The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers were an American pop-psych band from Ohio, best known for their 1968 hit “Green Tambourine,” a Billboard No. 1. They released two albums that year on Buddah, Green Tambourine and Jungle Marmalade.

Members: Ivan Browne (vocals, rhythm guitar), Bill Bartlett (lead guitar), Steve Walmsley (bass), R.G. Nave (keyboards, toys), Bill Albaugh (drums)


The Lemon Pipers had their roots in Tony and the Bandits, a garage band from Oxford, Ohio, that featured guitarist Bill Bartlett, drummer Bill Albaugh, and bassist Bob Dudek. In 1966, they welcomed keyboardist R.G. Nave from local rivals The Wombats.

They became a resident act at the Boar’s Head in Oxford and frequently hit the Mug Club, a popular haunt in nearby Cincinnati. In 1967, they cut the two-sided single “Quiet, Please!” as Lemonpipers on the local-press Dana Lynn, produced by WSAI Cincinnati DJ Tom Dooley. Dudek cleared out for bassist Steve Walmsley. That year, they competed in the Ohio Battle of the Bands at the Cleveland Public Auditorium, placing second behind the James Gang.

In late 1967, they hired singer/guitarist Ivan Browne from another local band, Ivan and the Sabres. The five-piece Lemon Pipers impressed Ohio music mogul Mark Barger, who linked them with Buddah Records, a Manhattan label that groomed bands in the bubblegum vein, including the 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Simon Says”) and the Ohio Express (“Yummy Yummy Yummy”).

“Green Tambourine”

The Lemon Pipes debuted on Buddah with “Turn Around and Take a Look,” a jolly music hall/jugband number replete with rimshots and channel-separated guitar licks. Bartlett wrote that and the b-side, “Danger,” a humble track about heartbreak marked by a blaring chorus and echoey outro.

Eager for a chart hit, Buddah linked the Lemon Pipers with the Brill Building songwriting team of Paul Leka and Shelley Pinz, who supplied them with “Green Tambourine.” The lyrics — inspired by a beggar Pinz spotted on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Broadway — concern a tramp who plays the tambourine in exchange for coins. With its opening sitar melody (3…3-4-5…7-6-5-4 over G), trippy verses (phased G…D-C progression), random sundries (dinging triangle, crackling vibraslap, slithery violin), melancholy bridge (“watch the jingle jangle start to shine” in C minor), and echoey chorus hook on unexpected chords (“listen while I play play play play play play…” over B-A), the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard and Cashbox charts in February 1968.

In March, the Lemon Pipers released a second Leka/Pinz composition, “Rice Is Nice,” a 2/4 musical hall number with harpsichord-thumping verses over melancholy minor chords (Dm-Am-E-Am) and a harp/string-laden chorus. On the 21st, they played the Fillmore West in San Francisco on a bill with Traffic, Moby Grape, and Spirit.

1968: Green Tambourine (the album)

The Lemon Pipers released their debut album, Green Tambourine, in February 1968 on Buddah. Side one is bookended by “Rice is Nice” (Billboard #46, Cashbox #42)  and the title track. The album contains three additional Leka/Pinz compositions: “Blueberry Blue,” “Shoeshine Boy,” and “Shoemaker of Leatherwear Square.” One track, “Rainbow Tree,” is a co-write by Buddah staffers Kenny Laguna and Hy Mizrahi. A friend of the band, aspiring journalist Eric Ehrmann, contributed “Ask Me If I Care.” Bartlett composed “Turn Around Take a Look” and the nine-minute album-closer “Through with You.” The penultimate “Fifty Year Void” is a group-written track.

Leka produced Green Tambourine with engineers Bill Radice and Ken Hamann (credited as Kenny Hammond). In addition to organ, Nave is credited with tambourine, fog horn, and toys. Leka conducted the Irv Spice Strings on select numbers. Buddah General Manager Neil Bogart wrote the member bios and liner notes, referring to the Lemon Pipers as “five very intelligent young men with a solid sound and a real interest in all kinds of music.”

English rockers Status Quo covered “Green Tambourine” on their 1968 debut album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo, but withheld the song from stateside pressings. Brummie psychsters The Idle Race included “Blueberry Blue” in their live set and performed the song on BBC’s Top Gear (6/4/68).

The Lemon Pipers cut a second Ehrmann composition, “Ordinary Point of View”, but Buddah vetoed the song. Disenchanted, Ehrmann abandoned songwriting for political journalism, starting with a 1968–71 stint as a featured writer at Rolling Stone magazine.

Later Activity

The Lemon Pipers disbanded in 1969 after parting from Buddah. Bartlett, Walmsley, and Nave formed Starstruck, which cut a private-press cover of the Leadbelly song “Black Betty.” The Super K production team of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz (1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express, Crazy Elephant, Music Explosion) reworked the track with Bartlett, who formed the hard-rock quartet Ram Jam and scored a hit with the song on Epic in 1977.

Nave became a jazz disc jockey on WVXU in Cincinnati.

XTC appropriated the trippy verse progression from “Green Tambourine” (G…D-C) on “Buzzcity Talking,” a song on their 1978 second album Go 2.


  • Green Tambourine (1968)
  • Jungle Marmalade (1968)


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