Kool and the Gang is still celebrating

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Kool and the Gang is still celebrating

Posted on: April 10th, 2014 by tommyj

Click here to view original web page at www.houstonchronicle.com

Robert Bell is the leader of Kool and the Gang, owners of 21 funk pop hits, including "Celebration," "Jungle Boogie," "Ladies’ Night" and "Hollywood Swinging." Their songs are featured in influential movies like "Rocky," "Pulp Fiction" and "Saturday Night Fever."

That’s pretty cool.

But how did Robert Bell become Kool?

"My family was originally from Youngstown, Ohio, which was a small country kind of town, and we moved to Jersey City, N.J., in 1960. Everybody in Jersey City had a nickname. I needed to come up with one for myself," Bell said.

"There was a guy who was called ‘Cool.’ I liked that. So I came up with ‘Kool,’ with a K. That’s how it started. I wasn’t even dreaming of Kool and the Gang then."

Bell and his brother Ronald started a jazz band, the Jazziacs, in 1964. They changed that to Kool and the Flames in 1967, and Kool and the Gang in 1968.

Eighty million records sold later …

Kool and the Gang will headline a benefit concert for Children at Risk Friday night at Bayou Music Center. Tickets are $58, available at livenation.com. While it’s a charity event, Bell wants fans to know it will be a full-length concert.

Kool and the Gang’s biggest song, "Celebration," hit No. 1 in 1980. They had a good reason …

"We had just won three American Music Awards for ‘Ladies Night,’ and we wrote ‘Celebration’ because we knew that we had finally turned our careers around. It became a hit around the world. Now everybody uses our song to celebrate whenever something great happens. It’s played at weddings, birthdays, sports events, everywhere people have a reason to be happy. You can’t ask for more than that."

Thursday mail delivery

Did you know that Nathan’s "Original Recipe" french fries and thick onion rings are now on sale in the frozen food section of your local grocery store? I found them at Randalls today!

Peggy Coleman, Houston

Finally made it to Nathan’s Famous in Memorial City Mall. I’m no Joey Chestnut, but I did down three of those hot dogs. My only disappointment was no neon-green relish like the New York locations, but I can live with that. The crinkle-cut fries were tasty as well. Hope they open other Houston area locations.

Dennis Hanovich, Houston

I have never found a supermarket version of fast food to be anything like the real thing. Nathan’s hot dogs in the supermarket are completely different from what you get at a Nathan’s restaurant. Part of the allure of fast food is the heart-pounding excitement and glamour of waiting in line and hoping what’s in your bag is anything close to what you ordered. Nathan’s is looking to expand in Houston.

You are so correct about Turkish Airlines. Last year we flew China Air to Beijing and Turkish Air to Istanbul. There was no comparison. Turkish Air treats coach customers like real people, not cattle: hot towels, Turkish delight, travel packs, good food, multiple movie channels and polite service. We will be flying to Rome in a few weeks on Turkish Air. In September, we are taking a tour of Central Europe and are already checking fares for Prague and Warsaw.

Suzanne Webb, Houston

I took a flier on Turkish Airlines when I saw its low airfares. The service was equal to any airline I’ve flown. I like spending $300 less to go to the same place.

Enjoyed your column on the Dave Clark Five. I didn’t realize they were so influential, nor the amount of success they enjoyed for their short run. We (B.J. Thomas and the Triumphs) were one of the opening acts for the Dave Clark Five when they played the Sam Houston Coliseum in 1965. We were quite smitten with their "black lights," which made everything white glow in the dark. That was the first time we saw such a thing. Immediately after the show, we went out and bought some black lights for our performances, too. The Triumphs are still performing. Of the nine members, four of us are originals from 1960. We reconnected with B.J. Thomas a few years back and occasionally do some shows with him.

Don Drachenberg, Houston

When I was a young reporter for an upstate New York paper, I was assigned to cover a Dave Clark Five press conference. A real press conference! Can you picture Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber packing a room with legit reporters today so they could formally field questions like "what’s your favorite color" and "do you have a special someone back home?"

Jon Sullivan, Online Content Director, Clear Channel Entertainment

Channel 8 will rebroadcast "The Dave Clark Five: Glad All Over" at 10 p.m. Friday.

In the early 70s, my wife and I enjoyed daily reruns of the "Rifleman," the western series where Lucas McCain, North Fork’s leading citizen, killed a man every day.

Paul Hornick, Houston

Many of the early episodes of "The Rifleman" were written and directed by good ol’ Sam Peckinpah. I’m sure you’ve seen "Wild Bunch." He was always good at action violence and slow-motion gunfights. The cable channel MeTV airs a lot of early TV westerns on Saturdays.

Jay Anz, Houston

I was surprised by how violent "The Rifleman" was. The only difference between "The Rifleman" and Al Pacino’s "Scarface" is a few gold chains and a pile of cocaine.

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