Disco had swallowed up half the Earth by the mid-1970s
. But there was a problem: aside from a few stars, most disco was a faceless, producer-driven music. Could you tell Patrick Cowley from Patrick Adams? Giorgio Moroder
was that moustachioed guy who spoke with a funny accent, so that was no problem. But did any of us hang Van McCoy and Michael Zager posters on our bedroom walls? I don't think so.
Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band - with a nucleus including Stony Browder, his brother August Darnell, sumptuous chantoozy Cory Daye, and vibraphonist "Sugar Coated" Andy Hernandez - was an attempt to make disco with a human face. It was "progressive disco", perhaps.
In place of generic "dance dance dance" or "love me, love me" lyrics, there was a plotline, and a look of 40s retro, and lyrics seasoned with wit and style - this was radio's "theatre of the mind" crossed with old-fashioned Hollywood musicals.
"Cherchez La Femme" (1976) was the Top 40 hit; it had the required disco thump, but they employed a cool latin variant (not far removed from the intro to McCoy's "The Hustle"). Plus big band arrangements, tastefully done - not some cheesy grafting of Glenn Miller with a four-on-the-floor kick drum, as some producers had belched onto the market. Daye's voice floated above the mix like an angel with a gardenia in her hair.
But Darnell and company were still caught between a rock and a hard place. The disco audience just wanted to dance - notions of subtlety and concept albums be damned. And the genre was suffering a backlash in the general
public. Plus it was still a faceless music - "disco band" was an oxymoron, for the most part. So the Savannah Band edged their way out of disco, then went on hiatus; Darnell and Hernandez (renamed "Coati Mundi") formed Kid Creole and the Coconuts, grafting a downtown-NYC vibe to the concept. When Creole took off, at least with the critics, the OSB comeback/reunion was put on hold.
Daye had a small solo hit with "Pow Wow"; she and Browder would later become, on occasion, floating members of the Creole troupe.