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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Giant-Baum-Kaye: Poof (Up In Smoke)

If quality, not sales, determined the success of a song, then Giant-Baum-Kaye would be as well known as Bacharach-David, Mann-Weil, Goffin-King and among others. Take a quick listen to songs like "Thank You Anyway (Mr. D.J.)" by Lou Johnson, "It's No Good For Me" by Johnny Nash, "Walking In The Shadows of Love" by Bobby Darin, "My Guardian Angel" by Jimmy Breedlove, "Poof (Up In Smoke)" by Bill Giant, "(You're) The Devil In Disguise" by Elvis and you can hear a genius in those songs that you want to know more about them.

Not much of their history is known but I will do my best. Here is their story!
Florence Kaye was a New Yorker who in the 1940's had a radio show in Georgia and entertained the troops at the USO Shows. By 1949 Florence had begun to write with writers like Lee Rebideau & Don Canton, songs like "Beware", "It Happened This Many Times Before", "See You Soon", "The Whistler Song". Sadly none of these songs were placed, but just listening to the demos of these songs show the possibilities of what could have been.

Bernie Baum would be the first to have any sort of success, he wrote with Stephen Weiss "Music, Music, Music" which went to number 1 in 1950 and was recorded by numerous people including Petula Clark, Bill Haley & The Comets, The Happenings and many other versions. This made Bernie very popular and he was only 19 years old and he became the "Golden Boy of The Brill Building". It was during this period in 1950 where Florence meets Bernie in front of the Brill Building and they decided to be a songwriting team.

The first two important compositions were "Heaven Knows Why" & "Believing In You" were recorded by The Four Sensations and released on Rainbow Records in 1952. It was reviewed by Billboard on January 26, 1952 giving "Heaven Knows Why" an Excellent rating. "Heaven Knows Why" was covered by Bob Connolly, Wini Brown & Her Boyfriends & Bill Farrell all in 1952. In 1953 Lee Fields recorded the Baum-Kaye written with Mark Woods song "Apron Strings, Apron Strings" backed with her own version of "Believing In You" it was released in 1953 by Barry Records and Billboard released an Ad for the record on March 7, 1953. Other versions of "Believing In You" are by Sandy Solo also on the Barry label. "Apron String, Apron String" became "Mama's Boy" in 1959 and recorded again by Lee Fields under the name of Linda Fields on Brunswick Records. Another notable song is "Can You" recorded by Micki Marlo in 1954 for Capitol Records.

By 1955, Baum-Kaye started embracing Rock & Roll and wrote "Ooh Baby Ooh" for Dave Appell & The Applejacks for President records. It will be in 1956 that brought Bernie & Florence together with Bill Zimmerman also known as Bill Giant. Bill was recording under the name Billy Merman for President records and recorded the sublime Baum-Kaye song "Springtime in Monaco" & if you flip the record over we'll get get the first Giant-Baum-Kaye record the Blues/Jazz song "900 Miles". Both sides of the record was reviewed as Good by Billboard on April 14, 1956. Rusty Draper will be the first to have a hit with a Baum-Kaye song called "Held for Questioning" released on Mercury reaching number 50 on the Billboard Charts.

In reality the musical landscape between 1956 and 1960 was changing fast each minute. Once you thought you had written a hit, here comes another style and your song was old news. It was during this period the Bernie & Florence start using pseudonyms Bernie became Anna Shaw (Bernie's mother name) & Florence became Florence Karlen (a combination of her daughter's name "Karen" & "Helene"). usually these names were used when they wrote both sides of a single example if one side said Baum-Kaye, the other side was printed as Shaw-Karlen.

By 1958, Baum-Kaye wrote 4 great so called Doo-Wop records for The Rock-A-Fellas, actually all the songs got Good Reviews and probable airplay.

It would actually take 1960 to bring Giant-Baum-Kaye together again it was actually written with the legendary Otis Blackwell "How Come I'm Cryin Now" recorded by The Nicardi Brothers for the ABC-Paramount label.
As a team, Bill wrote the music, Bernie wrote both music & lyrics & Florence wrote the lyrics. According to Karen & Helene, Florence was always writing and coming up with ideas for a song all the time. As a sidenote Karen had a career as child peformer on television with notable peformers such as Shari Lewis among notables.

