During the last half of the 1960s, enterprising production companies attempted many hybrids between the world of fictional characters and rock music, in the wake of The Monkees television series and accompanying records, which followed the success of The Beatles films and the still-continuing cross-media success of the Chipmunks franchise.
Due in part to the fact that The Monkees also rebelled and eventually took over their own career, producers began turning to actual cartoons when manufacturing new rock groups. The Archies were easily the most successful cartoon act on the charts in the late '60s, but pop culture history is littered with other animated characters who released records helped by the magic of usually uncredited studio singers and musicians. Even the cereal mascot Sugar Bears managed to put a single on the pop charts, with a post-First Edition Mike Settle and pre-fame Kim Carnes behind the scenes. A more obscure cartoon group that "bubbled under" on the Billboard charts with the song "Love and Let Love" was The Hardy Boys -- from the ABC series based on the mystery-solving teens -- and it turns out the group has some Wisconsin connections.
While the real band is pictured on the album covers rather than their animated counterparts, the fictional names were given credit. However, Frank and Joe Hardy were actually a pair of Milwaukee-area musicians, Reed Kailing (formerly of The Destinations) and Jeff Taylor (of The Messengers). The rest of the lineup was put together by Chicago outfit Dunwich, legendary for excellent garage punk records during the company's brief run as a record label. Though it's likely the albums are largely performed by studio players, the assembled band were all musicians, and did do the singing and perform some live shows around the time their two albums were released by RCA.
The Hardy Boys albums follow Dunwich's trend as a production-oriented company toward lighter pop. Clearly aiming for an Archies-like sound at times, overall the discs aren't quite the strictly formulaic bubblegum as they're usually tagged as. Many tracks were provided by the songwriting team of Ed Fournier and Ricky Sheldon, remembered best today for the "Fat Albert Theme," another Filmation cartoon. Other songs are courtesy of writers such as Ellie Greenwich and Gary Loizzo of The American Breed.
The first album, Here Come The Hardy Boys is a solid and fun late '60s pop album. Fairly standard b-gum tracks like the show's theme and "Namby-Pamby" are offset by songs showing a bit more Chicago sound fuzz-and-horns influence ("Sink or Swim") and semi-trashy rockers like Greenwich's "Those Country Girls." Really, the only song on the album that would be likely to strike a wrong note with many bubblegum fans is the overly-MOR "Love and Let Love," and any fans of the genre who have skipped the album due to the single should give it a listen.
The Wheels LP includes the classic b-gum sound in numbers such as "Baby, This is the Last Time" and Greenwich co-write "Good Good Lovin'." But it also includes country tinged songs like the title track, "Long, Long Way to Nashville" and the swampy "Old Man Moses' Front Porch Rhythm Band," along with some more good straight ahead pop material.
After The Hardy Boys Reed Kailing went on to play in The Grass Roots, helped form the band that would become Player and even was a member of Badfinger during the final days of the original group. There's many stories of his life in the music industry in an entertaining online biography. Kailing still lives in the Milwaukee area and still plays music; his most recent release is Raw, Rare, Well Done, a collection of both new songs and '70s demo recordings. As it turns out, Jeff Taylor is also still in Wisconsin, and has worked as a jewelry designer for many years. For further reading, there's an excellent interview with him at