Montreal’s Boogie Wonder Band has performed for more than 2.5 million spectators over the past 15 years at some 2,500 concerts in 450 cities around the world. Those numbers are mind-boggling when you think Boogie Wonder Band are essentially a 1970s-disco cover band.
“We’ve been very fortunate to play with a lot of people, at very small shows but also at very big shows,” says Boogie Wonder Band co-founder Boogie Cindy. “I remember once we were hired to play a private party in the Bahamas. They flew us in, put us up at the very expensive Atlantis Hotel and we then played a very small show for about 20 people!”
Cindy remembers another show headlining a casino in Macau, China. “It’s probably the only place in the world where we performed YMCA and they didn’t know the song. That never happened to us before, YMCA is a sure song. But this crowd had no idea. So this is where one must be professional: ‘I don’t care, I’m still going to give them everything I got.’”
Cindy has been playing music since she was three-years-old.
“When I was very young I wanted to play the organ but then I discovered bass and dance music,” says Cindy, who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, but would soon move to Montreal and take bass lessons from McGill graduate Rhonda Smith, who joined Prince’s New Power Generation band with another Montrealer, Kat Dyson (read POP TART’s interview with Kat by clicking here).
“That lead me to play funk music,” Cindy says.
Concerts by the 10-piece Boogie Wonder Band – featuring band members with the names Eddie Toussaint, Dr. Tony Fever, Luke Andersen, Jack Wrangler, Isaac “The Jam” Washington, Marky de Sax, Honey Jaz Jackson, Cadillac Jones, Stardust as well as Boogie Cindy – feature fun choreography and some pretty funky outfits.
“The clothes are my favourite part!” says Cindy. “Right now we have about ten different costumes. When we have a costume made, it’s for the whole band. We choose a theme. We’ll be wearing our newest costume in Montreal [this weekend] – all I can say is they’re red, white and blue and we [debuted] them at our Mardi Gras concert in New Orleans [earlier this week].”
Over the years Boogie Wonder Band have shared stages with many of the acts they cover in their own show, like Gloria Gaynor. “We backed her up at an AIDS [benefit] many years ago. She listened to us and said, ‘I agree, they’re good enough for me.’ Then onstage she had no voice.”
Boogie Wonder Band have also shared the stage with Kool and the Gang a half-dozen times over the years. “We’ve played with them with [their former lead singer] JT Taylor and without. JT joined us onstage to sign Ladies Night once, and that was pretty cool.”
In the end, classic disco endures because it is essentially happy music. As Harry Wayne Casey (aka KC of KC and the Sunshine Band) once told me, “Disco was feel-good music that delivered on the promises of the 1960s.”
Cindy agrees wholeheartedly. “This is also what we see at our shows – whether you are sad or aren’t feeling well – for two hours you forget about it all. Disco is fun. The music will make you feel good.”