The Volumes

the volumes

Yes, it’s true. Guilty as charged! I am what is commonly referred to as a HOARDER! I hoard things. I collect things. And the lesson I force-feed my children has always been – DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! When the Coronavirus curtailed my freedom of movement, I decided to explore my cellars and lofts. That is where I found thousands of my cassettes that have followed me on every journey I have ever made (and that’s a whole lot of mileage). They were just sitting there, still looking good, just waiting to be cared for again! Since the dreaded pandemic had made me a prisoner in my own home, I decided to use the time to listen to each and every cassette! That became my MISSION IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE! Thus was born ONCE UPON A CASSETTE, a collection of ditties and Darnellian witticisms never heard before. I now present you with The Volumes. I hope my attention span allows me to create at least one hundred more! In fact we are attempting to release one volume a month until we’re over and done. And then in time for Christmas, we shall be offering a number of volumes available for purchase in tangible form. Pow to the Nth degree, guys and dolls!

Hey, remember the Wizard who said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”? Well, here’s my take on that: Always ignore that demand, from Wizards and Fools. Peel back all curtains. Be entertained. Be shocked. Be transformed. Be embarrassed.
I dare you. In fact, I double-dare you!

August Darnell

Look out for the next volumes….coming real soon!

Press releases

Once Upon a Cassette


Yes, it’s true. Guilty as charged! I am what is commonly referred to as a HORDER! I horde things. I collect things. And the lesson I force-feed my children has always been – DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! When the Coronavirus curtailed my freedom of movement, I decided to explore my cellars and lofts. That is where I found thousands of my cassettes that have followed me on every journey I have ever made (and that’s a whole lot of mileage). They were just sitting there, still looking good, just waiting to be cared for again! Since the dreaded pandemic had made me a prisoner in my own home, I decided to use the time to listen to each and every cassette! That became my MISSION IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE! Thus was born ONCE UPON A CASSETTE, a collection of ditties and Darnellian witticisms never heard before. I now present you with Volume 1. I hope my attention span allows me to create at least one hundred more! In fact we are attempting to release one volume a month until we’re over and done. And then in time for Christmas, we shall be offering a number of volumes available for purchase in tangible form. Pow to the Nth degree, guys and dolls!

Hey, remember the Wizard who said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”? Well, here’s my take on that: Always ignore that demand, from Wizards and Fools. Peel back all curtains. Be entertained. Be shocked. Be transformed. Be embarrassed.
I dare you. In fact, I double-dare you!

August Darnell


cassette vol 1


TRACK 9 Good Morning Mr. Sunshine
Circa 1970 / Lead Vocal: Shep Coppersmith
The band was just called ‘Savannah Band’ back then. August Darnell had been an English Teacher in Hempstead Long Island. His students called him Mr. Sunshine. He decided to write a song about that chapter of his life. Voila.

TRACK 13 Sooner or Later
Circa 1974 / Lead Vocal: Billy Dorsey / Background Vocals: Stony Browder Jr., August Darnell, Cory Daye
Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band recorded this track in Manhattan. This song evolved into Call Me the Entertainer. Kid Creole and the Coconuts then covered this track on the album Doppelganger.

Press releases


                      NEW ARTIST SIGNED TO 2C2C MUSIC – Tchengiz


Tchengiz is eagerly anticipating the release of his debut single ‘Right Here’ on September 21st.

Singer/songwriter Tchengiz, 23, from London, has always dreamed of becoming a successful recording artist. From the young age of 8 when his father bought him his first guitar, and he couldn’t put it down, he always knew music would play a huge part in his life. His vocal sound has been compared to Robin Thicke and he is heavily influenced by Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake. He has been playing venues around London for the last few years, with his biggest accomplishment to date playing alongside an array of big name artists for a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.

Written and produced by Tchengiz himself, the single ‘Right Here’ was mixed by Executive Producer August Darnell of Kid Creole and the Coconuts fame. Darnell, along with his partner Eva Tudor-Jones and Peter Schott (both from the Creolian family) are the co-founders of the indie label 2C2C Music to which Tchengiz is signed. With all their years of experience in the music business and the fresh new talents of Tchengiz, this is sure to be a winning formula.

