Kama Sutra Records helped bolster MGM Records' profits during 1965 and 1966, primarily due to the success of Kama Sutra's flagship artists The Lovin' Spoonful. Kama Sutra's head, Art Kass, ultimately grew dissatisfied with his distribution deal with MGM and founded Buddah Records in 1967, with his Kama Sutra partners, Artie Ripp, Hy Mizrahi, Phil Steinberg, and (allegedly) Italian mobster Sonny Franzese.
The New York-area visual aids company Viewlex purchased a controlling interest in Buddah in 1968 with Ripp, Steinberg and Mizrahi departing the company at this time, leaving Kass and Bogart in charge.
As bubblegum music's popularity declined at the turn of the decade, Buddah branched out into gospel, folk-country, and R&B. Bogart, a master promoter, went to great lengths to generate hit singles for "top 40" radio airplay, and got results; music industry historian Bob Hyde has estimated that, during their heyday, Buddah and its associated labels charted over 100 singles, with about one in five singles issued by the company charting (vs. the ratio of one chart hit to 20 singles released that most "major labels" experienced in that time period).
Hit singles released by Buddah and its associated labels during 1969-73 included:
While Buddah primarily focused on singles, several of its album releases, including Brewer & Shipley's Tarkio (1970), Bill Withers' Still Bill (1972), and Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly (1972), also charted well during this period.
Neil Bogart created and distributed Brut Records via Buddah Records for the BrutFabergé company.
Jazz session drummer Norman Connors became Buddah's musical director in 1976 and helped to foster the label's move toward R&B and disco (e.g., the Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More" (1976) and Chic's "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" (1977); Chic's song charted upon its subsequent re-issue by Atlantic Records). Viewlex declared bankruptcy in 1976 and Art Kass purchased Buddah back from them, but the debt resulted in a substantial decline in the number of new releases. Arista Records took over distribution of Buddah from 1978 to 1983, with several artists, including Norman Connors and Phyllis Hyman, switching to Arista.
Buddah's final release of new product came in mid-1983, with Michael Henderson's R&B hit "Fickle" and the accompanying album of the same name. Kama Sutra's final issue came a year later, with the Fat Boys (formerly the Disco 3)'s self-titled single. Art Kass subsequently sold the label to Essex Entertainment, who managed the Buddah catalog until 1993, when they sold it to BMG. Kass formed another label, Casino Records, in partnership with former New York Dolls manager Marty Thau and concert promoter Terrell Braly, but this venture was not successful.
Charisma Records, the U.K.-based label founded by Tony Stratton-Smith, distributed 1971-1973. Buddah adopted the Gill Ultra Bold font Charisma used on their "Mad Hatter" label to create a uniform branding for its key labels (Buddah, Kama Sutra, Charisma) in 1973, although Charisma's distribution deal with Buddah ended later that year.
Other Buddah subsidiaries or associated labels included Radio Active Gold (for reissue singles), Team, Super K, Royal American, Symbolic, Eleuthera, Ember, Pace, Desert Moon, Pi Kappa, Skye, Southwind, April, Thomas, Harbour, Music Merchant, National General, and Brut.
Label design variations
1967: "Buddah Records" in stylized black letters at the bottom. Singles were designated with green labels, albums with red labels
1968-1972: Multi-color "kaleidoscope" label with silhouette of a Shivadeity (not Buddha) at the bottom of the label between the words "Buddah" and "Records" (same format for both singles and albums)
1972-1978: Maroon label with pink circle around outer edge, "Buddah Records" at top of label in white letters (deliberately borrowing from the Gill Ultra Bold font used on Charisma Records's "Mad Hatter" label for a uniform branding). Singles feature the head of a Buddha statue at the top of the label, albums show the entire statue at the bottom. When Arista took over distribution in 1978, the Arista logo and disclaimer were added by stamp at the bottom, starting with this label format
1978-1983: Black label with multi-colored "B" logo at top in a box, "Buddah" in white letters under the "B" in a subsection of the box, Arista logo and disclaimer at the bottom (same format for singles and albums)
Associated labels artists
The following artists released at least one recording for Buddah Records, or for one of Buddah's subsidiaries/distributed labels as noted in parentheses: