Kid Creole and the Coconuts
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Kid Creole and the Coconuts
August Darnell as Kid Creole, in concert in 1987
|Origin||New York City|
|Labels||ZE, Island, Sire/Warner Bros.|
|Associated acts||Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Machine|
|Past members||Founding members:
Past members:Fonda Rae
Jimmy Ripp (Rippetoe)
Mark Anthony Jones
'Bongo' Eddie Folk
Simon 'Franco' Frost
Kid Creole and the Coconuts is an American musical group created by August Darnell with Andy Hernandez and Adriana Kaegi. Its music incorporates a variety of styles and influences, in particular a mix of disco and Latin American, South American, Caribbean, and Calloway styles and conceptually inspired by the big band era. The Coconuts are a trio of female backing vocalists/dancers, founded and originally choreographed and costumed by Adriana Kaegi.
Thomas August Darnell Browder was born in The Bronx, New York City, USA on August 12, 1950. His mother was from South Carolina with Caribbean and Italian parents and his father from Savannah, Georgia. As an adult, Thom Browder began going by his two middle names as August Darnell.
Growing up in the melting pot of the Bronx, Darnell was exposed early on to all kinds of music. Darnell began his musical career in a band named The In-Laws with his brother, Stony Browder, in 1965. The band disbanded so Darnell could pursue a career as an English teacher. Darnell obtained a master's degree in English, but in 1974 again formed a band with his brother Stony Browder Jr. under the name Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Their self-titled debut release was a Top 40-charting album which was certified gold and was nominated for a Grammy.
Darnell began producing for other artists, such as Don Armando's Second Avenue Rhumba Band and Gichy Dan's Beachwood No.9, before adopting the name Kid Creole (adapted from the Elvis Presley film King Creole) in 1980 and co-founder Adriana Kaegi came up with the name The Coconuts.The Kid wore zoot suits and danced onstage in a style reminiscent of films of the 1930s and 1940s, and fronted a multi-racial, multi-cultural band. The co-founders of the band were Darnell and his Savannah Band associate vibraphone player Andy Hernandez, also known as his "trusty sidekick" Coati Mundi. Hernandez served as Darnell's on-stage comic foil, as well as his musical director and arranger.
The original Coconuts, a collection of glamorous and often skimpily-attired female backing vocalists, were led by Darnell's then-wife Adriana "Addy" Kaegi, who also served as the choreographer and costume designer of the Coconuts. Early recordings featured a Coconuts lineup of Kaegi, Cheryl Lee Poirier, Fonda Rae, and Lourdes Cotton; Lori Eastside was also a Coconut on a handful of early singles. By 1982, the Coconuts were a trio of Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier, and Taryn Hagey. This lineup of the Coconuts recorded a spin-off album project in 1983, with Poirier taking the lead vocalist role on EMI.
Throughout the 1980s, the band also included Peter Schott on keyboards (Schott also occasionally co-composed material with Darnell), drummer David Span, bass player Carol Colman, and legendary Jamaican drummer Winston Grennan. With horn players, percussionists, and other adjunct members, the full band lineup often swelled to over a dozen players.
Kid Creole and the Coconuts' debut album Off the Coast of Me was critically well-received but not successful commercially. They made their national TV debut performing "Mister Softee" and "There But For The Grace of God Go I" on Saturday Night Live in November, 1980. The second release, Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places, was a concept album matched with a New York Public Theater stage production; it received positive reviews, with Darnell recognized as a clever lyricist and astute composer, arranger and producer.[by whom?] By the second album they were accompanied by the Pond Life horn section Charlie Lagond, Ken Fradley, and Lee Robertson, as well as lead guitarist Mark Mazur. The album charted briefly, and subsequently Coati Mundi's early Latin rap "Me No Pop I", though not originally on the album, became a Top 40 UK hit single. It was the band's first hit.
Their breakthrough came with 1982's Tropical Gangsters, which hit #3 in the UK and spun off three Top 10 hits with "Stool Pigeon", "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy" and "I'm A Wonderful Thing, Baby." "Dear Addy" also made the Top 40. In the US the album was retitled Wise Guy and reached #145, and "I'm a Wonderful Thing, Baby" flirted with the R&B charts.
Their live shows at this time were among the most propulsive and enchanting of the period, with outlandish dancing and cod theatricals garnishing the Latin beats."
Darnell subsequently produced a 1983 spin-off album for the Coconuts with Cheryl Poirier on lead vocals. Coati Mundi also released his solo LP The Former 12 Year Old Genius before the fourth Kid Creole and the Coconuts album in 1983; Doppelganger was a relative commercial disappointment, despite the single "There's Something Wrong in Paradise" reaching the UK Top 40.
The group performed the song "My Male Curiosity" with The Coconuts, choreographed by Adriana Kaegi With dance moves that showed off their rebellious hairy armpits, for the 1984 movie, and soundtrack Album, Against All Odds.
