Kool & the Gang

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Kool & the Gang
Kool & The Gang.jpg
Kool & The Gang in 2011
Background information
Origin Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Jazz, R&B, soul, funk, disco, boogie
Years active 1964–present
Labels De-Lite, Mercury
Website www.koolandthegang.com
Members Robert "Kool" Bell (Muhammad Bayyan)
Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan)
George Brown
Dennis Thomas
Shawn McQuiller
Lavell Evans
Curtis "Fitz" Williams
Michael Ray
Timothy Horton
Amir Bayyan
Louis Taylor
Past members James "J.T." Taylor
Ricky West
Claydes Charles Smith
Robert "Spike" Mickens
Larry Gittens
Otha Nash
Donald Boyce
Kevin Lassiter
Clifford Adams
Royal Bayyan
Sonnie "Skip" Martin

Kool & the Gang is an American jazz, R&B, soul, funk, and disco group, originally formed in 1964 as the Jazziacs based in Jersey City, New Jersey.[1] They went through several musical phases during their recording career, starting out with a purist jazz sound, then funk and R&B, progressing to a smooth pop-funk ensemble, and in the post-millennium creating music with a modern, electro-pop sound. They have sold over 70 million albums worldwide.[2]

The group's main members over the years included brothers Robert "Kool" Bell (Muhammad Bayyan) on bass and Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan) on tenor saxophone, lead vocalist James "J.T." Taylor, George Brown on drums, Larry Gittens on trumpet, Dennis Thomas on alto saxophone, Claydes Charles Smith on guitar, and Rick West (Westfield) on keyboards.

Early success[edit]

In 1964, thirteen-year-old Robert Bell, his brother Ronald and five high-school friends formed an instrumental band called 'the Jazziacs'. They played an opening set every Sunday at jazz night at a small theatre.[3] They changed their name to 'Kool & the Flames' in 1967, then 'Kool & the Gang' in 1969 (to avoid confusion with James Brown's Famous Flames) and were signed by Gene Redd to his new record label De-Lite Records in 1969.[4]

The Bell brothers' father Bobby and uncle Tommy were boxers. They moved to New York to train and lived in the same apartment building as Thelonious Monk who became Robert's godfather when he was born. Miles Davis would drop by because he wanted to be a boxer.[5] They played occasionally with McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas.[6]

International success[edit]

Kool and the Gang

The band first hit the US Billboard R&B chart with the release of their debut eponymous album.[7] Several live and studio albums followed, with 1973's Wild and Peaceful breaking into the mainstream with "Funky Stuff", "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging". "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" both sold over one million copies, and each was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.[8] Many reviews[which?] see the Gang's 1974 album Light of Worlds and 1975 album Spirit of the Boogie as the greatest achievements of the band, with the 1975 single "Summer Madness" gaining much attention.

The late 1970s saw a lull in Kool & the Gang's output except for the album Open Sesame, which yielded the title track "Open Sesame", achieving some success as part of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and winning a Grammy Award.[9] New lead singer James "J.T." Taylor then joined the group, starting with 1979's Ladies' Night.[9] Their number one hit in 1980s "Celebration" was from Celebrate!, co-produced by Eumir Deodato.[9] More international hits followed in the early 1980s, including "Big Fun", "Get Down on It", and "Joanna". Their 1984 album Emergency yielded four top-20 pop hits, including "Fresh" and "Cherish". Their chart presence stopped after Forever. In 1988, Taylor left the group amicably to pursue a solo career.[9] They replaced Taylor with three vocalists, Skip Martin, Odeen Mays and Gary Brown.[9] He returned for the 1996 album State of Affairs, which did not make much of an impact commercially.[9] Taylor departed again in 2001 to resume his solo career.[citation needed]

Kool & the Gang today[edit]

Of Kool & the Gang's original members, the Bell brothers, Brown, and Thomas are still with the group. Rick West, the group's original keyboardist, left in 1976 to form his own band, and died in 1985. Guitarist Claydes Smith died after a long illness on June 20, 2006, aged 57 and was replaced by the Bells' youngest brother Amir Bayyan, former leader of the Kay-Gees. Original trumpet player Robert "Spike" Mickens, who had retired in 1986 due to poor health, died at the age of 59 on November 2, 2010, at a nursing home in Far Rockaway, New York. Kool and the Gang added Larry Gittens in 1975, from the Stylistics. Longtime members who continue to perform and record with the group include Curtis Williams (keyboards) and additional trumpeter Michael Ray.[citation needed]

"Jungle Boogie" was featured on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's 1994 black comedy crime film Pulp Fiction and on the movie soundtrack of the 2002 American/Canadian action comedy film Undercover Brother along with the song "Ladies Night". The band released the album Still Kool in 2007. "Hollywood Swinging" was sampled by DJ Kool in his song "Let Me Clear My Throat", and by rappers Mase on "Feel So Good" and Too Short on "Money in the Ghetto".

Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness" from their 1974 album Light of Worlds has been sampled numerous times. It was used by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for their 1991 single "Summertime". "Summer Madness" was also featured in the 1976 Picture of the Year, Rocky. A live version of the track recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London was released in 1976 on the Love & Understanding album (De-Lite DEP 2018). Live at PJ's track "N.T" has been sampled extensively by artists such as Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, N.W.A and Kris Kross. The song was also sampled by Jermaine Dupri featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg on the song, "We Just Wanna Party with You" from the soundtrack to the film in 1997, Men in Black: The Album starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

In 2013, they released their first Christmas album, Kool for the Holidays.


Current members[edit]

  • Robert "Kool" Bell (Muhammad Bayyan) - bass (1964–present)
  • Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan) - tenor saxophone (1964–present)
  • George Brown - drums (1964–present)
  • Dennis Thomas - alto saxophone (1964–present)
  • Curtis "Fitz" Williams - keyboards (1982–present)
  • Michael Ray - trumpet (1979-1990, ?-present)
  • Shawn McQuiller - vocals, guitar (1991–present)
  • Lavell Evans - vocals (2011–present)
  • Timothy Horton - drums (?–present)
  • Amir Bayyan - guitar (2006–present)
  • Louis Taylor - alto saxophone (?–present)

Past members[edit]

  • James "J.T." Taylor - vocals (1977–1988, 1996-2001)
  • Ricky West - keyboards (1964-1976, died 1985)
  • Claydes Charles Smith - guitar (1964-2006; his death)
  • Robert "Spike" Mickens - trumpet (1964-1986, died 2010)
  • Larry Gittens - trumpet, flugelhorn (1975-2007?)
  • Otha Nash - vocals (1988-?)
  • Donald Boyce - vocals (1973-1976)
  • Kevin Lassiter - keyboards, piano, vocals (1976-1982)
  • Clifford Adams - trombone (1977-2015; his death)
  • Royal Bayyan - guitar (?-?)
  • Sonnie "Skip" Martin - vocals (1988-2005)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kool & the Gang Biography". Musicianguide.com. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  2. ^ "Kool & the Gang | Free Music Videos, News, Photos, Interviews, Lyrics, Tour Dates, Ringtones". VH1. 1998-10-08. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  3. ^ "And the Gang Plays On". New Jersey Monthly Magazine. 2014-06-12. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  4. ^ [1] . Archived August 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Interview: Robert Kool Bell of Kool & The Gang". Atlantic City Weekly. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  6. ^ "Kool & The Gang - Booking A&M Entertainment". A&M Entertainment. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  7. ^ "Kool & the Gang | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 330 & 346. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f John Bush. "Kool & the Gang | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 

External links[edit]