder and leader of the band, announced that he was quitting. Ron and Karl thought Kit was being disingenuous until he got a new job and bade farewell to the audience on his last night. So it happened on July 4th, 1972 - ten years to the date after Kit, Ron, John, and Karl had become the foursome we all know as the Kit Kats - Kit Stewart was history. That was the death knell.

Paramount lost interest in the group and never released 'Can't Go Home' or anything else after 'Taking My Time'. [30] Karl's brother Rick, who'd just returned from Vietnam, replaced Kit on drums and vocals, while John took over the bookings. The Kit Kats, barely together anymore, found it harder to stay alive. People were no longer as interested in the same old band, as a befuddled Karl admits: "We were still a big draw with the crowd that knew us all along, but the younger crowd, not so much! Don't get me wrong, it was still a lot of young people coming in to enjoy the group, but we started getting to the point where simply because we'd been around so long, people were saying, 'Are they still together?!?' It was like we'd been together too long! And I thought, 'This is insane! We still sound as good.' But it's like, 'What are you guys still doing here?' And that was our biggest complaint from people! We'd work out new songs, we'd do this and that, and it just didn't matter! It was like, still the same band." They'd get offers from record companies but some Kats, still burned from their experiences at Jamie and Paramount, always refused to take the bait. In early 1973, John and Ron had a pointless, heated exchange that led John to fire Ron in a heartbeat and replace him just as quickly with Billy Cornelly. Though Cornelly was a nice guy, Karl was annoyed that John fired Ronnie without even consulting him; it was yet another sign of disintegration. Kit, now working with a booking agency, offered to help his former band, but Karl was still irate over Kit's departure and did not accept this olive branch. It was just too much of the same thing until fate struck a nearly deadly blow.

In March of 1974, Karl was suddenly found to have four bleeding ulcers; he spent St. Patrick's Day having surgery. As is often the case with tragic incidents, Karl's near-death experience brought him and Kit closer again. Karl picks up the story from here: "Kit was with this agency, and he said, 'What are you gonna do with your life?' And I said, 'I don't know. I'm recovering from an ulcer operation.' And he said, 'You gonna go back with the Kit Kats?' I said, 'No. I've already let Big John know I'm not gonna return, and John said, "I had a hunch you wouldn't." I don't want that life anymore, Kit. I wanna settle down.' I had a serious thing here. The doctor said I was two hours away from being dead. Here I was, 32 years old and it was almost over. I had a lot of time to think, what do I wanna do with the rest of my life now? And the doctor says to me, 'You've had a good life. You know, wine women and song' - the doctor looked me in the eye and he said, 'It's time you start growin' up.' And I felt highly insulted, but he was right. I'd been longing to settle down, I never really had a solid family, I thought maybe I'd like to have my own, and I did." With Karl out of the picture, the band struggled on with a new pianist but broke up shortly thereafter.

In 1976, Kit, John, and Ronnie reunited with a new keyboardist, but they invited Karl to sit in with them for one night. He happily accepted the invitation and had the time of his life as a born-again Kit Kat - but just for that one night. By this point, Karl was playing easy listening and show tunes at a resort in Lancaster, and though he was more excited about rockin' and rollin' with his old buddies again, it was not enough to convince him to give up the ability to come home to his wife and child every night. The Kit Kats were kaput once again by 1977, and Big John went out as a solo folk artist.

Karl continued with steady jobs like the Lancaster resort gig and even wrote some new songs with Kit at the beginning of the 1980s. (Nothing ever came of them.) For a few years, Karl and his wife Carolyn ran an ice cream parlour in their Berks County, Pennsylvania community, where Karl had a room in the back for piano shows. Thanks to a little wifely prodding, he also auditioned for the role of Main Street Pianist at Walt Disney World; he got the job and moved his family to Florida for two years. Kit went into the produce business and devised a clever idea to increase his veggie sales: dressing up as a giant carrot. It's not surprising that this "Carrot Man" idea came to him around Halloween (of 1982 or '83), and as he told Steve Harvey in 1989, "I always loved carrots and I always thought that they were the one things you held out in front of horses to get 'em to go, and people in corporations always said, 'Offer a carrot as an incentive,' you know, the old - it's an expression." When people started asking him for nutritional information, he did some homework and expanded his Carrot Man act into an educational song-and-dance show. He even made tapes with songs about nutrition (he did 'Liza Jane' as 'Lima Bean'), and in 1986 he decided to pursue the Carrot Man act full-time. And this is where the Kit Kats re-enter the picture.