Darnell and Kaegi divorced in 1985, though she remained with the band. Taryn Hagey dropped out of The Coconuts around the same time, and the two remaining Coconuts (Adriana "Addy" Kaegi and Cheryl Poirier) formed their own spin-off group Boomerang with Perri Lister. This group released an dance-oriented album, somewhat different in sound to their Coconuts recordings, on the Atlantic label in 1986. The producer was David Kershenbaum.
Kid Creole and the Coconuts continued, now with third Coconut Janique Svedberg replacing the departed Hegey. On record, though billed as guests and not as Coconuts, during this era some female co-lead vocals were performed by Haitia Fuller and Cory Daye. In the mid to late 1980s, the group contributed to various film soundtracks and other such projects. They also appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1986 and in this period released the albums In Praise of Older Women... and Other Crimes (which included the fan-favorite single "Endicott") and I, Too, Have Seen the Woods, neither of which charted. Still, the group continued to mount highly successful world tours, performed sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and was invited by Princess Diana to perform at a private function in the UK.
In 1987, Kid Creole and the Coconuts made their only appearance on the US Hot 100 charts with "Hey Mambo," a track from Barry Manilow's Swing Street album. The single, credited to "Barry Manilow with Kid Creole & The Coconuts", peaked at #90. The band also performed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Longtime associate Hernandez left the ensemble before 1990's Private Waters in the Great Divide, an album described by the NME as "a return to form with inspired lyrics and buckets of the type of sexual innuendo that Creole has made his own." The band had a UK hit with the single "The Sex of It," a song written by Prince and recorded at Paisley Park Studios with Sheila E and Levi Seacer, Jr.. Except for Darnell's vocal, the track is entirely performed by Prince and his associates; it is the group's last major hit to date.
The Coconuts (still a trio of Kaegi, Poirier, and Svedberg and working as an independent unit), issued a 1991 Japan-only CD called Killer Bees. Darnell was listed as the executive producer of this release.
After the 1992 Kid Creole and the Coconuts album You Shoulda Told Me You Were... failed to achieve significant commercial success, the group splintered. The female backing trio all left and have been replaced with a rotating group of new Coconuts. With a revised and slimmed-down lineup, the band kept releasing albums throughout the '90s on independent labels, though none of the recordings received much attention or wide distribution. Despite still touring, the band went into a 10-year recording hiatus after their 2001 album Too Cool to Conga!, re-emerging in 2011 with I Wake Up Screaming.
Kid Creole and The Coconuts have appeared in a number of films, such as Downtown 81 (1981), an art film starring Jean-Michel Basquiat, Against All Odds (1984) and the Lambada-themed The Forbidden Dance (1990); They also starred in a UK produced TV movie in 1984, There's Something Wrong in Paradise, based around their songs from the Doppelganger album and produced for Granada Television. Andy Hernandez has also made appearances in a number of films separately, and Adriana Kaegi produced and directed a documentary film about the band called Kid Creole and My Coconuts. She now runs her media production company in New York and has her own Styleculture.tv channel.They also composed music for the 1999 French animated series Pirate Family.
Darnell still occasionally tours with the current Coconuts: Sarah McGrath (from the UK), Roos van Rossum and Charlotte de Graaf (both from the Netherlands). While his wife, Eva Tudor-Jones, who was Mama Coconut for almost 20 years, now manages the operations.
In 2008, for the last time, Kid Creole toured the UK starring in the stage show Oh! What a Night, a disco musical produced by Random Concerts.
Kid Creole and the Coconuts' most recent studio album, entitled I Wake Up Screaming, was released on September 12, 2011 on !K7/Strut Records.
At the end of 2010, Kid Creole and the Coconuts toured Germany with The Night of the Proms, also starring Boy George and Sir Cliff Richard. They previously appeared in the Night of the Proms in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2007 with Chic, Macy Gray and Donna Summer.
- Off the Coast of Me (1980)
- Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places (1981)
- Tropical Gangsters (1982) (released in the U.S. as Wise Guy)
- Doppelganger (1983)
- In Praise of Older Women... and Other Crimes (1985)
- I, Too, Have Seen the Woods (1987)
- Private Waters in the Great Divide (1990)
- You Shoulda Told Me You Were... (1991)
- KC2 Plays K2C (1993) (Japan only, backed by Kome Kome Club)
- To Travel Sideways (1995)
- Kiss Me Before the Light Changes (1995)
- The Conquest of You (1997)
- Too Cool to Conga! (2001)
- I Wake Up Screaming (2011)
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- "Primera Actuacion in Toronto de Banda de Salsa Rock y Rhythm". El popular, April 8, 1985, page 4. via Simon Fraser University Digitised Newspaper collection
- "Kid-Creole". NME.com. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Against All Odds (1984)". IMDb.com. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
- "There's Something Wrong In Paradise : Film". Citwf.com. Retrieved 2016-06-04.
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- "Night of the Proms on television". Night of the Proms International. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
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