The Kit Kats on Apple Music

The Kit Kats

The Kit Kats had several big hits in the Philadelphia area in the mid- to late '60s, and were also a very popular live attraction, but never broke out nationally, although a few of their singles nibbled at Billboard's Hot Hundred. The quartet had a distinctly Philadelphian blend of the retro and the current, with material (much written by keyboardist Karl Hausman and drummer Kit Stewart) that mixed doo wop, '50s rock and soul oldies, and '60s commercial pop/rock. Their harmonies were in a league with the Four Seasons, the Happenings, the Tokens, and, more distantly, the Zombies, and the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys and the Association. They were not just another throwback '60s white vocal group, such as Jay & the Americans and the Vogues. They played their own instruments, with a classical/Baroque tinge to their keyboard-dominated arrangements that could make them sound like a more pop-oriented, minor-league counterpart to the Left Banke and the Zombies. Like those groups, they had a lead singer (John Bradley) with a high, delicate range, although Bradley went into falsetto far more than the Zombies or Left Banke did. Although some of their recordings were pedestrian period pop, their best ones had an ambitious complexity, though their innocuous name and square, clean-cut image ensured that listeners of the time, and historical critics, have largely overlooked and undervalued their work.

The Kit Kats did some recording for Virtue, Laurie, and Lawn in 1963 and 1964. They didn't hit their stride, however, until linking up with Jamie and concentrating on original material. "That's the Way" and "Let's Get Lost on a Country Road" were big local hits for the group in 1966, the latter making number 119 on the Billboard charts. The records had a spacious, orchestral production, with impeccable high harmonies and quasi-classical keyboards, and were cuts above the levels of most locally targeted releases. But, although Jamie had had numerous national hits in the past, the singles did not break out nationally. Nor did the group, who were making a lot of money as local concert attractions -- probably more money, indeed, than a lot of groups with international hits were -- and weren't pushing for national exposure as hard as they could have.

The group continued to record singles, as well as a couple of albums, for Jamie throughout the rest of the '60s, changing their name to New Hope in 1969. As New Hope, their 1969 single "Won't Find Better Than Me" -- one of their strongest self-penned numbers, which they had already released twice under the Kit Kats' name for Jamie -- became the closest thing they had to a national hit, reaching number 57. As New Hope they did a few singles and an album, moving to Paramount for one single in 1971. Although there were hints throughout the Kit Kats/New Hope recordings on Jamie that the musicians were intelligent and creative enough to compete on a higher level than AM pop, they ultimately were not hip or ambitious enough to find a niche in the album-oriented rock market, and disbanded in 1974. ~ Richie Unterberger

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