"I was looking for a way to generate a lot of money to put into my Carrot Man idea," Kit explained in 1989. "[People I talked to] always said to me, 'Put the Kit Kats back together! Put the Kit Kats back together!!! That's the thing to do. The time is right, oldies are hot, you guys could really do it!'" It wasn't the first time that Kit had tried to re-form the original band, but it was the first time that Karl missed the group enough to want to rejoin. Karl would do it only if John would do it, and the feeling was mutual. [31] But for various personal reasons, Ron did not participate in the reunion. This was probably for the best, as Karl reports: "Ron stayed married to the same woman all the time. He had children, he was a good family man, he was a good husband and father. And I know darn well they weren't that crazy about him going out there again. I know once he was out of the Kit Kats, his wife was much happier." The band hired Dave Ryan to be the new bassist for the Kit Kats and began rehearsing in December of 1987; unlike Ron, Dave was a singer and even sang lead on some numbers. Once again, Kit did the bookings; the first gig was at Pennsylvania's well-known Immaculata College on February 22, 1988. But even from the start, the guys could not recapture the magic of the '60s. Karl: "It was no longer the old days, where you worked, like, five, six nights in the clubs. By now, in the late '80s, everything was one-nighters. Times had changed and so what we did was work one-nighters, and in the summertime we worked a place called The Bent Elbow down in North Wildwood. And that again was weekends."

That wasn't the only problem, for by July, Kit was out of the band once again. In 1989, Kit recalled that the reunion broke down so quickly because his bandmates became disillusioned: "Our first time around was wonderful! People comin' out of the woodwork, it was incredible, it was so exciting! And then the second time around, it wasn't as exciting anymore. So it started to filter out. It became [pensive pause] not a good situation. So I became Carrot Man again. Simple as that." Kit also believed he was somewhat more ambitious than the rest of the Kats. For one thing, he wanted to record again, but the other Kats were content to do as many live gigs as they could scrounge up. Kit also faulted his bandmates for lacking patience in the face of disappointment: "If everybody woulda hung in there, we coulda overweighed all that and came back again because our band had talent. REAL talent. I don't mean bullshit, I mean real talent. And the talent is still there. REAL talent. And talent, and persistence, and perseverance will override every storm in the land. Every one. Without that, there's nothin'. Talent without discipline is meaningless!"

Today, in 2006, Karl remembers things somewhat differently: "John and I fired Kit. [heavy sigh] We were no longer the Four Musketeers, it was every man for himself. It was fun for the first two months, but after that it was, I use the expression it was like being back with your ex-wife. Too many unanswered issues, unsolved issues from the '60s, early '70s resurfaced." According to Karl, Kit sabotaged the band by dreaming up all sorts of hair-brained schemes to make money. For example, Kit created a guestbook for the band's concertgoers to sign, ostensibly to create a new fan club. He asked for each signer's contact info, but he also asked signers to answer "Yes" or "No" to the question, "Do you smoke?" He claimed that he wanted to find work in venues where people didn't smoke, but in reality he had made a "quit smoking" tape and was trying to sell it to the Kit Kats' concertgoers! Such shenanigans started to cost the band some very important gigs. Karl: "Like, there was one, a big summer fair out here in Lebanon [Pennsylvania] … it was gonna be a really, really nice Memorial Day holiday thing at this park, good money. All of a sudden, we're not working it. And Kit says, 'Ah, these guys, they didn't wanna pay the money after all,' and everything. So I called the deejay that was in charge of the thing, and I said, 'What's the story? I don't understand. You guys have always been good.' He said, 'We were fine until Kit wanted to push in his vegetable concessions.'"

So John hired his friend Joe Savage to take over on drums, and the Kit Kats continued playing. Since John's father-in-law owned nightclubs, John and Karl also did shows as a duo at a club called Carriage Stop in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1988, John and Karl were pleasantly surprised when Ron showed up at one of these gigs; Ron and the guys were happy to see each other again and there were no hard feelings about Ron's absence from the Kit Kats' reunion. John and Karl were having a good time playing together again, but bear in mind that by this point, Ron was not the only Kit Kat who had become a family man. Karl: "By 1989, [heavy sigh] it was time. It just wasn't going anywheres, and again, the work was so scarce, I needed to support my family. I mean, we were down to maybe one night a week, if that." So in June of that year, Karl left, and John continued with a three-piece Kit Kats band. According to Kit, John brought Karl back into the fold for bigger gigs.


