Won’t You Take me to Funkytown …

August Darnell, a.k.a. Thomas August Darnell Browder, the funky founder and high-style creator of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, was born in 1951 in Haiti, but spent the rest of his childhood in the Bronx. He grew up comfortably, proved his intelligence by earning a Masters degree in EnglishGraduating in English, and then went on to do what else but go into the music business!

Darnell began writing songs for Chapell Music, but when the company didn’t quite take to his propensity for over-the-top clever Latin songs, they mutually agreed to part-company. Finding himself jobless in NYC circa the mid-70s, Darnell and his equally funky brother, Stony, joined forces to put together the legendary Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. which in the mid-70s cut two albums for RCA, and a third for Elektra.  The band had style, and more talent than they knew what to do with, and they put a completely modern, unique spin on the big band genre.

But, as one can imagine, the big labels weren’t so pysched about the fact that they had both signed the same band, so they followed up with some lawsuits.  While Stony managed to keep the original band together, Darnell and Andy Hernandez (Coati Mundi) moved on to Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Kid Creole (Darnell) served as the larger-than-life central figure in a multi-racial, multi-cultural musical carnival.  Inspired by Cab Calloway and the Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s, the Kid filled out his colorful zoot suits with style and grace, and danced onstage with his inimitable, relentless, and self-proclaimed cool.  The band was also co-founded by August and his Savannah Band associate vibraphone player Andy Hernandez, also known as his “trusty sidekick” Coati Mundi, and  Darnell’s former wife Adriana “Addy” Kaegi, who served as the choreographer and costume designer of the Coconuts.  The band also featured the talent of Peter Shott on piano, drummer David Span, Carol Colman on the bass, legendary Jamaican drummer Winston Grennan, ‘Bongo Eddie’ Folk on percussion as well as the Pond life horn section Charlie Lagond, Ken Fradley and Lee Robertson. Then there were the Coconuts – the backing vocalist/dancers who always looked amazing – Adriana Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier, and Taryn Haegy (who was replaced by Janique Svedberg).

Kid Creole & the Coconuts had hits around the world, and they remained especially near and dear to the hearts of downtown New Yorkers throughout the 80s.  They appeared in  Downtown 81 (1980-81), Against All Odds (1984), New York Stories (1989), The Forbidden Dance (1990), Identity Crisis (1990), Only You (1992), Car 54, Where Are You? (1994). They also made a TV film, Something Wrong in Paradise, based on the Mimi cycle and broadcast on Granada TV in the U.K. in December 1984. Love them? They still perform today, check out their website to find out when they are coming to a city near you!

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