Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 70. A statement from his representative says Thomas died peacefully in his sleep Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair. The soul-funk band is known for such hits as “Celebration” and “Get Down thereon .”
Thomas’ last appearance with the group was on the Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl in l. a. . Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist, and percussionist. He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. In 1964, seven teen friends created the group’s unique bland of jazz, soul and funk, initially calling themselves the Jazziacs. They went through several iterations before deciding on Kool & the Gang in 1969.