Along with the single comes a fabulous and cool introductory music video shot by Zoey Henderson in trendy Copenhagen where the single was mixed by engineer Lars Nissen at Moremax Studios. The video was cut and edited by Lewis Knaggs of LSK Films.

‘Right Here’ will be available for Pre-Order on iTunes from September 14th with a worldwide release on September 21st. Available on all major outlets including Apple Music and Spotify, you will also find the video on Tchengiz’s Vevo channel and of course his YouTube channel.

PRE-ORDER your copy today

Get on this, Right Here!

Photo credit: Zoey Henderson


Instagram: @Tchengiz

Facebook: @tchengiz

Twitter: Tchengiz

YouTube channel: Tchengiz

Label: 2C2C Music

Management: Tudor-Jones Mgmt CONTACT

Press releases

ABC tour

ABC tour

The ABC tour……….

Whoever came up with the idea of putting ABC and KID CREOLE on the same stage is a genius.

abc tour

The ABC tour was a great success.

Returning to Manchester was a blast, since I used to live there 1000 years ago. And the same for Sheffield. I used to live there, too. And London … hey I used to live there, as well. Yes, I’m a New Yorker who has spent a lot of time in England. Hey, in the United Kingdom, to be sure.

The tour: Manchester, Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Bristol, York, Sheffield, Gateshead and Nottingham; All cities that Kid Creole has, at one time or another in a long and varied career,  performed in before. But so very nice to revisit.

I’ve known Martin Fry since the glorious 80’s. A true gentleman and a true survivor, much like myself. And he still sounds as wonderful as he did in the beginning. ABC still rocks.

My longevity? Much of it is due to the guys and dolls who surround me on that stage.

This time around, for the ABC tour, we had Barnaby Dickinson on Trombone  (he’s been with me for over 16 years), George Hogg on Trumpet (off and on for 5 years), Dave Imby on Drums (a 9 year veteran), Oroh Angiama on Bass (over 8 years), Lorne Ashley on Guitar (my son, who has just joined the band this year), Mike Gorman on Keys ( over 8 years), and …. the fabulous COCONUTS, of course.

abc tour

The COCONUTS = Sarah McGrath (who we met in Bosnia in 1998), Roos Van Awesome (over 3 years) and Charlotte De Graaf (the newcomer, who joined the band last year).  Charlotte replaced the longest standing Coconut in the history of the band, Eva Tudor-Jones (who took a leave of absence to have a Coconut baby). We all miss Eva’s presence on stage.  But she is still very involved in the business end of things.

Trivia: Charlotte celebrated her 27th birthday while on the road, in York. Who said “youth is wasted on the young”? I disagree, vehemently.

I mention these names because the KCC SHOW would not be as magnificent as it is without these talented musicians and singers and dancers. Every true bandleader knows that the secret to greatness depends on the simple act of assembling the correct players. I have been constantly blessed with the correct players.

abc tour
stone images rocks

One should also note, that besides the players on stage there are a whole lot of other people involved in a tour. My sincere gratitude goes out to the ABC staff, who made the whole thing enjoyable from start to finish. Their monitor man made each show a breeze for me. I could hear every instrument and every voice, including my own. That’s no joke. Every lead singer will tell you that the greatest danger on tour is the possibility of straining your voice. But from the first show I knew I was in good hands. You see, I am still old-school. I use stage monitors, not the in-ear gadgets that shut out the universe. And that means I need a sound man who knows what he is doing at the helm. I got that.

My 2 KCC guys who travelled with us were perfect also: Andy and Eric. Andy, our backline tech guy, made sure the stage was always ready for the groove. And Eric, our house engineer, made sure that what the audience heard was what I wanted them to hear – the goodness!

Our set was only 45 minutes in length but those 45 minutes were filled with magical grooves and banter and joyful appreciation from fans, old and new. We played CAROLINE WAS A DROP-OUT, DON’T TAKE MY COCONUTS, STOOL PIGEON, NO FISH TODAY and ANNIE, I’M NOT YOUR DADDY which, on some nights, got audience members up and dancing the conga. I consider this a major feat, because the venues were all sit-down affairs.

