Kashmere Stage Band, Kool & Together
Kashmere High School is located in a predominantly black neighborhood known as Kashmere Gardens in Houston, Texas. Music teacher Conrad O. Johnson attended an Otis Redding concert in 1967 and was inspired to translate the style of the concert into a program he could sustain at the high school in order to create opportunities for his student musicians, and thus the Kashmere Stage Band was born. During its time, KSB won national championships in high school band competitions and gained a reputation… Show more as being unbeatable. Johnson served as band director, arranger, and principal composer for the band. KSB recorded eight albums during its life.
The teenagers in the Kashmere Stage Band produced a sound equal to that of the contemporary funk bands the JB's and the Bar-Kays. Although lost for decades, since 2003 the KSB recordings have been released, some for the first time, on both vinyl record and CD and have become prized by hip-hop artists and DJ's for their inimitable sound. A notable sampling occurs on the Handsome Boy Modeling School album So... How's Your Girl?; DJ Shadow's track "Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II)" samples "Kashmere" from the album Kashmere Stage Band Plays Originals. Notable KSB alumni include jazz drummer Bubbha Thomas. Stones Throw Records imprint label Now-Again Records released a compilation of KSB material in 2006.
Here's A Little More HISTORY:
From the early 1960s through the mid 1980s, most every American high school band director took the initiative to record and release his pupils' music on vinyl. Capitalizing on custom record pressing plants in different areas of the country - Cardinal in the Northeast, Gabor Industries in Florida, Delta Custom in the Midwest, for examples - and Saugus, California-based Century Records' user-friendly recording/production process, band directors manufactured records to sell to students, parents and any other benign soul who could stomach their typically rough-hewn, amateurish cacophony. Countless thousands of high school band records have been recorded and released, most packaged in whatever stock sleeves the manufacturing plant had on hand, pressed in runs of a few hundred pieces and distributed - if you can call it that - within the limits of whatever town or city the school called home. This is not to say that all high school band records are worthy only as nostalgia pieces for those involved in their production. Although a good bulk of the early '60s high school recordings feature symphonic bands, marching bands and the random glee club, by the late '60s, high school band directors often shaped their ensembles as "stage bands": performance bands styled in the form of the jazz big band. The big band era of America's jazz history (roughly speaking, the decade from 1935 through 1945) had long passed. But some leaders from the big band era - notably Duke Ellington and Count Basie - remained attractions though the '60s, and leaders such as Stan Kenton and Woody Herman kept relevant with a younger audience by embracing the changes occurring in popular rhythm within the '60s incarnations of their bands. Many high school stage bandleaders themselves were either products of the big bands or had grown up surrounded by the sounds of the swing decade. They pressed their young students to excel in a most rigorous musical form. A stage band's members were often more interested in putting forth their take on popular rhythm than proving that they could swing like Bennie Goodman or Glenn Miller. They were kids, after all. Though their youthful energies were somewhat restrained by the big band form, this desire has led to large number of interesting (and a small number of amazing) recordings. By the late '60s, when the funk beat (alternatively labeled "rock" or "soul" beat) took over as the prevailing rhythm behind popular music, it wasn't uncommon to hear a white stage band attempt covers of tunes by horn-heavy rock bands such as Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. It wasn't uncommon for a black stage band to cover funk king James Brown and his JBs (big) band. Occasionally, an enterprising band would come up with an original composition that melded the best of jazz, rock and funk. And the music they created wasn't only novelty. The very fact that the Detroit Sex Machines were high school students when they recorded four of the best funk sides ever begs the question: wonder what Detroit's Southeastern High School Stage Band sounded like? In large cities, where many high school stage bands sprung up in proximity to one another, a logical phenomenon often occurred: one stage band, and usually one band leader, catalyzed the development, and sound, of a region. Stage bands were competition bands by nature, and a winning band's formula would often be adopted by its followers. Often, the reigning bandleader would release a large number of albums (sometimes recorded in a studio, but most times recorded live), which both served as fodder, and a source of envy, for his compatriots. One example is Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where L. Jerome Hick's awesome output with Douglass High School's Stage