The Marathons – Peanut Butter

Although this novelty hit was credited to The Marathons, this ode to everybody’s favorite nut-based spread was actually recorded by the members of a group called The Vibrations. Lead vocalist Jimmy Johnson, along with Don Bradley (bass), Carl Fisher (tenor), Dave Govan (baritone), and Richard Owens (first tenor), met while students in an LA high school and began recording as The Jay Hawks. Johnson, along with manager Al Curry and Ernetstine Smith (who was a teenager when she helped pen the song) recorded a minor hit in 1956 with “Stranded in the Jungle.” The song would become even more well-known after a version by The Cadets, came out later that year. The New York Dolls recorded their own version for their 1974 album Too Much Too Soon.

In 1961, the group charted again with “The Watusi” under the name The Vibrations, which they would use for much of their career. They also recorded Peanut Butter, which had been written by H.B. Barnum, who has written songs and produced records for the likes of Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and The Supremes. What possessed him to create this ode to what is admittedly a delightful spread remains shrouded in mystery. Regardless, he thought the Vibrations would sound great for his peanut butter song. The group had to record under another name in order to avoid being found in breach of their contract with Checker Records, who had just released Watusi. Perhaps the success of Peanut Butter caught all parties off guard, but the ruse was quickly found out and Checker was able to release copies of Peanut Butter in addition to Arvee Records, which had released the Marathons version. Arvee actually recorded a whole album to support Peanut Butter, putting together a new lineup to record the other tracks.

While the “original” Marathons were short lived, The Vibrations continued recording into the 60s. Their best known single from this period was 1965’s “My Girl Sloopy”, which became a number one hit for The McCoys later in the same year. They continued to record throughout the decade, recording an uptempo version of “Over the Rainbow”, a nice ballad “Oh Cindy”, and “Don’t Say Goodbye”, among many others. In 1972 the group recorded “Ain’t No Greens in Harlem” before disbanding.

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