All in all, we had a funky good time.

Another great memory is born in the eternal legend of Kid Creole and the Coconuts.


August Darnell


Here’s a link to a wonderful write up from Graham Clark for the Yorkshire Times






ABC’s XYZ Tour announcement

XYZ tour announcement

Tour announcement!!!! We are very excited to announce that Kid Creole and the Coconuts will be appearing as Special Guests on ABC’s XYZ tour this coming November.
Martin Fry, August Darnell and their bands will be coming to a venue near you as they travel up and down the U.K. playing some fabulous venues.
Tickets go on sale this coming Friday when the link will be active

For tickets you can call: 0844 811 0051 / 0844 826 2826

For VIP packages go to














ABC are an English new wave and synth-pop band that formed in Sheffield in 1980. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Martin Fry, keyboardist and guitarist Mark White, saxophonist Stephen Singleton and drummer David Palmer.

ABC developed from an earlier band, Vice Versa, and established themselves as part of the New Romantic movement, with Fry being famed for his gold lamé suit. Their 1982 debut album, The Lexicon of Love, was a UK number-one and they achieved ten UK and five US Top 40 hit singles between 1981 and 1990. The band, now essentially singer Fry solo, continue to tour and released their ninth studio album, The Lexicon of Love II, in 2016.

A few words from the Kid about the upcoming tour…..

“When I listen to the music of ABC, the look of love comes upon my face. I am reminded of good times and delicious poison arrows. It is an honor to share the stage with Martin Fry and the lads. The New Wave will always be New. Music lovers, get ready for a funky good time! Hachachacha!”

Kid Creole


New LIVE album

New live album…………….THIS IS IT

Guys and dolls of all ages and persuasions, this is it.

Finally, the legendary KID CREOLE has launched his first official LIVE ALBUM.

Hallelujah! Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the Music!

The Banana Boat is filled with jubilation and satisfaction.

The name of the album? It’s KID CREOLE LIVE AT THE B-SPOT.

Why? KID CREOLE and his merry band of COCONUTS played 2 hot-to-trot concerts at a club called the B-SPOT on the French Riviera in 2014.

When THE MAN with the permanent tan and the tilted fedora and the two-toned shoes heard the recordings, he exclaimed “Damn, that shit is funky!”

Hear then, oh music lovers, the true documentation of a powerful live band at the height of their exalted reign. Long live the King.

LIVE AT THE B-SPOT is a double CD: almost 2 hours of in-your-face rhythm and blues and funk and calypso and soca and reggae and salsa and pop and good old rock and roll.

Plus, we have added a bonus track: a surprisingly honest remix of STOOL PIGEON, done by that cunning new upstart who calls himself YOUNGR

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, if you are a CREOLIAN FAN, or just a person who appreciates real music played by real people, this album is a must-have in your collection.

The release date is December 14th, 2016. And it’s a limited edition, so hurry up!

Pre-order now and shout out loud: HACHACHACHA!

live album

The double CD will be available for purchase at Wembley Arena, London on Wednesday December 14th where the band will be supporting Culture Club’s only UK tour date.





Pre-sale limited offer!!

EXCLUSIVELY for our dedicated fans we are offering for
48 hours ONLY pre-sale tickets for the world premiere of

Pre-Sale Tickets

EXCLUSIVELY for our dedicated fans we are offering for
48 hours ONLY limited pre-sale tickets for the world premier of
Cherchez La Femme the musical!!
Click here for your:  Pre-sale tickets  – using the code:  hachachacha
Get your tickets now as this offer ends at midnight (Eastern standard time) on Saturday!

Cherchez La Femme previews from May 20th until May 22nd then our official GRAND OPENING is on Monday 23rd at La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theatre on East 4th Street, New York City.
So don’t delay, get your tickets today!