Fast-forward to 1995, when Bear Family Records of Germany issued a deluxe two-disc set entitled The Jamie/Guyden Story. The single version of 'Sea Of Love' and an edit of New Hope's 'Won't Find Better' made it to the set, shocking the world over by marking a CD reissue of the Kit Kats' material. That was only the entrée. The main course appeared from Jamie/Guyden, still active after all those years and under the direction of Harold Lipsius' son Frank. In 1999, Jamie released its own deluxe two-disc set consisting entirely of the Kit Kats' classic recordings for the label. The selections on It's About Time were painstakingly remixed by the legendary Tom Moulton, who mixed many of the tracks into true stereo for the first time. His radical redefinitions of the Kats' tracks have been the subject of much controversy; purists blanch at the very thought of these mixes, stereo fanatics can't get enough of them, and audiophiles relentlessly compare them to the original mixes. To be sure, what you get on that compilation is often quite different from what Jamie released back in the day. 'Country Road' got an extra horn and a cold ending; Moulton gathered up outtakes and snippets to construct an extravagant new piano intro to New Hope's 'Won't Find Better'; and 'Nut Rocker' is an alternate take with different drumming and a slightly different guitar solo. Many tracks were restored to their original, unedited versions, and nowhere is this more evident than on the New Hope statement songs: 'Look Away' has a long instrumental ending with no vocal reprise, while drum solos and harmony vocals magically appeared on 'The Money Game'. The set also uncovered many unreleased gems: the full version of 'Oh My Angel', 'Puddin 'N' Tain', a sunshine pop treatment of 'Love Of The Common People', a country-rock reading of 'He Was A Friend Of Mine', and an undocumented Jamie recording of 'From Here On In', which bears no resemblance to the Virtue version. [32] The gorgeous original 'Can't Live Without Her' was an outtake from the It's Just A Matter Of Time sessions, but Karl is still displeased with its minimalistic sound: "It never got completed! I had a whole bunch of other stuff we were gonna add to it! Not so much lyrically, but arrangement, to fill it in, to make it easier to understand - it was too empty the way it was! There were too many big gaps in it! It was too high and too low at the same time! There was no middle!" Hardly; it was an achingly beautiful recording that showed the band's ability to make four instruments (plus an additional rhythm guitar on this track) and three voices sound like so much more. Its somewhat vague lyrics, however, were not as attractive as its sound. Though Karl did not write them, he comprehends them well enough to comment, "You have to be married to understand [the song]. You are who you are, but after you get married, you'll find out that a lot of women all of a sudden wanna change you. And they think they're making you a better person, also they want you to be what THEY want you to be." It's About Time also offered up a video of the band on its second disc, some odd New Hope radio spots, and a detailed booklet featuring liner notes and a sessionography by Bob Hyde. Sadly, it was rife with factual errors. Karl did write an essay for the package, but this was a more personal history of the band. Thus, It's About Time was an imperfect package, but its sales far exceeded anyone's expectations and this marked the first stage of the ongoing Kit Kats revival.


On June 16, 2001, Frank Lipsius threw a party for Jamie's friends in the music industry; needless to say, he invited three of our principal players: Karl, Kit, and Tom Kennedy. Karl and Carolyn happened upon Kit and his wife, and Karl was stopped in his tracks by Kit's absolutely jaundiced appearance. Karl tried to play it cool, but he eventually broke down: "I said, 'Kit, are you okay?' He said, 'Yeah, I had the flu.' And I said, 'You turned yellow from the flu???' He said, 'Yeah, you know, they took care of me,' he just brushed it off." Karl didn't buy that, and he became even more concerned by Kit's erratic and atypical behaviour: "After a little while, Kit got up with [his wife] and said, 'We wanna walk around downtown.' And I said, 'You never walk around downtown! As long as I've known you, you drive through!' He says, 'You know somethin'? I wanna go see Paris.' And I said, 'Really? Good! Good for you!' [After Kit left] I said to Carolyn, 'That's odd. He doesn't usually leave a party early!'" Tom Kennedy also has painfully clear memories of the event, and they offer a much darker picture of the evening's proceedings: "My wife met Kit for the first time that day, and when we left she said, 'He's not gonna be with us in a month.' She was a nurse, and she said, 'His liver is gone.'" Sadly, she was right. Carson Wesley "Kit" Stewart, Jr. passed away on July 2, 2001.

