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Kool & the Gang on Wikipedia
Kool & the Gang
Kool & The Gang.jpgKool & the Gang in 2011
Background information
OriginJersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresFunk, R&B, soul, disco
Years active1964–present
LabelsDe-Lite, Mercury
  • Robert Bell
  • Ronald Bell
  • Amir Bayyan
  • Curtis Williams
  • Dennis Thomas
  • George Brown
  • Lavell Evans
  • Louis Taylor
  • Shawn McQuiller
  • Timothy Horton
  • Michael Ray
Past members
  • Larry Gittens
  • Donald Boyce
  • Earl Toon
  • Kevin Bell
  • Kevin Lassiter
  • Odeen Mays
  • Otha Nash
  • Ricky West
  • Robert Mickens
  • Rodney Ellis
  • Royal Bayyan
  • Sennie "Skip" Martin
  • Woody Sparrow
  • Claydes Charles Smith
  • Clifford Adams
  • James "J.T." Taylor

Kool & the Gang is an American funk and rhythm and blues band that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s.


  • 1 Music career
    • 1.1 Early years
    • 1.2 Success in the 1970s and 1980s
    • 1.3 Former members
  • 2 Music appearances
    • 2.1 Sampling
  • 3 Members
    • 3.1 Current members
    • 3.2 Past members
  • 4 Discography
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Early years

In 1964, thirteen-year-old Robert Bell, his brother Ronald, and five high-school friends in Jersey City, New Jersey, formed an instrumental band called the Jazziacs.[1] 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.[2]

The band consisted of Robert "Kool" Bell (bass), Ronald Bell (keyboards), Robert Mickens (trumpet), Dennis Thomas (saxophone), Ricky West, George Brown (drums), and Charles Smith (guitar).[3]

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.[4] They played occasionally with McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, and Leon Thomas.[5]

Success in the 1970s and 1980s

The band's debut album, Kool and the Gang (1969), produced three hit singles on the pop and R&B charts of Billboard magazine. Wild and Peaceful (1973) gave the band three more hits: "Funky Stuff" in the Top 40 pop chart and "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" in the Top 10.[6] The latter two songs sold over one million copies and were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[7] The band remained productive, with albums coming out in 1974 (Light of Worlds) and 1975 (Spirit of the Boogie).

In 1979, James "J.T." Taylor joined as lead singer. Kool and the Gang starting working with Brazilian fusion musician Eumir Deodato as producer, and they moved away from funk and closer to rhythm & blues and pop music. The songs "Ladies' Night" and "Too Hot" were hits[8] and the album was certified platinum by the RIAA.[6] Even more successful was the album Celebration (1980), also produced by Deodato, also certified platinum, giving Kool and the Gang its first number one hit ("Celebration"), which Robert Bell called "an international anthem".[8]

More international hits followed in the early 1980s, including "Big Fun", "Get Down on It", and "Joanna". The album Emergency (1984) yielded four Top 20 pop hits, including "Fresh" and "Cherish".

In 1988, Taylor left the group to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by three vocalists: Sennie "Skip" Martin, Odeen Mays, and Gary Brown. He returned for State of Affairs (1996).

Former members

Rick West, the group's original keyboardist, who left in 1976 to form his own band, died in 1985. Guitarist Charles Smith died after a long illness in 2006 and was replaced by the Bells' youngest brother, Amir Bayyan, former leader of the Kay Gees. Original trumpet player Robert "Spike" Mickens, who 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.

Music appearances

"Jungle Boogie" was featured on the soundtracks for the movies Pulp Fiction (1994) and Undercover Brother (2002). "Summer Madness" was in the movie Rocky. "Hollywood Swinging" was featured in the movie Roll Bounce (2005).


"Summer Madness" was used by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for their 1991 single "Summertime". "N.T." has been sampled by Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, N.W.A, Kris Kross, Jermaine Dupri, and Snoop Dogg. "Hollywood Swinging" was sampled by DJ Kool, Mase, and Too Short. "Celebration" was used by Boards of Canada in their song "The Way You Show".

Current members

  • Robert "Kool" Bell - bass (1964–present)
  • Ronald Bell - 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 (1964–present)
  • Amir Bayyan - guitar (2006–present)
  • Louis Taylor - alto saxophone (?–present)

Past members

  • Larry Gittens - trumpet, flugelhorn (1975–2013)
  • 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)
  • Otha Nash - vocals (1988–1996)
  • Donald Boyce - vocals (1973–1976)
  • Kevin Lassiter - keyboards, piano, vocals (1976-1982)
  • Clifford Adams - trombone (1977–2015; his death)
  • Royal Bayyan - guitar (?–?)
  • Sennie "Skip" Martin - vocals (1988–2005)
  • Woodrow "Woody" Sparrow - rhythm and lead guitar (1969; his death)


Main article: Kool & the Gang discography

See also

  • List of number-one hits (United States)
  • List of number-one dance hits (United States)
  • List of artists who reached number one in the United States
  • List of artists who reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart
  • List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. dance chart
  • List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart


  1. ^ "And the Gang Plays On". New Jersey Monthly Magazine. 2014-06-12. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  2. ^ [1] . Archived August 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "History | Kool and the Gang". koolandthegang.com. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Interview: Robert Kool Bell of Kool & The Gang". Atlantic City Weekly. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  5. ^ "Kool & The Gang - Booking A&M Entertainment". A&M Entertainment. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  6. ^ a b Bush, John. "Kool & the Gang | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  7. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The book of golden discs (New and completely revised ed.). London: Barrie & Jenkins. pp. 330, 346. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  8. ^ a b Hanson, Amy. "Ladies' Night - Kool & the Gang | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 

External links

  • Official site
  • Interview by Pete Lewis, Blues & Soul, November 2010
  • Kool & the Gang discography at Discogs

Upcoming Live Shows

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Kool & the Gang has 11 upcoming shows:

Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, NV)Buy Tickets
Celebrity Cruise Lines (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Further Reading

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