Band set the bar for the region's bands. But in Houston, Texas, Conrad O. Johnson pursued a far loftier goal with his stage band at Kashmere High School, a predominantly black school located in the city's north end (referred to in Houston as "Kashmere Gardens"). He wanted to lead not only the best high school stage band in Texas, but the best high school stage band in the world. Our opinion is that he succeeded, and we're thankful that he thoroughly documented his band's progress, so that we can present to you the Kashmere Stage Band's musical legacy. In the mid '60s through the '70s, in Houston's bustling metropolis, Johnson (known by many as "Prof.") made a career of producing leagues of musicians capable of playing competitively with any band in the nation, professional or otherwise. More than simply a product of the big band era (his childhood friends and early musical peers included legends like Illinois Jacquet and Arnette Cobb), Johnson bestowed a living history to his young students. And while many band directors simply tolerated the use of popular rhythms in their stage bands, Johnson embraced the funk movement that enveloped his kids. He encouraged composition - both by writing original funk songs for his band to perform and by allowing the Kashmere Band to play songs written by band members. Never one to succumb to novelty, Johnson didn't simply throw funk beats beneath a jazz song to please his kids. He instructed his band to play funk because he respected the funk idiom in the same way he respected jazz. Nor did he simply borrow charts from progressive big banders such as Herman, as was common amongst high school bandleaders from the era. He arranged nearly every one of his band's songs himself, and those that he didn't arrange he allowed his students to arrange. He worked year-round with his eager charges, constantly pushing the limits as to what their band could accomplish. He built the Kashmere Stage Band from scratch and his winning combination of powerful funk rhythms beneath expertly executed jazz solos quickly influenced those bandleaders directly within his sphere and those he met - and almost always bested - in competitions across the world.
July 12, 2007
Now Again Records jQuery.noConflict(); jQuery(function($) ); });
Kool & Together
Where Hendrix's Band of Gypsys left off is exactly the spot where Kool and Together was born. For the Sanders brothers, the screams of Psychedelic Rock met with Motown's funky Soul at a crossroads called Black Rock-a mixture of two genres that few were bold enough to attempt and even fewer possessed the technical ability to master. At the same time groups like Black Merda were crafting their take on Black Rock in Detroit, Kool and Together were blazing their own path with distortion pedals and lyrics about social turmoil in the most unlikely of places, a small, dusty town in South Texas...
Kool & Together were an obscure R&B act from Victoria, Texas who earned a cult following years after their breakup for their tough, soulful mix of funk grooves and rock guitar. Kool & Together were formed in 1970 by brothers Joe Sanders, Tyrone Sanders, and Charles Sanders, Jr., who were teenagers when their father, a gospel singer, suggested they put together a family band. With their dad singing lead, Charles on guitar, Joe on drums, and Tyrone on percussion, the family became the nucleus of an R&B act, My Children 2, who played often in Victoria and took frequent road trips to San Antonio. Despite their hard work, My Children 2 had trouble making headway in the regional music scene, and eventually the elder Sanders quit the group after a dispute over playing gigs on Sunday (he wanted to take a paying gig, his sons disapproved of performing on the Sabbath). With their father out of the act, the Sanders Brothers re-formed the band as Kool & Together, and their approach began to shift; while they also played straightforward soul and funk, Charles had been influenced by the rock bands they shared bills with in San Antonio, and had been checking out albums by the Who and Grand Funk Railroad. As Charles incorporated harder rock figures into his guitar work, Kool & Together's music developed a rough, street-wise edge that blended with the band's funky rhythms. Kool & Together released a handful of singles on their own Magic Records label, some produced by legendary studio hand Huey Meaux, "The Crazy Cajun," but the group never broke out beyond their home base, and by the end of the '70s, they'd called it quits. Decades later, British DJs, always on the lookout for obscure soul sounds, began spinning Kool & Together's 1973 single "Sittin' on a Red Hot Stove," and it became a favorite among fans of overlooked R&B classics. Eventually, the rare Kool & Together sides became a hot commodity among collectors, and in 2011, the reissue label Heavy Light Records licensed the group's studio masters, as well as some unreleased live and demo recordings, and issued the album Original Recordings 1970-1977, the first full-length release from Kool & Together. To celebrate the release, the Sanders Brothers reunited the band for a November 2011 show at Austin's Continental Club. jQuery.noConflict(); jQuery(function($) ); });