As far as we know, the surviving Kit Kats are all leading busy, productive lives. John has become a rather reclusive figure, having put his rock 'n' roll days behind him. He married a religious woman and became a part-time preacher; as of the summer of 2004, he was living in the Poconos with his wife and working as a farmer. He has reportedly lost his famous weight and is no longer "Big John". Ron is also a private, low profile figure now, but he definitely works as a butcher in Richboro, Pennsylvania. It's hardly as glamorous a lifestyle as his days in the Kit Kats provided him, but butchering has proven to be a steady source of income for Ronnie for many years. In Feburary of 2006, Ron's friend and former colleague John Ciocci happily reported that "he is currently working with some of his co-workers on a series of recordings of songs written by the store manager, and recorded in another co-workers basement. He said there's more gear and more professional recording in that basement than at Paramount studios in New York where they used to record." That project has most likely been completed by now, but the simple fact that Ron has picked up his bass again is wonderful news. Obviously, Karl is the one former Kit Kat who still makes it a point to keep the band's history in the public's consciousness. He lives in Reading, Pennsylvania and plays every summer as "The Ragtime Piano Man" at the Keystone State's famed HERSHEYPARK [sic], a job he's had since the summer of 1990. He also records and releases CDs under his own Hex Rated Music logo (a reference to the Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs in Karl's neck of the woods). In 2003, he recorded a tribute CD entitled The Fabulous Kit Kats, featuring mostly instrumental covers of the Kit Kats' tunes, vocal versions of 'Can't Go Home No More' and 'That You Love' (both with revised lyrics), and a few recent numbers thrown in for good measure. The instrumental treatments of the Kit Kats' classics were meant to represent the songs as Karl heard them before Kit added lyrics. [33]


None of this answers the one burning question that people always ask when they discuss the Kit Kats: Why weren't they more successful? For one thing, there was the name. It's no coincidence that they didn't have a national hit until they adopted a much better moniker than the Kit Kats. But then again, Herman's Hermits, ? & the Mysterians, the Electric Prunes - there were a lot of strangely-named bands in those days that made it big. Why weren't the Kit Kats one of them? Tom Kennedy believes that Jamie is to blame, even though the label was largely a victim of circumstance. We already know that he believes Bob Finiz was not the right producer, but even in terms of promotion and finances he feels that Jamie fell short: "There wasn't unlimited funding at Jamie. It was a bare-bones operation. And I think the fact that 'The Horse' by Cliff Nobles [on Jamie subsidiary Phil-LA of Soul] made it to where it made it was, it was easier to navigate black radio than it was pop radio. It was easier to establish a black act than it was a white act at that time. It just was. To begin with, if you went across the country and you said, 'How many stations have an audience that can influence the success of a record?' And if you looked at R&B, there were 50 stations: there was one in each state, maybe. Pop stations, you had 3 and 4 in each market. How could you coordinate that? If 'FIL played it and 'IBG didn't play it, maybe the record didn't happen. But once one station forced the other station, boom!" He adds, quite sorrowfully, "I think a major label would've done them better." So why were the Kit Kats so popular locally? "Because they worked," Kennedy opines. This lends special credence to yet another theory behind the band's lack of national success. Steve Harvey: "Back in the '60s, the Kit Kats were making so much money locally that when the William Morris Agency offered them the chance to go on the road, they said, 'Why should we go on the road for the rinky-dink wages you wanna pay us when we can make double that locally?' Well, as it turned out they should have gone on the road even if they had made less because no one else in the rest of the country ever knew who they were." Well, maybe … maybe not. Karl points out that the group's rejection of the Morris offer was not as simple as it may seem: "Yes, we were making a lot of money at home, it wasn't so much even the money, but we kept expenses down by playing within a 100-mile radius. The other thing is, if we'd gone out on the road with the William Morris Agency, we may have never been heard from again. William Morris Agency is #1, but they're also known that, like, once you sign with them, they'll send you to places that you wish to Christ you went home. And plus the fact is, they would've sent us to places where we didn't have the name ahead of us from record play. And so to show up in Provo, Utah and nobody ever heard of us, we're just starting out like any other band!" Nonetheless, Kit still believed in 1989 that his bandmates should have accepted the Morris offer, bitterly emphasizing that "they didn't want to do that. They did not want to do that."

