This song has a rather convoluted history that Mark S. Weitz, who was the original keyboard player of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, helped us sort out. The writing credits on the song are listed as John Carter and Tim Gilbert, who were not part of the band, and the lead vocalist on this track was also not a member of the group.
It was Greg Munford, a 16-year-old singer with a group called The Shapes, who sang lead. He was brought in to sing harmonies on this song, but ended up doing the lead vocals. He was not even a regular band member, but ended up singing a tune that would rocket to #1 in the United States and sell over a million copies. Despite this success, Munford never actually joined the group.
Weitz gave us this account of how the song was written and how Munford ended up singing it: "I came up with the idea and actual music to the then untitled song that ultimately evolved into the #1 national hit, 'Incense and Peppermints.' I wrote the intro (the oriental sounding riff), the verses, and the ending (the major sevenths) while Ed King, at my request for some help on completing the song, co-wrote the bridge (the F # part) and of course the lead guitar parts. At the time when the music was recorded at Art Laboe's 'Original Sounds' studio in Hollywood, there was only a temporary title to the song, and lyrics had not yet been written. Our producer Frank Slay decided to send the fully mixed music track (recorded on 8 tracks of mono!) to John Carter; a member of the band The Rainy Daze, who Slay also produced at the time. John Carter was solely responsible for conjuring up the lyrics and the controversial melody line extracted out of the finished musical track. Frank Slay ultimately credited that melody line solely to the writing team of John Carter and Tim Gilbert. To this day, they have received 100% of the royalties.
When Frank Slay was approving the writer's names and how they would appear on the actual label prior to printing, our manager Bill Holmes and our producer Frank Slay had an argument. It was regarding who should receive the credit as writers of 'Incense and Peppermints.' Holmes was not happy with the fact that Ed King, John Carter, Tim Gilbert and I would receive credit as writers (which was rightfully so). Holmes wanted HIS name as well as ALL the members of the SAC as writers to appear on the label. Holmes would not agree to Slay's request for only having FOUR writers maximum to appear on the label. I assume, this was the industry standard at the time, that Slay was committed to uphold. This displeased Holmes to say the least. A verbal battle ensued, and ultimately Frank Slay went ahead and made a decision to have the label printed with John Carter's and Tim Gilbert's names both listed as the writers. Needless to say, when the song climbed to #1 on the Billboard Top 100 charts, Ed King and I were duped out of our fair share and never received a dime for our efforts. I was determined to sue all parties concerned, but was talked out of this action by Slay by mentioning the fact that it would destroy the future livelihood of the band, and we would lose the tour bookings that the band just signed on to do with the William Morris agency. I agreed to call off the dogs. After 2 years, I made a second attempt to initiate the lawsuit against Holmes. Upon the untimely breakup of the SAC in 1970, and due to the high cost of continuing on with the lawsuit, I was forced to drop the case.
Regarding the lead vocalist on I & P: When it came time to record the vocal tracks, none of the members of the Alarm Clock sounded right for the lead vocal. We all tried. Greg Munford (A 16 year old guitar player also produced by Holmes) was a guest in the studio that day, and gave a go at it. His voice sounded best, and we all agreed on keeping his vocal track on the final version."