“Cherchez La Femme,” a new musical written by August Darnell and Vivien Goldman featuring the music of Grammy-nominated songwriters Stony Browder Jr. and August Darnell.
Synopsis: Set in Manhattan and Haiti, the play explores heavy themes and lightweight dreams.
It’s reckless, it’s rhythmic, it’s romantic.


is a musical extravaganza that tells the story of one man’s loss and another man’s gain and the powerful women who make it all possible. It explores dark themes (abandonment, sibling rivalry, unrequited love) and light themes (sexual healing, the pursuit of happiness,  the smell of success) but never without inviting you to shake your head and tap your toes to the infectious neo-urban-jungle grooves. The play is set in New York City and the Caribbean in the 1980’s.
It’s reckless. It’s rhythmic. It’s romantic.


Coming to America

Kid Creole and the Coconuts are coming to America


Are you ready to party with us at B. B. KING’S in Manhattan on March 25th

and at the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. on March 26th?  We are coming to America.


Meet the Band
(Left to Right)

Edgar Jones (Saxophone), Chris Storr (Trumpet), Tim Vine (Keyboards), Barnaby Dickinson (Trombone), Jessica Forsman (Coconut), Roos Van Awesome (Coconut), Eva Tudor-Jones (Mama Coconut), Jamie McCredie (Guitar), Oroh Angiama (Bass), Malene Mortensen (Chanteuse), Dave Imby (Drummer),THE KID

Meanwhile, check out the rare 1981 backstage footage and live showfrom the Ritz 1981

Available now as VOD


The band, led by August “Kid Creole” Darnell, will play several of their classics and some of their newer music. The March 25th show will also feature a very special guest appearance by Cory Daye, who sang with Darnell while they were members of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.
Also joining Darnell on stage will be Haitia Fuller and Fonda Rae, singers he produced for various side projects (Elbow Bones and the Racketeers, Don Armando’s 2nd Ave. Rumba Band).

Tour dates and ticket information:

Favorite Things

Savannah Band is Waiting for You, America

Savannah Band is Waiting for You, American (Spring 2005)




1976 was the first year in history there were no cases of smallpox recorded anywhere in the world; the disease was apparently eradicated, and experts announced “The end of contagious diseases.” It was the Bicentennial. It was the year Mao died and the Gang of Four fell. That March my mother and I went to New York City for my cousin’s ordination at St. Patrick’s, where, during my next visit, a decade later, ACT-UP would stage a “Stop the Church” protest.

I was a teenager gaga over art and I spent every moment I could in museums, staring at Barnett Newmans and scribbling unintelligible memoranda in a notebook.

On the radio were Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music, White Boy,” Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.” It was also the year of David Bowie’s Station to Station, Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia, Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner,” and Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. That year also saw the release of the first albums of Blondie, The Ramones and one other Manhattanite act, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.

Savannah Band has not quite vanished into oblivion. That first album is available on cd, as is an anthology of selections from the first two of their three albums. If you search for them on the internet, you will find an admirable appreciation by Milo Miles at, info on bandmember August Darnell atThe Cameleon’s B’Dilli Bay, and an informative entry at

Pungent fragments of their music frequently enliven contemporary techno and rap: Maya Arulpragasam/M.I.A. samples “Sunshower” in her 2005 “Sunshowers,” and Miss Kittin demonstrates her taste and erudition by quoting the introductory brass riff to “The Gigolo and I” in her 2001 “Harlot.”

But even at the height of their fame, in the mid-Seventies, Savannah Band was never really famous; they were an acquired taste, something reserved for connoisseurs. They were one of those bands with a small group of fans, fans who were fanatics, who forced the records on their friends, who studied their albums as significant texts, who felt compelled to write, if only to regisiter a protest against the general silence.

August Darnell and Stony Browder, Jr. in collaboration with Cory Daye, Andy Hernandez, and others wrote, performed, and arranged–alone and in various combinations, under a variety of names–a handful of pop tunes of enduring oddness and charm: “Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon,” “Sour & Sweet/Lemon In The Honey,” “Mister Love,” “An Organ Grinder’s Tale,” The Seven Year Itch,” There But for the Grace of God Go I,” “Drive My Car,” Cowboys & Gangsters,” and “Deputy of Love.”

Unlike the other memorable music of its era, Browder and Darnell’s is not raw, not direct, not antagonistic, not violent. It’s generally dance music, but of such a kind that repays scrutiny. It tickles, then alarms, then reassures, then renders unsure.

