Friday, June 15, 2012

Kashmere Stage Band Brings ‘Thunder Soul’ to Antone’s

Austin, Texas (June 15, 2012): The Kashmere Stage Band concert originally scheduled for The Scoot Inn has been moved to Saturday June 30th at 9 p.m. at Antone’s, 213 West Fifth Street in Austin. Opening the show will be Austin’s Hard Proof Afrobeat. Advance tickets are available through Ticketfly at

“We are very excited to be working with Antone’s on this show,” says promoter Mal Thursday. “It’s a legendary venue for a legendary band.” 

The 25-piece funk orchestra is the subject of the award-winning documentary Thunder Soul, executive produced by Jamie Foxx, which will have a free public screening on Friday June 29th at 7 p.m. at Orun Center for Cultural Arts, 1720 East 12th Street, presented as part of the Black Media Council’s Liberation Film Series.

In the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas in the late 1960s, musician and composer Conrad O. Johnson, known as "Prof", took a job as Music Director at the predominantly black Kashmere High School where he would go on to transform the school's struggling jazz band into a full-fledged funk powerhouse. The Kashmere Stage Band and their dynamic leader would soon become legendary and world-renowned. 

In the early 1970s, national High School Stage Band competitions were fiercely competitive, strictly conservative, and almost entirely white. Not only did Prof break the color barrier and get his kids into these competitions, he flipped the status quo by rearranging all of his band's music into elaborate funk arrangements. He changed the band's look, encouraging them to embrace their own inimitable style. He then introduced the element of showmanship, with each section choreographing slick moves with their instruments—unprecedented at the time. Finally, he unleashed his band on the competition scene, where, against tremendous odds, they would go on to triumph again and again. 

From 1968 to 1977, the Kashmere Stage Band won a record number of titles around the nation and was invited to perform in Europe and Japan.  Prof and the band made history when they won Most Outstanding Stage Band in the Nation at the highly prestigious All-American High School Stage Band Festival in Mobile, Alabama, in 1972 – the very same year that state’s segregationist Governor George Wallace would announce a run for the presidency.   

Kashmere Stage Band released several records between 1968 and 1978, which became highly prized among funk fans and record collectors. The band’s recordings have been collected by Now Again Records on the essential 2-disc anthology Texas Thunder Soul.
The band’s success reverberated throughout Kashmere High School resulting in unprecedented student achievement in the arts, athletics and all academic disciplines.  Prof and the band’s accomplishments also helped to uplift and unite the community.  As former student Gaila Mitchell put it:

"The Kashmere Stage Band was the best thing that ever happened to our community.  Even in a time when there was so much racial bias, everybody in the community came together to help the Kashmere Stage Band do whatever they needed to do."
Having reunited in 2006 to pay tribute to Johnson, Kashmere Stage Band has carried on with their inimitable live performances. They most recently played Austin at Uncle Billy’s Lake Travis in September 2011, and at La Zona Rosa during South by Southwest 2010.

J.M. Dobies
Industrious Media, Austin, Texas