Kit, Tom Kennedy, and Steve Harvey made very good points. While the Jamie/Guyden family of labels did have occasional success with pop records in the mid-to-late '60s (including two Top 40 hits by Crispian St. Peters - talk about a bad name!), the majority of J/G's smashes in those days were R&B records that crossed over to the pop charts: Barbara Mason's 'Yes I'm Ready', Brenda & the Tabulations' 'Dry Your Eyes', the Fantastic Johnny C's 'Boogaloo Down Broadway' and Cliff Nobles & Co.'s 'The Horse', for example. A major label certainly would have had more of a promotional budget; after all, it wasn't Vee Jay or Swan that broke the Beatles in the United States - it was Capitol. And national tour exposure would have made audiences outside of the East Coast familiar with the Kit Kats, which in turn could have improved their record sales nationally. But then again, the Remains had talent to spare (and quite frankly, a more marketable sound and image than the Kit Kats), a major label deal, television appearances on Ed Sullivan and Hullabaloo, and a national tour with the Beatles - yet they never had a hit outside of New England and broke up in disillusionment. There really is no scientific formula for success in the music business, and all the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" about the Kit Kats ultimately amounts to an exercise in futility. Tom Kennedy may lament that he "never worked with a band that had so much talent, that didn't happen," but the simple fact of the matter is that the Kit Kats did happen in a big way. Maybe their success was regional rather than national, but when they were able to parlay that into a career so lucrative that they could tell William Morris to take a hike, it's hard to argue that the Kit Kats failed to make it. Indeed, they thrived in the very last era in which a music act could achieve superstar status on a local level without simultaneously experiencing national success. After the 1960s, the business became too consolidated and centralized for such a thing to ever happen again, and in 2006 we're still waiting to see whether the regional character of the music industry will reassert itself. The 1960s produced numerous bands who never became national celebrities but made the American musical landscape that much more fascinating with their local success: Chicago's Cryan' Shames, Tacoma's Sonics, Los Angeles' Palace Guard, and yes, Boston's Remains. Philadelphians should be proud to count the Kit Kats among such bands, as we at Spectropop are proud to call them one of our very favourite acts. And as for Jamie's allegedly inadequate promotion, this writer chooses to let Karl Hausman have the final word: "I think they did fine. I got no problems, I have no regrets with Jamie. Look, I know where we'd have been if it hadn't been for Jamie, let's put it that way. Nowheres. We'd have stayed there, just playing bars, we'd have had a ceiling on what we made per week, and that sort of thing. I mean, as soon as even 'That's The Way' came out, our salaries doubled. All of a sudden, it brought a whole flock of new people to come see the band. Whenever there was a struggling nightclub, 'Bring the Kit Kats in.' We hated that part, 'cause we were supposed to be the saviour. But it was just heaven. Out of the 12 years we were together, four of 'em we were top dog, and that's thanks to Jamie."

So there you have it. Four guys who had a passion for music and the drive to entertain. They began as an also-ran bar band, but they eventually rose to the top of the heap in a city known for producing an endless stream of great musicians. Nobody knew where the story would lead, and nobody knows where it will go next, but one thing's for sure: no matter what plot twists are in store, the soundtrack will be amazing.



The spelling of Karl's name has been a source of much confusion. The authentic German spelling is Karl Haussmann, and indeed this is the way it appears in some songwriting credits. However, the spelling of Haussmann was Americanized to Hausman by Karl's immigrant grandfather; thus Karl's official name is Karl William Hausman. When Karl was in school, people always assumed that his first name was spelled Carl. Being embarrassed by the still-recent memory of the Nazis, especially growing up in a predominantly Irish community, Karl didn't fight this misspelling. This is why his name often appears as Carl Hausman. In the summer of 1970, Karl had a memorable encounter with Janis Ian: "I was sitting with her in a bar one night down in Wildwood. Anyway, we were coming up with an idea of how to spell the name and I said, 'You know, I really' - maybe it happens to everybody at a certain point in their life - I said, 'I hate my name.' And she said, 'Well, why don't you try to make it really different?' So we worked with a couple things, I said, 'Here's the way my grandfather spelled it.' She said, 'I like that!!! Put the Von in there!' I said, 'Von? That's too German, [guttural accent] Karl Von Haussmann.' She said, 'No!!! That makes it cool!!!' So I stuck it the hell in there, but then people started thinking I was a brand of beer!" Amusingly, his name was actually spelled Carl Von Hausman on the back cover of the Kit Kats' famed New Hope LP.


Of New York City, Karl recalls, "That was the one city I could walk around without my hat, and nobody cared if you had green hair! I used to hear little old ladies say, 'Oh, he must be in a show.'"


Carson lived in the Northeast Philadelphia neighbourhood of Bridesburg, while Ron was from Port Richmond, adjacent to Fishtown.


Some claim that the band was originally named Kit's Cats in honour of its founder, and then the name devolved into the Kit Kats. Karl insists that this is nonsense, although Kit Kats was supposed to be a play on words: Kit and his cats.


Some more memories of the enigmatic Ron from Karl: "I always liked Ron. Ron was a quiet guy. But again, when he said somethin', I listened. I always respected that instead of just people running off at the mouth just to say something and not having anything to say! Ronnie was very profound! He was like Clint Eastwood, kinda cool and quiet. Ron was the guy that girls liked to look at because he was quiet, he was that dark handsome stranger that nobody really knew and I think they wanted to kinda crack him open like a walnut."


