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T-Connection really got started with the vision of its leader Theophilus Coakley who grew up on the music of Tony McKay, Freddie Munnings Sr., Beginning Of The End and funk music of the seventies in America. The fusion that resulted in the music of T-Connection began to take shape in Nassau at the Out Island Bar of the Nassau Beach Hotel. Although they drew record crowds on the local Nassau music scene, the group found its claim to fame in the city of Freeport in the mid-seventies.

At the invitation of Thomas Mailis, T (as he is affectionately called by all) moved to the Kiki Rouge, later renamed the Connection Room, right in the heart of downtown Freeport. Marco City, (the political boundary in which Freeport is located) was a quiet city with little entertainment during those years. Jay Mitchell would have been the most popular musician at that time.

While Nassau was enjoying a buzzing night life during the seventies with groups like Ronnie Butler & The Ramblers, Kenny & The Beach Boys, King Eric & His Knights, Soulful Groovers, Sweet Exorcist, Mighty Makers, and Rupert & The Rolling Coins, T-Connection would develop themselves and become the custodians of the nightlife in Freeport.

Meanwhile, groups like Earth Wind & Fire, Parliament Funkadelics, Ohio Players, Brass Construction, Bee Gees, Slave, and so many other American bands were enjoying great success in the South Florida area. Of course being right next door, their music greatly influenced what was being done in the Bahamas.


Click play to hear T speak about T.K. Records experience (Coakley, 2004) -

Interview by Charles Carter - Island FM

T.K. Records, the label on which T-Connection would be signed, came about as a result of success which the group The Beginning Of The End had with "Funky Nassau". It is said that Henry Stone, who was in the business of distributing records made so much money from Funky Nassau, he decided to form a record company.

Around that same time, the mid seventies, Gary Davis created his international hit "Funk Machine", and Freeport began to develop quite a unique sound that would even influence many of the popular groups from South Florida. In particular, the influences are quite evident in the work of K.C. & The Sunshine Band and other artists who signed with T.K. Records. 

T would use the sound of goombay and junkanoo as the foundation for the fusion with the disco and funk music that he played so well. Monty Brown recalls, "T didn't want to be the best in the Bahamas, he wanted to prove to the critics that we were just as good or even better than all of these bands that were recording during that period." (Brown, 2004) With that attitude, T got Gladstone Adderley to assist them as a vocal coach for a time in order to improve even their vocal skills as a group.

T-Connection got their first major hit with the song "Disco Magic" and then achieved a great follow-up with "Do What You Wanna Do" which became #1 and set a record in the Billboard charts for maintaining that position for eight straight weeks. These two songs in particular would propel the group to international stardom. The author was in school in Miami at the time, and attended dances and parties, which rocked with this music, totally unaware that the artists were Bahamians. The sound was different from the other groups of the day, and only later did I realize that I was so attracted to the beat because of the ever so subtle fusion of disco with goombay and junkanoo rhythms, creating a mix for great dance music.

These hits afforded these Bahamians the opportunity to travel throughout America. "The experience was mind blowing, I never saw so many people in my life" (Brown, 2004). Touring mainly the Eastern Seaboard and the Mid-West was an unforgettable time according to T. He described this whole experience as going to heaven. Cargill Creek, Andros would certainly have been proud of its native son at that point. In an interview with Charles Carter, T credits Leroy 'Duke' Hanna who gave him his start in the music business at the age of 16 back in Small Hope, Andros. His first recording was done with Duke on his album entitled 'Small Hope'. George Symonette also greatly influenced the playing style adopted by T.

T also recalls that Berkley was always the life of the band. In fact, wherever he goes, people still ask, where's Berkley? probably due in part to his outrageous stage personality - colored wigs, high heeled boots, star studded shades, and brightly colored wide legged pants (similar to funk bassist Bootsy Collins).

In listening to the T-Connection band, the classical training received by T as a child clearly shines through. Others in the band, who included his brother Kirk Coakley, Monty Brown, Dave Mackey, Berkley VanByrd, and Anthony Flowers (presently performing with Baha Men), would follow the lead of T's discipline and musicianship.

The author had the pleasure meeting T at the age of seventeen, having recently graduated high school in Miami, Florida and invited to play with a band called Willpower which also appeared at The Connection Room. At the suggestion of the bandleader Gladstone McEwan, I went to T for assistance in purchasing a valve trombone in order to accept Willpower’s invitation. He also remembers walking into their condo at Casa Bahama and hearing them live for the first time. The synthesizers stacked on top of one another, drum practice pads, pig nose mini amps, and all the toys that musicians dream about were set up in the main living area. They were preparing to go back into the recording studio and sounded absolutely wonderful. At the end of the rehearsal, I had a chat with T, and without hesitation, he provided the funds for my first instrument. To this day, T. Coakley remains a very giving and fine gentleman.

T went on to become perhaps The Bahamas's most prolific composer/arranger of all time. His orchestrations in the many albums that he recorded, clearly demonstrate the wealth of his musical knowledge. The bar set by the T-Connection is unsurpassed by any Bahamian band then and now, in my humble opinion.


Click play to hear T speak about his favorite album, "Pure & Natural" (Coakley, 2004) -

Interview by Charles Carter - Island FM

T's frustration with the recording industry came when Capitol Records assigned a producer that really didn't understand the philosophy and desired direction of the band. The contract obliged T-Connection to do one more recording, after which T exercised the option to get out of the contract.


Click play to hear T speak about leaving Capitol Records (Coakley, 2004) -

Interview by Charles Carter - Island FM

Sadly, our radio stations are only now starting to recognize the invaluable contribution made by this great composer and his fine band. With stations like Island FM and Love 97 playing more Bahamian music, the author looks forward to the day when all stations, as influencers of public taste, would dedicate a greater proportion  of their air time to the promotion of our very own great musicians, like T-Connection.