Browder and Darnell juxtaposed disco’s present tense of physical exhilaration, affectionately ironic allusions to retro dance styles, and lyrics whose often jolting bitterness resonates like an shouted threat. They toyed with these things to create a compelling disequilibrium.

Savannah Band was originally labeled a disco band because they obviously weren’t a conventional rock band and they produced dance music, which–according to the categories available in the mid-Seventies–meant disco.

Characteristically, Savannah Band themselves provided a more useful analysis. In their third and final album, the song “The Seven Year Itch” features a chorus of sirens chanting a geneology of the band’s sound:

You did the mambo, the cha-cha, bolero, the rumba

Don’t you think I know

You did the tango, the conga, the disco, the samba

Did you think I’d croak? Aint’ you got no shame?

Which is to say, in 1979 they viewed disco historically, as a dance fad in continuity with preceding dance fads–with the significant omission of the entire rock era, along with the blues, soul, and gospel. Savannah Band acted as if the story of popular music went from Frank Sinatra directly to Sylvester–a feat of creative imagination even more remarkable considering the band had many connections to the New York rock scene (Darnell remixed a dance version of James White & the Blacks’s “Contort Yourself.”)

Over time their resistance to rock was overcome by an avidity for appropriation; subsequent musical projects referenced reggae, rap and contemporary New Wave. In Darnell’s first album as Kid Creole, the song “Latin Music” revises the recipe to read

Uh-oh, it’s Car-ma-ren Mir-an-da

Coconuts got a brand new


Oh-oh the rumba and the samba

Whatever happened to the hullabaloo?

The readymade formulas–samba, swing, calypso, disco–provide forms: forms that promise disposable, empty-headed pleasures. And yet, Browder and Darnell had no talent for simplicity. On the few occasions when they attempted to simplify–to sustain a unified tone and texture, to repeat straightforwardly a simple motif–the result was usually a clunker.

The vocabulary of dance forms provided them with a frame in which they composed multi-movement sound collages. Attended to carefully, “Cherchez la Femme” and “The Gigolo and I” sound less like the Bee Gees and more like Charles Ives. The sensibility–a moody mix of reverie, kitsch, and wrath–is as Ivesian as you can get. Listeners of “An Organ Grinder’s Tale” are usually so distracted by Cory Daye crooning

The Elf-king disappeared

With a maid of freckled face and flaxen hair.

The Fairy-Queen did not despair–

Every day of the year

She cooks his usual apple strüdel

that they miss the beautiful instrumental accompaniment–a fastidious juxtaposition of Om-pah band and Stephen Sondheim culminating in an outburst of polyrythmns and dissynchronous tempi. It ends with a bizarre lurching gait: get down boogie rather like Elliot Carter’s Penthode. It’s the acme of some unspeakable genre of compositeness: textures, colors, harmonies, phrases, moods that are clichéd and secondhand are not unified, but juxtaposed for maximum contrast–the result being fresh-sounding and not entirely ironic.

Likewise a much more modest composition like “Young Hearts” begins as a starkly stripped down funk number, to which is added the kind of reggae you would expect from a half-asleep New Orleans funeral band accompanied by a female chorus lifted from “Walk on the Wild Side.” These things jostle along only to segue into a showy introduction to a big swing number–at which point the song abruptly ends. “Poupee Qui Fait Non” features clichéd calypso steel drums versus clichéd disco cow bell plus skeletonized fragments of fake Gene Krupa, with vocal stylings by the ineffable Cristina, sounding like a lunatic talking to herself in the street.

“Table Manners” starts off like the Pretenders but quickly evolves into murmurs from the harem of Cobra Island. “Kriminal-Tango,” a 1959 ballad by Pierre Trombetta, is treated as a found object, and becomes even stranger by recontextualization. It begins with Bernard Hermann opening credits, then settles into a proto-Pink Martini torch song. If people don’t deserve immortality for such things, what in the world is immortality for? While this heterogeneous jumble of elements parade through each composition, unity–or at least one unifying element–is provided by the vocals, and in particular by the extraordinary vocals of Cory Daye.