From here on, Giant-Baum-Kaye will get hot...

In 1961, Bill Giant recorded two singles for M-G-M that should have been hits, the songs were "Better Let Her Go" & the very Gene McDaniels type song "Poof (Up In Smoke)". Actually "Poof" is more famous as "Puff (Up In Smoke)" recorded by Kenny Lynch in 1962.

It was actually in 1961 that Bill wrote his biggest hit without Bernie & Florence. He used the pseudonym of Ethel Lee (the name of his wife) and wrote with David Hill (better known as David Hess) and Buddy Kaye a song called "Speedy Gonzales" originally recorded by David Dante on RCA, then by The Del-Knights and most famously by Pat Boone.

1962, is an important year. First of Elvis recorded the first of 43 G-B-K songs "Sound Advice" for the movie "Follow That Dream", also notable Bill wrote a song with Jeff Lewis "Fountain of Love" featured on the Pot Luck album. Second, The Everly Brothers scored big with "That's Old Fashioned" reaching number 9 on the Billboard charts. Third, the legendary and soulful Lou Johnson recorded the immortal "Thank You Anyway (Mr. D.J.)" & "Wouldn't That Be Something" both on Big Top records. Other notable songs are "My Guardian Angel" as recorded by Jimmy Breedlove, "Moment of Weakness" by Johnny Nash and "Carmen My Love" by The Blue Diamonds".

1963 brought us "(You're) The Devil in Disguise" reaching number 3 on the charts and "World of Our Own" from the movie It Happened At The World's Fair. But they also wrote a Dion styled record for Curtis Lee called Lonely Weekends, the very soulful "It's No Good For Me" by Johnny Nash, the novelty "Mary Go-Round" by C.L. & The Pictures, the girl group classic "Get a Hold of Yourself" by The Persians and Byrdie Green respectively, and a song feature on the TV show Dr. Kildare "Young & In Love" recorded by Chris Crosby and reaching number 50 on the Pop charts and number 53 on the R&B Charts.

1964 brought 12 Elvis songs including the number 12 hit "Ask Me". But what's more interesting are the non-Elvis material. The very soulful "It Ain't No Use" by Lou Johnson which was also Produced, Arranged & Conducted by the legendary Burt Bacharach, the soulful/girl group "You've Pulled a Fast One", "Flashback" both by The V.I.P.'s and covered by Ginny Arnell & The Rockin Berries. The Motownish "Breakdown" by Gerri Granger, the dreamy "I Wish It Were Summer" & the Four Seasons type "Tug of War" both by The Chordials, Little Peggy March recorded "Watch What You Do With My Baby" & The Mitch Miller type "Sail to Bombay, Sail To Rio" by The Victoria Voices.

1965 placed song in the Elvis movies "Girl Happy" & the underrated soundtrack of "Harum Scarum". But this is the year that will bring us the girlish Joanne Engel "Don't Wait Up For Me Mother", the soulful and Drifters type "Park Avenue" by Lou Johnson, the original "A Time To Love, A Time To Cry" by Marilyn Maye but more famous by Lou Johnson a year later, the rocking "Toy Boy" & " I Ain't a Bit Sorry" by The Dedications which would become the Soul Survivors and record the genius Gamble-Huff record "Expressway To Your Heart" in 1967, the song they wrote specifically at Bobby Darin's request "Walkin In The Shadows of Love".

1966, they wrote the theme for the first Anime from Japan "Kimba The White Lion", they also wrote songs for the soundtracks of the Elvis movies "Frankie & Johnny", mostly for "Paradise Hawaiian Style" & "Spinout", Lou Johnson recorded the Soulful/Pop "What Am I Crying For" & the Northern Soul Anthem "Unsatisfied", The Chantels even got a G-B-K song "The Soul of a Soldier" & Dale Adriatico recorded "Lonely Sunday" which the demo by Bill Giant is by far superior, even Eartha Kitt recorded "There Comes a Time". In the vaults is a sublime Dee Dee Warwick song called "Learn How To Hold Your Tears", a great Beat Ballad.

