Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a saxophonist and co-founding member of Kool & The Gang, has reportedly passed away. He was 70.
A cause of death has not yet been announced publicly. However the band issued a statement, revealing Thomas died in his sleep in New Jersey.
“An original member of Kool & The Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” the group said in a statement, according to Yahoo Entertainment.
The statement continues: “A huge personality while also an extremely private person, Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. Dennis’ prologue featured on the group’s 1971 hit, ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’ is legendary and an example of his showmanship. Dee Tee was the group’s wardrobe stylist who made sure they always looked fresh. In the band’s early days, Dennis also served as the ‘budget hawk,’ carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn.”
Thomas’ involvement with Kool & The Gang has spanned nearly 60 years. In 1964, seven Jersey City teenagers, including brothers Ronald “Khalis” Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell and their friends “Dee Tee,” Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith, formed a band first called the Jazziacs.
Subsequently the band would adopt the name Kool & The Gang in 1969 – the same year they released their self-titled debut album.
Thomas was featured on every album Kool & The Gang released, including their upcoming 25th LP Perfect Union.
Last month, Thomas was a part of Kool & The Gang’s 4th of July concert at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. The band added Saturday that “sadly, this was Dennis’ farewell appearance with the band.”