Back in 1976 August Darnell first rise to notoriety as bass player, vocalist and lyricist for « Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band », one of disco's most unusual ensembles. The brainchild of August's brother Stony Browder Jr., and featuring the vocals of Cory Daye, the vibes work of « Sugar Coated » Andy Hernandez and the jungle drums of Mickey Sevilla, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band was one of the most singular groups ever to cross-over pop. Sounding like a '40s big band with a more modern beat, the band went gold with their first album, including the mighty hit, « Cherchez La Femme ».
By 1979, Darnell swiftly became ZE Records’ in-house producer-ringmaster, helming brilliant productions at the all-night sessions at Blank Tapes which threw together disparate friends, freaks and musicians in different combinations. « Gichy Dan's Beachwood #9 » was one of the first side-projects of Darnell. August, about to leave his older brother Stony Browder’s Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band through frustration at his restrictive bassist-songwriter role. The story goes that Darnell had written a number of tunes that Savannah Band wound up not using, so he called his pal Ronnie Rogers to put together a band featuring the talents of Frank « Pago Pago » aka « Gichy Dan » Passalaqua and vocalist Lourdes Cotto along with a huge roster of musicians whose names would adorn many Darnell-produced album covers in years to come.
Silken-voiced Staten Island crooner Gichy Dan, aka Frank Passalacqua, took his name from Beachwood # 9, an old rock'n'roll number from the 1950s. « We would concoct this romance thing, then make up some profound story, » as Coati Mundi says. Gichy Dan was baby-faced, sweetly dispositioned and everyone adored him. Adriana says, « Gichy Dan would have been a new Johnny Mathis, if he hadn't prematurely died of AIDS. » For August, « Gichy Dan was the precursor to Kid Creole and the Coconuts; had I known it, he would have been Kid Creole. I knew he could handle the material. »
Co-producer of the project was Ron Rogers. Ronnie was a musician, producer, future ZE Records artist, and a great songwriter who was about to get fame with « Deputy of Love » for Don Armando, « Spooks in Space » for Aural Exciters, « Cowboys & Gangsters » for Gichy Dan, and his own 12” Ep « Don’t Play with My Emotions ». Ron also collaborate on various ZE Records’ albums: Cristina’s debut, Aural Exciters, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Don Armando, and produced Snuky Tate’s « He's the Groove » and Caroline Loeb’s debut album for ZE Records.
Rogers, was called « the sunny side of the street » by Village Voice journalist, Carol Cooper. « Darnell was still committed to Savannah band, but had written a batch of songs Savannah couldn't use. So Darnell and Rogers took Juan Cotto, Frank « Gichy Dan » Passalaqua, and Lourdes Cotto into Blank Tapes to manufacture the most intriguing pop album of 1979. Frank Passalaqua and the Cottos were a cagey choice for the vocally demanding collection of ballads and Caribbean-flavored show tunes, for they represented just the right touch of racial and sexual ambiguity to overcome all the usual obstacles to airplay and fame in America. If Elvis was the bridge to white audiences for black music and performers, Gichy Dan was to be the inoffensive way to crossover Darnell's apocryphal troops of south-sea islanders, Caribbean natives, chino-clad immigrants, and zoot-suited fancy men. »
(Carol Cooper Village Voice, 1982)
Gichy Dan's Beachwood #9’s debut album was released on RCA in 1979. Ron Rogers wrote and produced two new tracks for Gichy Dan in 1981 « Cowboy & Gangsters » and « Action Man » released on ZE Records.
When ZE Records was relaunched in 2002, the long forgotten back catalogue went hip again when a new generation discovered through the re-release of the expanded Mutant Disco albums, a timeless brilliant catalogue of songs that Djs would remix or edit. Among them Gichy Dan’s « Cowboy & Gangsters » was re-edited by Social Disco Club and Brennan Green, and « On A Day Like Today » by Theo Parrish and Todd Terje and sampled by Bob Sinclair and Sugarhill Gang. Though these edits they became cult dance hits in the 2000’s.
Frank « Gichy Dan » Passalaqua prematurely died of AIDS, today August Darnell lives in the UK, still touring and records under the name of Kid Creole, Ron Rogers still lives and produces music in N.Y.C.
More than 30 years later this music is still a brilliant demonstration of the originality and talent of these great artists. This expanded reissue with 7 bonus tracks remastered by its original producer Ron Rogers is a tribute to these visionary mavericks.
Michel Esteban, Bahia, 2011.