What is it about her voice? People talk about her flat notes as if that was all there was to it. Skeptics dismiss it as a gimick. For others it springs the lock on a very still and quiet place, where revelations quietly devastate. But there is also the way she skips ahead of–or tarries a moment behind–the beat. It adds another bit of interest to the patterns in the air.

But those are just two of her effects: she’s also sad, peppy, breathless, clear, articulate, very speaking–parlando. She does not do the blues, she doesn’t whoop it up like a disco diva; hers is a voice surprised at its role, a bit shy of the implication of fronting others.

And yet she’s up to the task and very game in a way that’s fresh and winning. She can be exhilaratingly bold–sometimes she autographs a track in dashing zigzag lines. A heartless extravaganza known as “Mister Love” is perhaps her finest hour. Cool and collected, she decisively propells the syllables

The box-back gents arrive In apple-jacks and tans

Man-o-man they look just like that Gichy Dan!

like ping-pong balls against an echoey male chorus and a tricky, jittery syncopated beat. She cultivates the air of somebody who is really, after all, too busy to be in the studio recording right that minute, but is being a good sport. She always sounds like she has a lot of other things on her mind. With other singers this wouldn’t be a compliment, but with Daye, and her work with Savannah Band, it translates into a vision of sophisticated bliss we might not have access to otherwise.

Another distinctive vocalist connected with Browder and Darnell is Cristina. She is controversial. Even people who can appreciate Cory Daye think Cristina is going too far. She’s often inexcusable: “Rage And Fascination,” an excellent song that Grace Jones should have included on Living My Life, is defanged by her inert performance.

But in her cover of “Drive My Car,” the ferocious zest of her “beep! beep! beep!”s are irresistible. Likewise in another cover, of Brecht & Weill’s “Ballad Of Immoral Earnings,” her petulant sourness scans perfectly and is dramatically apt.

I imagine Darnell, her producer on these projects, liked her because she was a character. As a rule, Browder and Darnell’s music never showcases vocal virtuosity. Their compositions don’t require vocalists who soar over vast sonic landscapes, but ones who dramatize conflicts–personal conflicts, cultural conflicts–in a satirical or whimsical mode. For that, unhomogenized voices that retain the intonations of impassioned yacking are most suitable.

Hence the appropriateness of the choruses of kids that pop up frequently on their albums. And even of Andy Hernandez’s foolhardy attempt to put over a ballad in “Oh! That Love Decision.”

Of course much of the sting of these vocal performances comes from Darnell’s exceptional words. The lyrics he provided for Kevin Nance’s much-anthologized 1979 disco anthem “There But for the Grace of God Go I” are probably his most notorious performance

Carlo and Carmen Vidal just had a child

a lovely girl with a crooked smile

Now they’ve got to split

‘cause the Bronx ain’t fit

for a kid to grow up in

Let’s find a place they say somewhere far away

with no Blacks no Jews and no gays

Carmen and her family

left the dirty streets to find a quiet place overseas.

And year after year

the kid has to hear

the Dos and Don’ts and the Dears.

And then she’s ten years old

she digs that rock ‘n’ roll

but Poppy bans it from the home.

Carmen, she turns out to be

a natural freak

gaining weight

and losing sleep.

And when she’s sweet sixteen

she packs her things and leaves

with a man she met on the street.

Carmen starts to bawl

bangs her head to the wall.

Too much love is worse than none at all.

The iciness of which is underscored by music that bounces perkily along, completely indifferent to the varieties of sordidness the tale relates.

But such by-the-book Brechtianism is only one tone of Darnell’s palette. He has a gift for being affectionately silly that rivals Woodhouse, starting songs with lines like

“A cockerpoo and a canary lit the early stages of my life,”

and “Doris, you can take my Frosted Flakes,”

and “Gina, Gina! He’s just a ski instructor!

However the theme that repeatedly fires Darnell’s imagination is race. And how does he approach it?

Consider the song titled “Soraya / March of the Nignies,” which starts

Yankee romancers

The gift they gave us was the cafe au lait!

