Honey of a reggae sound from The Bees

by Lisa Mahfouz

Daily Cougar Staff

There are killer bees, and then there's The Killer Bees. Not related to their deadly namesake, this multicultural band charms the masses with the sweet sounds of reggae, rock and Latin rhythms.

This musical group has stood the test of time, reinventing reggae music since its best-selling debut album, Groovin', in 1987.

"We've always made a conscious effort to be a music group first, and not just a reggae band," said Malcolm Welbourne, co-founder of the band. "We try to have a little something for everybody."

Over the years, the band has developed a signature sound. If you've never heard it, or seen them in concert, you've been out of the loop, musically speaking.

The Killer Bees' danceable communiqu has sent fans, from Austin to Japan, into feverish frenzies for more than 15 years.

In 1979, Welbourne teamed up with Michael E. Johnson, co-founder and lead singer in their hometown of Shreveport, La.

"Louisiana music and Jamaican music are very closely related," Welbourne said. Johnson agreed with his co-band leader by adding some Jamaican music history.

"In the formidable years of reggae music, Jamaica didn't have their own radio stations ... the music they were getting was coming straight out of New Orleans," Johnson said.

Shreveport was not the place to start a reggae band in the early 1980s, so the guys moved to where else? Austin.

The guys are in the studios recording a new album titled All a Buzz. It is scheduled for release sometime in February, March at the latest, Welbourne said.

Backed by a "killa" horn section, David Kitto (trombone), Kevin Jones (sax and keys), Johny "JB" Banks (trumpet and a heart-hitting rhythm section), Guno Ronde (bass), and Hoppy Hopson, (drums), the two band leaders will command the stage at the Velvet Elvis, 3304 Richmond, Saturday night.

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