For the preferred few with the raw intensity and reckless abandon of hungry warriors out to conquer the musical world lucky enough to be part of Cold War or Illumination, the journey was both inspiring and rewarding. They found a deep and soul filled satisfaction of knowing that they were part of something great that will never be forgotten.
Cold War (1971/1974) was a musical group in the Miami 70's Open House era formed and created by a talented and gifted young guitarist, Richard (Kephas) Gonzalez. As early as young age of 12, with a lot of hard work and many endless nights, Richard practiced to be the best guitarist that he could possibly be............. He did not fail. Soon after, Richard had ideas of forming the next great band. He had the will and determination necessary to take the next step form his ideal band of the future. Along with Richard's childhood friend Justo Sierra (the band's manager), the plan was put in motion.
(Kephas) Richard Gonzalez
From the start Richard Gonzalez (Kephas) looked to form "the super group" and revolutionize the music industry as we all knew it. Richard wanted a special and unique sound that came from the heart and he would settle for nothing less, it was a long and demanding chore but it was one that he was willing to take on, in his heart and soul, he had to. From day one the search for the young untested future Superstars was on, whatever instrument it was, he had to have the "unique" sound apart from the many other bands, that was the way it was as many who tried and failed to join the band found out.
Alex and Eli
For the preferred few with the raw intensity and reckless abandon of hungry warriors out to conquer the musical world lucky enough to be part of Cold War, the journey was both inspiring and rewarding, they found a deep and soul filled satisfaction of knowing that they were part of something great that will never be forgotten. Richard himself, a top of the line guitar player and performer would at any moment stun an always amazed crowd with his signature behind the back guitar playing, as well as with picking his guitar with his teeth while sprawled on his back on stage. All of this of course without remarkably missing a beat.
Albert Acosta ( El Jack )
One of the band's maverick traits before performing anywhere was to meditate for one minute before they started to play, this allowed them to be at the next level of the group's soulful preparation. That did not sit well with some in the crowd, but as always the audience was about to be stunned and surprised with the music explosion of their lives, the boos and hisses turned into cheers and applause as the band would proceeded to kick major music booty each and every time.
The band was offered a recording deal with M&M Records and Justo Sierra, the band's manager at the time declined to accept the same recording studio's terms that many of the other local bands were offered (like Coke and the Antiques). These terms would have given the studio all of the earnings and netted the band nothing but publicity in return, thus killing the deal and hopes for the band's musical legacy.
Manager Justo Sierra
Cold War was very active at their illustrious peak as they played anywhere and everywhere. The band played Open Houses, strip malls, Cruise Ships, Tele-Marathons, Night Clubs, Proms, Hoe downs, Weddings, Schools, Radio Stations, Bar Mitzvahs, 15th Birthday Galas, many outdoor beach concerts, and countless Television appearances in all of Miami's local stations. Cold War also sponsored very popular Weekly Dances in which they organized, produced and promoted in their own Dance hall in the heart of Hialeah.
Cold War shared the stage with many stars of the stage, including the likes of Johnnie Ventura, Fajardo y sus Estrellas, and many other top of the line performers. One of the Bands favorite gigs was playing weekends on the roof top by the pool of the Surfcomber Hotel in Miami Beach to overflowing and delighted crowds. Cold War was highly sought out and regarded by many in the industry as the best band in the south.
Cold War consisted of band leader Richard Gonzalez (Kephas)on lead guitar and vocals, Alberto Acosta on bass and rhythm guitar, Phillip Alvarado, Ito Sargent (from Blue Haze) and Albert Banos on drums, Hector Perez on bass, Alex Sanchez on keyboards, Jose Roque and Wolf on congas and Evelio "Eli" Perez(from Blue Haze) on lead vocals.
