It has been 36 years since the singer and arranger Kid Creole AKA August Darnell created his alter-ego. He is now presenting a musical based on his own life.
Cherchez La Femme, named after his 1976 hit with Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, will premiere this Friday at the experimental La MaMa theatre in the East Village, New York. As the cast and crew prepared for opening night, Darnell and his cast were photographed by Jocks&Nerds New York editor Janette Beckman.
Born and raised in The Bronx, August Darnell grew up surrounded by a global melange of sounds. He began his musical career in 1965 with a band called The In-Laws, but soon disbanded it so that he could train to become an English teacher. In 1974, he and his brother Stony Browder had a second shot at fame with the swing-inspired Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, whose self-titled debut album was nominated for a Grammy and produced the hit Cherchez La Femme. Sibling rivalry saw the band dissolve after three successful records.
It was as Kid Creole, however, that Darnell achieved his most enduring success, especially in Europe. Creating a persona inspired by the panache of Golden Age Hollywood musicals, from 1980 onwards Darnell has recorded and performed a unique blend of jazz, disco and Latin American styles. His music combines smooth grooves with a sense of the theatrical; an eventual musical was a foregone conclusion. Throughout the years, Darnell has been backed by the Coconuts, an ever-changing trio of female backing singers.
The musical’s book has been co-written by Darnell and the British writer Vivien Goldman, known as “The Punk Professor”. Goldman first rose to attention as a member of the new wave band Chantage, but became better known as a journalist for NME, Sounds and Melody Maker.* She has written songs for Massive Attack, penned the first biography of Bob Marley, and researched and taught as a professor of musical culture at Rutgers and New York University. In 1984, she wrote a book about Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
Goldman describes Cherchez la Femme as a “wild ride that could only have come about because of August’s particular vision – and the downtown NY creative energy he helped unleash in the early 1980s.”