The next notable song is "The Sound of Your Cry" in 1971 for Elvis and in 1979 they wrote "Joy Sweet Joy" for Michael Lynch & The Ambrose Choir played during the Pope's visit to the US news broadcast.

In the vaults are songs that should have been place or at least released like the beautiful "Whistle Neath The Mistletoe" & the Lesley Gore type "That Boy There" & the gorgeous "The Mission of St. Mary" and let's be honest Bill Giant as a singer should have been bigger. If you listen to the demos you can hear that Elvis took his arrangements from the demos and usually sang them note for note.
Sadly Bill Giant, Bernie Baum & Florence Kaye are no longer with us, but through their music they will always live on!

I am very fortunate enough to be working with the G-B-K family (Helene & Karen Kaye and also the Bill Giant's heirs and Bernie Baum's widow Aida Baum) alongside their publishing manager John Maria of Joma Music in helping to get their music to a wider audience, So please be on the lookout for them.

First be on the lookout for a great ACE/Kent CD that will be coming out late in February 2010 featuring Lou Johnson's Big Top recordings which are mostly G-B-K and Bacharach compositions.


  1. I have the Chantels "Indian Giver" on Verve & it shows the writing credits as Kalardjian - Floranz, so are you saying this is GBK?

  2. Thanks for the heads up, I will edit it, now that I think about and checked my 45 you are right. I guess it was just Soul of the soldier which is a great song.

  3. It should be noted that Bill Giant also SANG the theme from KIMBA, THE WHITE LION (the US version), though he was never actually credited. He'd also made other records aside from what was mentioned.

    A curiousity regarding the Kenny Lynch pressing of "Puff (Up In Smoke)" in the UK, ...on some pressings only Giant's name shows up in the credits, while on others all three names are listed.

    Years ago, I did some research and found that Giant-Baum-Kaye wrote a great chunk of songs that Elvis recorded, ranking at least second or third if I recall, though most were mainly songs used in his movies.

    Great Stuff!

    Fred Clemens

  4. If I may add, Bill Giant's original version of the song was simply titled as "Poof!!" on the M-G-M single (in the US). That was near the end of the year in December, 1961. When Kenny Lynch re-made the song for the UK by October, 1962, the title was altered (to "Puff (Up In Smoke)") because of the derogatory meaning that "Poof" had over there. However, when Lynch's version made it stateside by March, 1963 (on Big Top Records), the title was reverted to what it had originally been ("Poof!"). Also around that same time in March, there was already another song garnering Hit status in Billboard by Peter, Paul & Mary called "Puff". As weeks passed, by mid-April, that title was adjusted to "Puff (The Magic Dragon)". But that was not because of the Lynch release, which wasn't making much of any noise over here, but because of what some were taking the title to be inferring(about drugs). "Puff" had initially been a track on PP&M's second Warner Bros. album (MOVING) in late November 1962.

    Fred Clemens

  5. Bill Giant was my cousin. Added to his many musical acccomplishments were creating commercial jingles like the Delta Airlines commercial of 1974, "Delta is ready when you are. Delta is ready to fly."

  6. Great stuff. Thanks. Did Bill Zimmerman/Giant record as Ethan Giant?

  7. My name Kenny Tomaso, and I recorded I wish it were summer and Tug of War in 1964.
    Are there any pics of the session?
    Are the names of the studio musicians available?

  8. I frequently saw G-B-K's credits on records, but never knew anything about them. With so many releases, I'd would have thought their work would have been more popular. Of course, being on Elvis albums, even lesser ones, was, I'm sure, a guaranteed meal ticket during that era. Thanks for the enlightening post.

    Country Paul

  9. My father was William Floranz, who wrote "Indian Giver." We would give anything for a audio recording of the vinyl record, as he died in 1983. Will anyone be able to help? I can be reached at Thank you, Rozella Floranz Kennedy

  10. I have Rainbow #157, Believing In You/Heaven Knows Why by the Four Sensations with the red rubber stamp "NEW RAINBOW SAMPLES" on both sides. I also have Rainbow #174, Raindrops/When Honeymoon Lanes Becomes Memory Lane by the Four Sensations. There is no cover, just the records. Anybody interested in them?


  12. thanks for sharing..