That was not necessarily true. The New Colony Six left Chicago for California and couldn't get arrested out there. They went back to Chicago and built a following from the ground up, eventually getting a major label deal and national hits. "Location, location, location" does not necessarily apply to the music business.


Lipsius is pronounced "LIP-see-us".


'That's The Way' was NOT recorded at Bell Sound in New York, as Bob Hyde reported in his Kit Kats sessionography. It was cut at Jamie's in-house studio, 919 Sound, in Philadelphia.


For a real garage rock version of 'Won't Find Better Than Me', check out a cover by Allentown, Pennsylvania band the Elusives, released on Philips 40397 a few months after the Kit Kats' first release of it. The Elusives' version is titled 'You Won't Find Better Than Me'.


Not to be a downer, but Tom Kennedy revealed that, due to the politics of the music business, a record's position or even appearance on a radio station survey was often meaningless.


For the uninitiated: the Mummers Parade is a New Year's Day tradition in Philadelphia featuring loads of string bands. The Nu Tornados' 1958 hit 'Philadelphia USA' is a good example of Philadelphia string band music.


'Country Road' was such a great record that the people involved with it have a tendency to exaggerate its success. Karl stated in the liner notes to the Kit Kats' compilation It's About Time that 'Country Road' hit #1 in Philadelphia, but when I asked him about that, he took back that claim. He does remember it hitting the Top 10 on one station's survey, but again, see endnote #10. Meanwhile, in the liner notes to The Jamie/Guyden Story, Tom Kennedy is quoted as saying, "The Kit Kats' 'Let's Get Lost On A Country Road' was an enormous record locally, probably sold 80,000 pieces locally, but it never had the national success." However, when I asked him about sales figures, he replied, "I would say if 'Country Road' did 18,000 back then it was probably a good figure. Cumulative, maybe 60,000 units tops over its life, but I don't think much more than that."


This recording is often compared to the material on the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, which can only be done in retrospect considering that Odessey wasn't even released until 1968. Furthermore, the Kit Kats were actually not that influenced by the Zombies. In their live sets they did 'She's Not There' and later Argent's 'Hold Your Head Up', but Karl is quick to add, "I've never even owned a Zombies album."


It's often stated that the Kit Kats owned 40% of the club, but Karl explains that they did not actually own any of the property.


I've seen it listed on WFIL surveys under the incorrect title 'You Won't Find'.

16 Karl also remembers hearing the Kit Kats' version in the 1984 Olympics. He has no idea how that happened.

During the instrumental break, Kit yells out, "This one's for you, Uncle Billy!" This is a dedication of John's country-rock guitar solo to Bill Wright, a disc jockey at WIBG in Philadelphia, who liked country music.


Curiously, Tyler opens his liner notes by stating, "For some 6 or 7 years, the Kit Kats were an upstate Pennsylvania group …"


The Virtue LP's songwriting credits were loaded with errors. 'Good Good Lovin'' was listed as 'Good Lovin'' and the writers of the Rascals' hit were credited - the credit should have read, Brown & Shubert. Chuck Berry was named as the composer of 'Hey Hey Hey Hey', while the original tunes were credited to "Kit Kats" when in reality 'From Here On In' and 'You're No Angel' were written by Karl and Kit, and Karl was solely responsible for 'Our Farewell'. Also, the stereo pressing of the Virtue LP is peculiar, with 'You're No Angel' and 'From Here On In' appearing in mono, 'Our Farewell' in a very narrow stereo mix, and the other tracks in glorious, wide, sparkling true stereo.


The Cole Brothers were from Margate, New Jersey. Bob Hyde's Kit Kats sessionography lists their recording of the Bee Gees' 'I Can't See Nobody' as featuring the Kit Kats and being unreleased. Jamie did release a version of this tune by the Cole Brothers (Jamie 1348), but that single did not feature the Kit Kats. In fact, according to Karl, Kit was the only Kat at the Coles' sessions.


The Kats never played any of these tunes live. Of 'I Want To Be' (which is sometimes listed as 'Things I Want To Be' for some reason), Karl's memory is spot-on: "It just wasn't us. I thought it was a powder-puff song. It was a light thing. It was almost something that I'd see in some Saturday morning children's show."


One of my favourite stories about this record comes from Steve Harvey: "That was a tune I played for Brian Wilson back in '78 when he was in Philadelphia. And Brian looked at me and said, 'Yeah, you know when I recorded that tune, it really didn't come out the way I wanted it to.' And I said, 'Hey, Brian, that's not you, that's the Kit Kats!' And Brian just looked at me and said, 'Yeah, I know that.'"


