Kool & the Gang

Robert "Kool" BellBass1964-
Ronald BellTenor saxophone1964-
Dennis "D.T." ThomasAlto saxophone1964-
Claydes Charles SmithGuitar1964-2006
George BrownDrums1964-
Woody SparrowGuitar1964-1970
Ricky WestPiano1964-1976
Robert "Spike" MickensTrumpet1964-1986
Larry GittensTrumpet1975-
Clifford AdamsTrombone1977-2015
James "J.T." TaylorLead vocals1978-1988
Earl ToonVocals, keyboards1979-
Skip MartinVocals, trumpet1988-
Odeen MaysVocals, keyboards1988-
Gary BrownVocals1988-1992
  • Led by the teenage Bell brothers of Jersey City, New Jersey, the group originated as a traditional jazz outfit called The Jazziacs in 1964. By the end of the decade, they tapped into their signature funk sound and released their debut album under their new name: Kool & the Gang. Since then, they have sold over 70 million albums worldwide.
  • Their commercial breakthrough came in 1973 with the release of their fourth album, Wild and Peaceful, that yielded the hits "Funky Stuff," "Jungle Boogie," and "Hollywood Swinging."
  • Renowned Brazilian producer Eumir Deodato helped pull them out of a career slump in the late '70s by giving them an identifiable lead singer in James "JT" Taylor and infusing their funky sound with a touch of airy pop and a healthy dose of smooth R&B. The result was the classic album Ladies' Night.
  • Not only was "Celebration" (1980) their first and only #1 hit on the pop charts, but it was embraced around the world as the quintessential backdrop for any kind of celebration. The most poignant example was the January 27, 1981 homecoming of the 52 American hostages held captive during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
  • Robert Bell's godfather is jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, who lived in the same New York apartment building as the Bell family.
  • Before joining the group as lead singer, an awestruck J.T. Taylor once tried to get backstage at a Kool & the Gang concert but was turned away.
  • Robert and Ronald Bell have long been practitioners of the Islamic faith and are also known by the Arabic names Muhammad Bayyan and Khalis Bayyan, respectively.
  • The Gang was the opening act for Van Halen's 2012 US tour. It may sound like a strange pairing, but according to Van Halen's David Lee Roth, it made perfect sense. Robert Bell explained: "People said: 'How the hell is that going to work? The rock bad boys of the 1980s and Kool & the Gang?' We surprised them all. David Lee Roth, he had a vision – he came to me and said: 'We were hot in the '80s with 'Jump' when you had 'Ladies' Night.' Our fan base is 60 percent ladies – come on Kool, let's go have a party.' And that's what we did, and we shocked everybody."


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