dopeness right here
Formed in 1974, Cameo started out as a 13-member group created by former Juilliard student and New York-area clubgoer Larry Blackmon (late of Black Ivory), called the New York City Players. Signed by Casablanca Records to their Chocolate City imprint in 1976, the group soon changed its name to Cameo after concerns “New York City Players” might cause confusion between them and the funk band Ohio Players. Prior to this, Blackmon, keyboardist Gregory Johnson, and the late Gwen Guthrie, formed the band East Coast, together with James Wheeler (alto saxophone), Melvin Whay (bass), Michael Harris (percussion), and Pat Grant (trombone). They released one self-titled album in 1973, on the independent label Encounter. Cameo started with a deep, funky sound, but it was obvious from the start their sights were set on the dance floor. Their first albums Cardiac Arrest, Ugly Ego, We All Know Who We Are, and Secret Omen contained dance floor songs such as “Rigor Mortis”, “I Just Want To Be” and “Find My Way,” the latter which was a major disco smash and was included on the soundtrack to Thank God It’s Friday.
By the time Cameosis came out in 1980, Cameo had gained considerable momentum through singles such as “Shake Your Pants”. Albums such as 1981’s Knights of the Sound Table and 1982’s Alligator Woman saw the band playing up their eclectic style.
However, by the mid-1980s Blackmon and crew were ready to move on. With Alligator Woman in 1982, Cameo stripped down to “five main members”, still keeping a full band for shows. Then Gregory Johnson quit, making it a quartet: Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins, Nathan Leftenant, and Charles Singleton; keyboardist Kevin Kendricks would later be brought more into the creative fold. Blackmon also moved from New York City to Atlanta, Georgia and started his own label Atlanta Artists, which was distributed by Polygram. Inspired by the edgy synthesizer arrangements being pushed forward by the new wave groups of the time, he moved the band into a hard-core “electronic funk” direction. It utilized heavily sequenced drum machines, bass and occasional horn arrangements. He put his trademark “Ooow!” into the forefront of Cameo’s mixes and markedly changed their sound. Cameo’s 1983 release Style was one of the first to come from this new label and was the first disc to capitalize on Cameo’s new sound. She’s Strange came out in 1984 and its “12-inch mix” was a major smash in the R&B clubs. The title track and its follow-up, “Talkin’ Out the Side of Your Neck”, were minor successes on the pop charts. 1985’s Single Life was also an R&B hit that saw some crossover success. With this album, Singleton left the group, but continued to work with Cameo from time to time as a friend of the band.
Word Up! hit radio airwaves in mid-1986. Critically acclaimed with large amounts of club and radio airtime, the resulting album Word Up! turned Cameo into superstars. The follow-up tracks, “Candy” and “Back and Forth”, were also huge hits for the funk trio.
Two years later, Cameo would release Machismo to lukewarm pop response but favorable critical reviews and R&B success. Kendricks left the band at this point. 1990’s Real Men Wear Black and 1992’s Emotional Violence failed to reach the same commercial success of Word Up!. By this time, after their departure from Polygram on to their new label, Reprise, Blackmon represented himself (besides his band-activities and side-productions) as A&R-agent for this label, a division of Warner Bros. Records. It also saw the absence of Nathan Leftnant, but the return of guitarist Charlie Singleton as one of “main” members. Leftnant returned again for the next album, which they released on a new label (Way 2 Funky/Raging Bull), and recorded at their next headed location, Miami, Florida. 1994 saw the release of In the Face of Funk that got some club play and a single release, but for the most part, Cameo’s reign was over.
Oh these cats was funky!!!!!