Finiz was unavailable for comment; he passed away a few years ago.


Karl's famous description of Ron's "Young Republican" look was not intended to be a statement about Ron's political views. Ron was simply the most conservative-looking member of the band. He kept his hair short and his clothes relatively plain.


'They Call It Love' was also from outside writers, Apsey being one of them. Apsey clearly had an interest in taking the band in a soft rock direction; maybe he was looking for the next Mercy.


'Oh My Angel' was recorded in 1968 and not released in its entirety, though it was a club favourite. According to an anonymous source, a tape defect prevented the entire recording from being usable until the late 1990s.


Steve Harvey told my Kit Kats/New Hope online community in June of 2004, "Kit said they wanted a bagpiper for the tune, but had no idea who Rufus was at the time. Could have been Hoot McFinn for all they knew." Meanwhile, Karl says he had heard of Harley when Jamie hired him.


The transition from Jamie to Paramount was apparently not painless. Though Karl made no mention of this, Steve Harvey said, "From what Kit told me, they gave up all the rights to their Jamie stuff to get off the label." Also, please do not confuse Paramount Records with ABC-Paramount Records. For a brief explanation of the differences, read the opening paragraphs of this page: http://tinyurl.com/y79gg7


Karl came to write lyrics because Kit's production work for other artists led to the breakdown of their partnership. Karl hadn't written lyrics for fear of stepping on Kit's toes, but he talked to Kit about the issue and Kit gave him free reign to do what he wanted.


Of the unreleased Paramount tracks listed in Bob Hyde's sessionography, Karl has no idea where Hyde got the titles. For example, the band did not re-record 'Find Someone' for Paramount, and every time Karl referred to 'Kickin' In, Kickin' Out', he was clearly saying "Tickin' In, Tickin' Out".


John adopted the stage name Big John Henry for the reunion.


Karl, not John, sang lead on 'Puddin 'N' Tain'. Karl has no recollections whatsoever of 'Love Of The Common People' and thinks he was not on the session. This version of 'From Here On In' was one of the first recordings the Kit Kats made for Jamie.


Kit's death inspired this project; Karl wished that Kit could have heard the songs as Karl heard them. Also, on 'That You Love' Karl changed the line "If I don't feel like you" to "Just 'cause I'm not straight like you" because some people actually couldn't figure out what the song was about!


(Ft. Wayne, Indiana band including Karl Hausman)
Pontiac 105, 1960:
Roll Over Beethoven/ Bye Bye Blues

(sometimes spelled the Kit-Kats)
Laurie 3188, 7/63:
Aba Daba Honeymoon/ Good Luck Charlie
Lawn 249 , 12 (?)/64:
You're No Angel/ Cold Walls [version 1]
Jamie 1321, 7/66:
That's The Way/ Won't Find Better Than Me [version 1]
Jamie 1326, 10/66:
Let's Get Lost On A Country Road/
Find Someone
[version 1]
Jamie 1331, 2/67:
You've Got To Know [version 1]/ Cold Walls [version 2]
Jamie 1337, 5/67:
Breezy/ Won't Find Better Than Me [version 2]
Jamie LP(S)-3029, 8/67:
Let's Get Lost On A Country Road/ Breezy/ Cotton Fields/ Liza-Jane/ These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things/ The Nut Rocker// Funny How Love Can Be/ That's The Way/ Sea Of Love/ Won't Find Better Than Me [version 2]/ You Got To Know [version 1]/ Cold Walls [version 2]
Jamie 1343, 9/67:
Sea Of Love [edit]/ Cold Walls [version 2]
Virtue LPV-102067, 10 (?)/67:
Money/ You're No Angel/ Sweet Little Rock and Roller/ From Here On In [version 1]/ Hey Hey Hey/ Lucille// Good Lovin' [Good Good Lovin']/ Hoo Che Coo Che Coo/ Our Farewell/ Quiet Village/ The End
Jamie 1345, 11/67:
Distance/ Find Someone [version 1] ++
Jamie 1346, 1/68:
I Got The Feelin' (Oh No, No)/ That's The Way
Jamie 1353, 3/68:
I Want To Be/ Need You
Jamie 1354, 4/68:
You're So Good To Me/ Need You
Jamie 1362, 9/68:
Hey Saturday Noon/ That's The Way
Jamie LPS-3032, 3/69 (?):
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place/ Words Of Love/ Little Queenie/ Those Were The Days/ Bumble Boogie// Distance/ One Of Those Songs/ Candy Man/ Great Balls Of Fire/ Draft Dodger Rag
Paramount 0110, Fall/71:
Taking My Time/ That You Love

++ Bob Hyde reported that 'You've Got To Know' [version 1] served as an alternate B-side to Distance', but every copy of 'Distance' I've seen has 'Find Someone' [version 1] on the flip. Karl was not able to confirm whether a variation with 'You've Got To Know' on the B-side actually exists.

