Blue Notes

Kool & the Gang: "Houston Better Be Ready"

With more than 70 million records sold, the men of Kool and the Gang stand as some of the most commercially successful funksters of all time. Born in Jersey City, N.J., the band was essentially just a group of friends with a jones for Miles Davis and James Brown. But they hit the big time in 1973 with their dance-party anthems and have never looked back.

Van Halen's David Lee Roth saw the Jersey boogie kings at the Glastonbury Pop Festival and approached them about opening the current Van Halen tour. What at first seemed like an odd pairing turns out to be two of the all-time party bands on the same bill. Winning.

Robert "Kool" Bell has been the throbbing bass funk-motor at the center of the Gang's down-and-dirty hits like "Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie" since the band initially formed as the Jazziacs in 1964. Rocks Off caught up with him at sound check in San Antonio.

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William Michael Smith