Or “In The Jungle,” that features one of Darnell’s signature jaw-droppers:

I don’t believe in In-te-gra-tion

Just to achieve Mi-sen-e-ga-tion

To which he adds later

I don’t believe in Pro-po-ga-tion

Just to achieve Ca-fe-au-lait-tion.

It’s not mere naughtiness; it’s not merely the game of the black performer doning blackface in order to make the audience squirm. It’s as if the creolism, the hybridism present in the music–in the sound collage–is being articulated explicitly at another level.

The situation of several songs hinges on the conflicted interaction of colonized and colonizer, but the tone is never outrage, but dandified resignation. The “Grace of God” formula is employed with an additional twist in “Cowboys & Gangsters.” The music is an irreproachably upbeat disco anthem to which Darnell provides a newcomer’s lament about the temptations of America, how they corrupt, and the promise of prestige and power intoxicates. In the end, somebody gets hurt, and somebody gets sold out. “The Gigolo and I” is characteristic. The music is an intricate, Ivesian free-association tone-poem. The words evoke a Tennessee Williams scene partially translated into bad French

Parce que j’etais une femme solitaire

J’ay paye pour un compagnon.

Then, Cory Daye recites a mad tour guide speech:

Et á gauche. Ahhhh. The island of Manhattan, named after an Indian who single-handedly massacred sixty-three Mormans (sic) in 1884. Crazy island, that Manhattan island …

followed immediately by a cheerful male chorus of “Oh that crazy Indian.” And, in case we don’t get it, Daye, in the sweetest voice imaginable warbles

God is such a busy guy

Some must sell, some must buy:


Those unfamiliar with the music that accompanies such words might get the impression of something numbingly cynical. But that would be to underestimate how deep Browder and Darnell’s impropriety goes. They never scold. They are unimpressed with the call to be earnest about anything. The tone, the mood, of individual songs is often itself is difficult to determine. Is it happy? Sad? Earnest? Ironic?

They don’t even take the rôle of satirist seriously; they are content to play the fool, and fool around. Browder and Darnell’s impropriety also extends to the conventions of pop music professionalism: the values of compositional unity, simplicity, instrumental virtuosity, unity of effect, etc. are not valued very much by them. They savor acidic wrong-note harmonies, jarring shifts in tone, the aesthetic of the slightly off, intricacy without slickness, pieces that don’t fit together seamlessly. As arty and sophisticated as they are, Savannah Band really doesn’t have anything to do with contemporary disco that was influenced by minimalist music, like Arthur Russell.

And for all their retro references, they don’t have anything to do with the Swing revival of the Nineties. Their true peers are transgressor-fusionists like The Pogues, John Zorn, The Klezmatics, Björk.

The pop music convention they most impudently disdain is the convention of honesty. Instead of the rhetoric of authenticity (the blues to bop) they deal in the tropes of inauthenticity (big band to disco). Instead of reportage, they offer stylized personas, narrators and settings: Manhattan, Caribbean paradise. Larger than life rôles: abandoned lover, soldier boy, Cab Calloway, creole, mulatto, heartbreaker, Nazi, gangster, crooner, chorus girl, tootsie, gold-digger, ….

The scenarios–never explicit, but ever-present–suggest some synthesis of Busby Berkely, Graham Greene and Ronald Firbank. One other layer of this stylization is the deliberate manner in which they cultivated, commented on, and mocked themselves. Savannah Band’s music, lyrics, album covers and sleeves are peppered with arcane in-jokes and conceptual art touches whose point is not accessible to outsiders.

What, for example, could be the meaning of the ‘Forties-looking photographic portraits identified as the Krauns family (who?) inside the cover of their third album? Or the references to ”Roovag, Inc” and the “Champions of the Romantic”? Or what does Tommy Motolla think now, when he hears the band he managed in 1976 sing about him “blowing his mind on cheap grass and wine” as he “sleeps in the back / of his gray Cadillac.”

It has the whimsically self-regarding air of a improvised vacant-lot revival ofFour Saints in Three Acts. This being the case, it’s no surprise that some categorize Browder and Darnell’s work as camp. Indeed, it’s hard to avoid that word when confronted with things like the Roy Rogers hoof-clomps in “I’ll Play the Fool,” and the canned seagulls cawing above crashing waves who pop up in an alarming number of songs. Or when they perpetrate a song titled “Once There Was a Colored Girl,” with a chorus–for once exquisitely smooth and sweetly harmonized–cooing

The yankee humbug! Neo-nazi! The yankee stumblebum!

