Charles Sanders Jr. (second from left, with his dad and the rest of the band in the mid-seventies) and his brothers, Joe and Tyrone, grew up in Victoria, where they and their father formed the band My Children +2. Later they carried on without their dad as Kool & Together, mixing soul with psychedelic rock. Despite some modest success, they were virtually unknown until their 1973 single “Sittin’ on a Red Hot Stove” began showing up on contemporary DJ playlists two decades later, which led Austin label Heavy Light Records to track down the brothers (all still in Victoria) and release their first album, Original Recordings, 1970–1977. Kool & Together are reuniting to celebrate the record with a show November 5 at Austin’s Continental Club.
Describe Victoria in the seventies.
Whites and blacks all went to school together. I had never had any problems with stuff like that. I was called the n-word maybe once in my entire life growing up here.
How did you get into music?
I give all the credit to my father, who sang with gospel groups—my brothers and I were into football. We listened to groups like the Ohio Players and Earth, Wind & Fire. One day we decided that we were going to start our own little group. I had this cheap guitar; my brothers had some boxes that they were beating on. My dad came in, and maybe two, three weeks later I had a new guitar, my brother Joe had drums, and my brother Tyrone had some bongos.
How old were you at this time?
I might have been a freshman in high school. My dad came up with this idea of My Children +2. It was myself, my two brothers, my dad on vocals, and two other guys. My dad was the guy that everybody came out to see. His name was “The King.” He would come out with a crown on, red cape and scepter . . .
A James Brown fan.
Yeah, we played a lot of James Brown. We used to play San Antonio a lot, and we would be the only black band in this vast sea of rock musicians with the heavy chords, PA systems, and light shows. It was incredible, a new world to me.
You added your own heavy rock sound to your music.
In high school we ran across this guitarist John Odom, a white guy. He turned me on to Grand Funk Railroad, the Who. I started dabbling in that type of sound.
So how did My Children +2 turn into Kool & Together?
We never played on Sunday—we were brought up in the church—and we were offered a show one Sunday, and my dad wanted to do it to recoup some of the losses we’d had. We refused. After that, he kind of gave up and stopped managing the band. I took over, and we changed the name.
Your song “Hooked on Life” sounds like you had some problems with your sidemen.
I hated musicians—I mean, I hated drugs, liquor. A lot of musicians that played in our band wanted to do drugs, drink, smoke on stage. They didn’t like how I ran things, so we had turnover. I was always high on my music. My brothers too. Well, maybe not my baby brother! We stayed away from stuff like that. Now, I’m not going to lie. There were women.
You seemed wary of the business.
In a small town, the chances of actually making it were very slim. We never thought about chucking our day jobs, because we had families and responsibilities. Once, my father bought time at a studio in Corpus Christi. We went down there and recorded all these great songs. The following weekend we went back to mix them down, and the studio was gone. On the way back, my dad was so distraught we had a wreck. You don’t forget stuff like that.
How did the CD happen?
Noel Waggener [of Heavy Light Records] called and asked for our masters. I’m happy. It’s what my daddy wanted. We made our little mark, I guess. If we had really made it, my brothers and I would probably be washed out now, drunk, divorced. But we’re not. Maybe it wasn’t for us to make it then. Maybe now—maybe this is it. I’m not that sure, but I’m going to try.