This is the second in my 2022 series of remembered radio interviews which I conducted during my heydays on music radio as a Disc Jockey for forty years. Jersey City, New Jersey’s Kool & The Gang were, if memory serves me correctly, one of/if not thee first band my parents, who kept a tight reign on me, allowed me to go and see by myself. The timing was late by today’s “standards” but timely in retrospect. I saw them first at the RKO Alden Theater on Jamaica Avenue and then at the Loews’s Valenca, which was across the street from the Alden. Shortly thereafter, their first Album, “Kool and the Gang” came out on De-Lite Records in 1969.
Back in the day, my new neighbors wanted to form a band, which was the thing to do if you played a musical instrument back then. Forced to practice the trumpet, I briefly found an outlet with those like-minded neighbors who moved into the neighborhood and had two sons the same age as I was. Of course, we emulated Kool and the Gang’s horn-based group (as many of them were in those days – see Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Tower of Power or The Ides Of March) by learning new hits like “Chocolate Buttermilk”, “Let The Music Take Your Mind” and their title track, dance steps included!
Mostly confined to the R&B/Soul/Urban or Black Music chart of the Billboard, Cashbox and Record World music industry magazines of the day, Kool, et al, would not “cross over” into the mainstream of Top 40 recognition until after “Celebration” came out in 1980.
“Ladies Night” (1979) also took the band into the mainstream and was a very hot request during my gigs in the 1980s and ‘90s. I ended-up getting all of my early DJ Promo copies of their albums from Mr. Ted Eddy (“Mister Teddy” they called him, affectionately) from De-Lite Records’ office in midtown Manhattan, NYC thought the mid-1980s.
I can’t count how many times “Celebration” was requested at every wedding, graduation, anniversary or birthday party I spun since then – and by folks that I knew had never listened to Kool and the Gang previously! It was amusing.
Sadly, during the past couple of years, two of the founding member of the group died: Dennis “D.T.” Thomas (alto sax) and Ronald Bell (tenor sax, bass, keys), making us all feel just a little bit “older”. Show business and longevity are not exactly compatible, in most cases.
I wish that the following recorded interview covered what I’ve written above, but alas, in 20/20 retrospect, maybe I was a wee bit awe-struck and I didn’t follow up my questions journalistically, while interviewing such guys as these, who I had idolized.
Here, backstage at The Blue Note, New York City, Kool (Robert Bell) talks about a future direction for the bank and we had five minutes of laughs.
Remember, for our non-musical musings swing over to the Mothership blog, https://achilliad.wordpress.com/