But considering the work as a whole, a more accurate characterization would be to call it bemused irony. For all the links with Brecht and Weill, Browder and Darnell are closer in spirit to Noël Coward and Cole Porter. It’s not impossible to imagine a flickering, silvery Ginger Rogers singing

You con-fess that you’re no good for me,

And you in-sist you’re hanging clouds over me.

Let me be the judge of that:

I’ll tell you where it’s really at–

My skies are baby blue.

Stay for me

Sour and sweet.

Your per-sis-tant-ly ad-vis-ing me

Don’t invest in someone who must be free

‘Cos every time you come around

My heart leaps up I’m heaven bound

A nickel brings a dime.

Stay for me

Sour and sweet.

The bemusement does not come cheap. It expresses dogged, despite-all, faithfulness. In Browder and Darnell’s songs the narrator is often affirming fidelity to a faithless lover. Or affirming the value of a love that inflicts pain. Or affirming individuality in a world that thinks in stereotypes. Or affirming personal honesty when all one can utter are clichés. Or acknowledging the absurdity of trying to be true in a dishonest world. It’s a great accomplishment when pop music finds a cheerful and sophisticated-sounding way to express despair, and Savannah Band does it again and again. An air of resilient despair colors Browder and Darnell’s most upbeat songs. Their most frivilous ones are haunted by the pathos of sundered couples, the most hurt one being the one who sings.

Albums mentioned in this essay:

1976. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. Music by Stony Browder, Jr. Lyrics by August Darnell. Arrangements by Stony Browder, Jr. and Charlie Calello. Andy Hernandez, vibes. Mickey Sevilla, drums. Don Armando Bonilla, percussion. Cory Daye, vocals. Featuring “Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon,” “I’ll Play the Fool,” “Sour & Sweet/Lemon In The Honey,” “Sunshower.”

1978. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band Meets King Penett. Arrangements by Stony Browder, Jr. Featuring “The Gigolo and I,” “Mister Love,” “An Organ Grinder’s Tale,” “Soraya / March of the Nignies.” “Auf Wiedersehen, Darrio” concludes with the line that provides the title to this essay.

1979. James Monroe H.S. Presents Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band Goes to Washington. Featuring “Seven Year Itch” 1979. There But for the Grace of God Go I, Machine, Kevin Nance & August Darnell. Vocals by Clare Bathe and Jay Stovall. EP. 1979. Gichy Dan’s Beachwood #9. Music and lyrics by August Darnell. Produced by AD with Ronnie Rogers. Featuring “Young Hearts.”

1980. Cristina, Cristina (Monet). Written and produced by August Darnell. Arranged by Andy Hernandez. Featuring “Poupee Qui Fait Non.”

1981. Kid Creole, Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places. Written and produced by August Darnell. Featuring “Gina, Gina,” “In the Jungle,” “Latin Music,” “Table Manners.”

1981. Seize The Beat (Dance Ze Dance) (ZE/Island) Featuring “Cowboys & Gangsters,” Gichy Dan, Written and produced by Ron Rogers.

1979. “Deputy of Love” Don Armando’s Second Avenue Rhumba Band. Written by Ron Rogers. Produced by Andy Hernandez. First released 1979. “Drive My Car,” Cristina (Monet) Lennon & McCartney, arranged by Stony Browder, Jr. First released 1980

1983. Little Coati Mundi The former 12 year old genius. Written, arranged and produced by Andy Hernandez. Featuring “Oh! That Love Decision”

1983. Sleep It Off. Cristina. Produced by Don Was. Featuring “Rage and Fascination,” and “Ballad of Immoral Earnings.”

1983. Don’t Take My Coconuts, The Coconuts. Produced by August Darnell. Featuring “Kriminal-Tango”

1996. The Very Best of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.


Favorite Things

Behind the Scenes – Muchachacha Video

Behind the scenes of Muchachacha with Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Los Locos and more!