Guyden 2129, 12/66:
Hanky Panky/ Let's Get Lost On A Country Road [instrumental]

Guyden 2130, 9/67 (?):
Let's Get Lost On A Country Road [instrumental; same as Pablo Ponce Four version]/ The Nut Rocker [same as Kit Kats
version but with less echo]

Jamie 1381, 12/69:
Won't Find Better (Than Me) [version 3]/ They Call It Love

Jamie 1385, 4/70:
Rain/ Let's Get Lost On A Country Road [overdubbed]
Jamie 1388, 8/70:
Look Away [edit]/ The Money Game
Jamie LPS-3034, 8/70:
Won't Find Better Than Me
[version 3 with new intro and tambourine overdub]/ Won't Find Better Than Me - Medley/ You're So Good To Me/ Distance [edit]/ Let's Get Lost On A Country Road [overdubbed]/ Breezy [with new intro]/ You've Got To Know [version 2]// Look Away/Find Someone [version 2]/ They Call It Love [segue from 'Find Someone', harmonies on bridge differ from 45]/ The Money Game/ Rain/ Gregorian
Jamie 1422, 1974 (?):
Find Someone [version 2]/ Breezy

Jamie LPS-3031, 1968 (?):
various artists; contains the Kit Kats' Let's Get Lost On A Country Road, rechanneled and sped up.
Jamie 909 [Golden Hits Series], 1980s (?):
Let's Get Lost On A Country Road [the Kit Kats; rechanneled and sped up]/Won't Find Better Than Me [the New Hope; tambourine overdub and no piano intro]
Bear Family BCD 15874-BH, 1995:
various artists; includes 45 edit of Sea Of Love and same edit of New Hope's Won't Find as Jamie 909
Jamie/Guyden JAMIE-4008, 1999:
[remixes by Tom Moulton with some previously unreleased material; see article for further explanation] Let's Get Lost On A Country Road/ Won't Find Better Than Me [version 2]/ That's The Way/ Breezy/ Need You/ Sea Of Love/ Funny How Love Can Be/ Cotton Fields/ Cold Walls [version 2]/ Oh My Angel/ My Favorite Things/ Can't Live Without Her/ Nut Rocker [alternate take]/ You've Got To Know [version 1]/ Find Someone [version 1]/ Won't Find Better Than Me [version 1]/ Liza Jane// Won't Find Better Than Me [version 3; New Hope]/ Won't Find Medley [New Hope]/ Puddin 'N' Tain/ From Here On In [version 2]/ You're So Good To Me/ Money Game [New Hope]/ Distance/ Hey Saturday Noon/ Love Of The Common People [New Hope]/ Look Away [New Hope]/ He Was A Friend Of Mine [New Hope]/ Gregorian [New Hope]/ Radio Spots [New Hope]/ bonus video of Won't Find Better Than Me

(Release date info is sketchy, with many discrepancies among sources)

Karl Hausman interviewed by S.J. Dibai, February 17 - May 1, 2006. Tom Kennedy interviewed by S.J. Dibai, February 20, 2006. All Karl Hausman and Tom Kennedy quotes taken from these interviews unless otherwise noted. John Ciocci's quote taken, with permission, from personal correspondence with S.J. Dibai.

All Kit Stewart quotes taken from Steve Harvey's Kit Stewart Interview, Copyright 1989 Steve Harvey. Used with permission. Unless otherwise noted, all Steve Harvey quotes taken from 'Steve Harvey: The Listening Room, Kit Kats Special (WDNR-FM, January 24, 1992)'. Copyright 1993 Steve Harvey. Used with permission.

A hearty "thank you" to the following, whose contributions great and small were essential in making this feature as thorough as it could be: Karl and Carolyn Hausman, Tom Kennedy, Steve Harvey, John Ciocci, Ed Perkins (Electron ED, RDV-FM, Hatboro, PA), Mike Dugo (60sgaragebands.com), Billy G. Spradlin, Rich Grunke, Nick Archer, Steve Fuji and several others who prefer to remain anonymous. My very special thanks to the Spectropop Team for being patient with me as I took the time to do this right!