Vermont News Guide | Page 24

MUSIC from the pages of BERKSHIRE MAGAZINE

By Dr . Joshua Sherman
I discovered Kool & The Gang when I was in middle school . “ Ladies ’ Night ” was the first track on the audio cassette tape , and I was hooked .
It wasn ’ t new music , but it was new to me .
This week ( over 30 years later ), I got the chance to chat directly with Kool , who doesn ’ t disappoint . He is , indeed , cool .
Although Kool is the last living member of the original group , Kool and his current Gang will be playing Tanglewood on June 23 . It ’ s an opportunity for longtime fans to “ celebrate good times ” and for a new generation to “ get down on it .”
During our conversation , Kool and I discussed his recent European tour , his Las Vegas residency ( at Westgate ), the group ’ s newest album ( People Just Wanna Have Fun ) and Kool ’ s branded champagne ( lekoolchampagne . com ).
Perhaps most exciting to me was when he shared the genesis of two of the band ’ s greatest hits , “ Ladies ’ Night ” and “ Celebration .” Here ’ s the story , in his own words : We started back in 1964 as The Jazziacs . And then we changed the name to “ The Soul Town Band .” And then we changed it to “ Kool & The Flames ,” but we had to change that , because of James Brown and the Famous Flames . We didn ’ t want to have any problems with “ The Godfather .” And then – in 1969 – we changed the name to “ Kool & The Gang .”
The first record came out July 3rd , 1969 . We went through the ’ 70s with various hits , and then – like the song title , “ Open Sesame ” – we ’ re in Saturday Night Fever . You know , the movie with John Travolta .
Right after that , we were on tour with The Jackson 5 . And the promoter was a guy by the name of Dick Griffey , who started Solar records ( creator of Shalamar ). Dick came to us and said , “ Listen , you guys are doing okay on the tour , but I think you need a lead singer .” And we said , “ Oh , yeah ?” And he said , “ Yeah .” So , we thought about it . At that time , you had Lionel Richie as lead singer for The Commodores , and you had Maurice White and Philip Bailey , the lead singers for Earth , Wind & Fire . And that ’ s when we got Mr . James “ J . T .” Taylor .
So – my wife and I were hanging out at Studio 54 and another big disco called “ Régine ’ s .”
Every weekend , they had a “ Ladies ’ Night .”
SO KOOL Kool & The Gang Bring Their Music To Tanglewood , Joined By R & B Trio En Vogue
Robert Kool Bell , Kool & The Gang – Photo Credit Nancy Dagata
I say , “ Ooooooh !” And I went back to my guys , and I said , “ I ’ ve got an idea for a new single for our new lead singer .” And my brother said , “ What is it ?” I said , “ Ladies ’ Night .” And my brother goes , “ Man , there ’ s one of those all over the world .” And I say , “ Yeeeeeaaah .” ( Laughs ) George Brown is the one who wrote the core of the song . And then my brother and J . T ., we all got together , and we came up with the rest . We didn ’ t know it was gonna be such a big record .
Then – we ’ re at the American Music Awards . And we won two awards that evening for “ Ladies ’ Night .” The tag to “ Ladies ’ Night ” has a part , “ Come on , let ’ s all celebrate .” So , my brother says to me , “ Ooooooh ! There ’ s another song .” We said , “ What ?” And he said , “ Celebrate !” So , he came up with the music for most of the song , “ Celebration .” And it ’ s all ‘ cause we were celebrating . And the rest is history .
Don ’ t miss Kool & The Gang at Tanglewood on Sunday , June 23 .
24 Vermont News Guide June 17 , 2024