The journey however took a detour with the beginning of the disco era with Richard wanting to play a "more meaningful music", thus causing a major rift with some of the band members who wanted to play the more wildly popular top 40 disco dance selections, possibly putting a stop to Richard's vision of soulful originality. Not long after, one fateful night playing an Open House with the Antiques, the insults and disagreements continued, a meeting was called and Richard was voted out of the group. Jimmy Feliciano replaced Richard as it's lead guitarist and Albert Banos took control of the group and changed it's format to the new disco sounds for the new times. But this union did not last long as the band could not get it's act together and did not get any other gigs causing the collapse and end of Cold War.
Richard (Kephas) Gonzalez however was not going to be denied the chance for musical greatness and soon after formed the next "super group "Illumination (1974/1978). This musical group consisted of band leader Richard Gonzalez (Kephas) on lead guitar and vocals, Albert Acosta on guitar and vocals, Adrian Garcia (RIP) on a sizzling bass, Sean Moore and Albert Banos on drums, Wolf and Ibrahim Munoz on congas, Anthony Fortuna on the keyboards, Eli Perez on lead vocals and Debbie Arch as back-up vocalist to complete the group.
Illumination Concert / 1976
Justo Sierra came back as manager of the new group for a short while as he was soon replaced by Pedro and Julia Padron who suggested to give the band a new look, adding a salsa blend to an already full musical repertoire. This move was thought to be necessary to enlarge the band's horizons, they also made it a point to reinvent Eli from a hard rocker to a crooner, bolero style singer in which he quickly adapted and excelled with beautiful Spanish love songs that were simply amazing.
Anthony Fortuna (The Wap)
The band's unique energy filled songs which included many original tunes were featured many times on the Channel 23 shows of Blanquita Amaro and Armando Rodriguez, getting many rave reviews was the band's original Spanish version of "Solo un Beso". The band's lead vocalist Evelio "Eli" Perez was also featured in the band's version of Armando Manzanero's Adoro, delighting the ladies and giving the band another musical dimension in it's arsenal for future venues.
Adrian Garcia (RIP)
Illumination went on to be one of six national finalists for 1975's Florida Y-100's Battle of the Bands, not only beating out hundreds of other aspiring South Florida bands but also earned important bragging rights as the best band that South Florida's music scene had to offer.
They were competing for a record deal with a major label. The group was not only told by some of the judges that they were the best and most original group in the competition, but that they were a shoe in and the heavy favorites to win it all.
But politics and behind the scene deals stunningly ripped away the obvious victory and abruptly ended that dream.
Sadly, Illumination did not last much longer after that perceived betrayal. Some of the members left the band and regroup to play the more popular dance tunes that were so much in demand in those days.
They formed "The Starfire Disco Band" featuring Albert Banos on drums, Anthony Fortuna on keyboards, Hector E. on congas, Albert Acosta on bass, Jimmy Feliciano on lead guitar and Eli and Debbie Arch on vocals, they became a formidable duet where vocals and harmonies was more in demand in the new Disco Era.
Al Banos ( El Caballin )
The band played in Calle Ocho, The Wreck Bar in the Castaways, The Button on the Lauderdale strip and many other clubs, they recorded some original material and became a fixture in the club scene.
Richard (Kephas) continued with Illumination, along with Joe Soria on keyboards, Juan Carlos on rhythm guitar, Julio and Paco Rodriguez on bass, Freddy and Eloy Guanche on drums and Eddy Perez ( RIP ) on lead vocals. (Twin brothers Eddy and Eli had performed together earlier in their musical adventures for another Miami Open House Band "Blue Haze" in 1972)
Eddy and Richard played many clubs in the Lauderdale area, together creating a great friendship between the two that lasted until Eddy's car accident that tragically ended his life on May 19, 2003.
Eddy with Illumination / 1978
But the "musical genius" and legend Richard (Kephas) Gonzalez continued playing under the banner of Illumination in the New York limelight for many years after and as of today he is still playing and recording his music (as Kephas), dedicating his deeply inspirational songs to God.
Although The Cold War and Illumination Bands did nor reach their expected goals, they were clearly ahead of their times, for they will forever live in the hearts and minds of the lucky few that saw this great band. This is our attempt to make things right and put both Cold War and Illumination where it belongs, among the great bands of the 70's Miami Open House Era............................