The Kokomo Time Band to celebrate 20 years

Merritt Wine Fest 2005

The Kokomo Time Band was initiated in 1999 by Jim Steffan with the concept of playing a mix of tropical/pop “feel good tunes” and a fun, colorful look with Hawaiian shirts and light khakis.

For about the first year the band was actually called The Kokomo Joe Band. Members included: Tommy Gestwicki (guitar), Eli Tederous (bass), Sabrina Cooper (vocals), Ian Mutch (keyboards), Jim Steffan (drums and band leader). All members contributed to the vocals as is the case today. That initial phase included a mix of Blues, Trop Rock, Reggae, and Calypso. It seemed at that time that “the market was not quite ready for what we were developing,” says Steffan, and so members went off in various directions.

During the summer of 2000, Jim worked at keeping the concept alive, playing various local venues including the Summer Wind with Bill Hermanson (keyboards) and Gestwicki as the Kokomo Duo /Trio .

In the fall/winter of 2000-01, the band became Kokomo Time with the slogan: Make your party time Kokomo time. They entered another phase of progressive development mixing Tropical (Belafonte/Buffett) with ’70s-type pop oldies like Jay & the Americans, The Tokens, Ritchie Valens, as well as some Texas Tornados, so as to include warm weather musical elements from around the Gulf of Mexico. Band members included Gestwicki, Steffan, Gary Gilroy (keyboards), Joey Glarner, Todd Weinke, and Jason Schlinder (bass), and occasionally Mickey Vega, Dave Reynolds, and Doug Steffan (congas and percussion).

This phase of development went on quite successfully for three years, playing events like Dunkirk fests, Merritt Wine Festival, the Grape Festival, Angola Tomato Fest, Jamestown Labor Day fests and various community park concerts.

Pictured is the Kokomo Time Band performing on a Sunday afternoon at Rumm Runners in 2006. The band has been around for 20 years.

At the end of the summer of 2003, people were off in new directions again, and a new phase of Kokomo Time was formed with Jim Steffan, Bill Kane (accordion and keyboards), Brian Bundy (guitar), and Doug Steffan (multiple percussion and vocals). This phase was very successful playing venues like the Crazy Parrot, the Margarita Grill, Lucy Fests, Erie County Fair, and Orchard Park Caribbean Nights as well as expanding out to more area community park concerts.

“These guys were motivated, dedicated, hard working and focused,” said Steffan, the band leader. It was during this phase of progress and development that Brian Bundy coined the title that stuck: the Kokomo Time Band.

After three successful years, a repertoire of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s Beach Boys, Buffett, Calypso, Tex-Mex, and Cajun Zydeco, built a strong foundation for the future.

Steffan and Bundy (guitar 12 years) added a fabulous keyboard player in Jeff McChesky from Jamestown (10-year member), and Jake Rednock (bass, 1 year.) Rednock had vigorous work committments at that time and had to move on. James Iarocci and his father Jim Iarocci (Fibs Reggae Band of Buffalo) as well as Spencer Drake and Warren Sischo of Jamestown — all fine bassists — played many events. Russ Faracci, the band’s fabulous web designer also joined the band in numerous events on congas/percussion. A sample of his graphic work can be seen at http://www.kokomotimeband.com/

This band has had the honors of Playing the 2014 Buffalo Italian Festival, Orchard Park Caribbean Night (10 years in a row), the City of Niagara Falls Memorial Day, and July 4th Independence Day festivals (4 years) to name a few events.

NorthTonawanda Concert by the River 2018.

In the spring of 2015, Bundy, after a dedicated 12+ years to the Kokomo Time Band, moved on to start his own ’90s band called ‘White Bronco’ which still does a fine job and is about to celebrate their fifth anniversary.

Moving forward, Drake who was very familiar with everything the band was doing, took over the lead guitar position along with Sischo ( 6+ year member on bass and baritone guitar) adding great sounds. Some of their contributions can still be seen on the Kokomo Time Band Facebook page.

Other musical “pinch hitters” who have made beautiful contributions include: Dougy Seymour (steel guitar), Kenny Larson (keyboards), Don Don LaDolce (guitar), Jimmy Calavita (sax Jazzuary fame), Michael O’Boyle (keyboards), and Billy Eckstrom of Germaine Papalardo Music — Jamestown (guitar and bass).

The current version of the Kokomo Time Band includes Drake on guitar, John Guras (of Black Diamond and Jam Stars, Erie Pa.) on keyboard, Vince Micciche (of Jamestown) on bass, and band leader Steffan on drums.

The Kokomo Time Band has a lot of musical/cultural depth. “Thematically with some 300 songs, we offer a lot of fun options for various types of theme parties,” Steffan said. “We could do a Trop Night/Beach Party theme with Buffett, Belafonte, Bellamy Brothers and Beach Boys; an Oldies Night with a vast array of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s; or maybe a Fiesta/Mardi Gras theme with all the Tex-Mex/New Orleans, Cajun Zydeco things we do. The band just completed playing a series of Mardi Gras parties and are scheduled to do a number of Cinco De Mayo parties in May,” Steffan added.

“In 2019, we are adding a whole batch of people engaging sing-along party tunes,” Steffan said. A few artists include Zac Brown, James Brown, Neil Diamond Music Explosion, and Blues Brothers.

“This is our 20th anniversary,” Steffan said. “We’re trying to do very special things. We hope everyone gets to enjoy what we do sometime this summer.”

Steffan applauded all former members of and friends of the Kokomo Time Band, which have made significant and well-appreciated contributions to what is now the 2019 20th anniversary Kokomo Time Band. “We thank everyone so much,” he said.

Anyone interested in seeing the Kokomo Time Band at this phase of development can see about 75 videos, pictures, etc. by looking up Kokomo Time Band on Facebook or their website www.kokomotimeband.com. For more information about possible bookings, call Jim at 679-4311.

Jim Steffan, the leader and only original member of the Kokomo Time band, is from Dunkirk.

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