Danny Kongos: Guitarist, Singer, and Songwriter For A Real-Life Band of Brothers
If you’ve ever wondered how heredity and environment shapes a person, or in this case, four people, look no further than the band Kongos.
The popular, groundbreaking alternative rock band consists of the four musically-gifted Kongos brothers: Johnny (accordion, keyboards, vocals), Jesse (drums, percussion, vocals), Dylan (bass guitar, lap slide guitar, vocals), and Danny (guitar, vocals).
And, we have their dad to thank for all of this musical talent.
John Kongos is a well-respected South African/British rock star, singer, songwriter, session musician, producer, engineer, and music composer. He is best known for his 1970’s UK Top-Ten hit singles, “He’s Gonna Step on You Again,” and “Tokoloshe Man.” Fortunately for us, Daddy Kongos always had music playing in his house. John owned a vast, eclectic record collection and exposed his four sons at an early age to a wide range of musical genres from around the world: rock, delta blues, jazz, South African township music, and more.
Although Danny was born in Johannesburg, South Africa (his three brothers were born in London), the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, the hometown of their mother, Shelley, in the mid-90s. All four brothers attended Chaparral High in Scottsdale (just seven miles from the FMIC Gretsch Team’s office) and each attended Arizona State University.
Formed in 2003 when they were teenagers, Kongos released their first album in 2007 and had a breakthrough year in 2014 with the U.S. release of their platinum-selling Lunatic album. Two of the album’s songs, “I’m Only Joking” and “Come With Me Now” (a #1 hit on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart), received a lot of radio and TV attention and lead to a record deal with Epic Records. Their third album, Egomaniac, was released in 2016 and scored the Top-Ten alternative hit, “Take It From Me.”
Kongos is the definition of a truly self-contained band. All four brothers are involved in songwriting, singing, producing, engineering, mixing, and even directing their music videos. They also produce a weekly podcast series, “The Front Lounge,” and recently released “Bus Call,” an eight-part documentary series showing the honest reality of what it’s really like being a family rock band and touring by bus.
In January 2019, Kongos released their fourth studio album, 1929, Part 1 (which already has over two million streams on Spotify), and promoted their new album with a six-week national winter tour. The album has garnered 5-star reviews, and although it showcases the band’s trademark stellar musicianship, lyrics, melodies, and unique rhythms, it also finds the brothers exploring new musical directions with a tasty mix of rock, folk, pop, and even funk.
After the tour, the brothers were back again in the studio recording the stockpile of songs written over the past three years. The band plans on releasing both 1929, Part 2 and 1929, Part 3 follow-up albums by the end of the year.
Danny, the youngest of the four Kongos brothers and the band’s guitarist, learned his first chords from his dad. The Gretsch Guitar Artist plays a black sparkle Electromatic Jet Baritone guitar (which was featured on their hit, “I’m Only Joking”), and has also been spotted playing a Chet Atkins 6120 Hollow Body at times.
In a 2016 video interview with Guitar Player Magazine, Danny talked about the guitars he used in recording the band’s 2016 Egomaniac album. “I used a Gretsch Country Gentleman for some of the more lush, warm parts,” shared Danny, “It’s a really beautiful guitar.” When asked who influenced him the most as a young guitarist, Danny said with a smile, “Jeff Beck was the first guy to get me into guitar, for sure. And I’ve been trying to steal from him ever since then.”
Enjoy “Pay For The Weekend” from Kongos’ new album, 1929, Part 1.
Feature photo: Danny playing his Electromatic Jet Baritone at St. Andrew’s Music Hall in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Taylor Ohryn.