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Kool and Together back together

By JENNIFER PRIEST
Aug. 6, 2014 at 12:27 p.m.


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• For more information about the Kool and Together Band and to listen to audio clips, visit facebook.com/koolandtogether.

When Charles Sanders was 12 years old, wearing a then-all-the-rage afro hairstyle and bell bottom jeans, he had visions of becoming a rock star.

With his brothers Joseph and Tyrone and equally musical father, Charles Sr., the Sanders boys would practice soul music covers in their Queen City Victoria home and book gigs around town at bars and clubs.

"We were 13 or 14 when we played in the bars, but Dad was always there with us," Sanders, now 60, said. "A lot of people thought we were the Jackson 5. We looked just like them with our hair and everything."

Sanders has never given up on the dream he had when he was a preteen that his family band, Kool and Together, would achieve fame and fortune.

And since the band's reunification in 2011, he's been holding the group together and hoping for a miracle.

"I'm the one who always said we were going to make it," Sanders said. "It was a godsend to get the original members back."

Kool and Together - which also includes guitarist Johnny Ray Barefield, who's been playing with the group for more than three decades - is described by Sanders as "black rock Texas funk."

"When people see us play, their mouths drop open because they see us and think we're not supposed to play this kind of music," Sanders said.

Back in the '70s, their father wrote the music, much of it soul, and managed the band.

But when Kool and Together was nearing real fame potential, Sanders said the brothers found a new sound. It was rock and funk performed by African-American musicians.

After a falling out with their manager father, band members decided to part ways and try their hands at studio production.

They took a risk and signed with a Houston record label and produced a series of 45 records, which Sanders said never really went anywhere.

"We didn't really get famous. We put out music, and it would fall by the wayside. But we did get the chance to hear our music on the radio here in Victoria," Sanders said.

Life eventually separated the group. Band members started getting married and having children, and eventually, the recording contract expired.

Fast forward about 40 years, and Sanders said the growing interest in vinyl records and all things vintage somehow landed Kool and Together's old 45s in the hands of an Austin record label executive from Heavy Light/Light in the Attic.

"He convinced us to put out a reunion album," Sanders said, mentioning the 2011 release of their album "Kool and Together."

Since the album release, Sanders said they've played shows around South Texas, including South by Southwest earlier this year, and New York City's famous Lincoln Center.

Fame has not yet arrived, Sanders said. But he knows it's around the corner.

"This is my dream," Sanders said. "Hopefully, things will work out for us. We'll have that one show with someone in the audience who will see us play and say, 'I want y'all.'"

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