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Cameo is an American soul-influenced funk group that formed in 1974. Cameo was initially a 14-member group known as the New York City Players; this name was later changed to Cameo, because there was already another band using that name. When his manager asked him to choose a new name for the band, Larry Blackmon saw a billboard ad for Cameo cigarettes outside of the window of the hotel he was staying at, and chose that name.
|Origin||New York, New York, United States|
As of 2009, some of the original members continue to perform together, while two others were hired by the hip hop group Outkast. In 2015, Cameo announced a new residency show at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, opening in March 2016. On February 20, 2019, Larry Blackmon of Cameo announced "El Passo", the first new single from the band in 19 years.Cameo topped the R&B charts for more than a decade , has sold more than 18 million albums and is considered one of the most popular Funk/ Soul bands of its era.
1974-1979: Formation and early yearsEdit
In 1974, Cameo started out with 14 members created by Larry Blackmon and called the New York City Players. Signed by Casablanca Records to its Chocolate City imprint in 1976, the group soon changed its name to Cameo after their manager informed them that was already a band called The New York City 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 Haras Fyre (also known as Pat Grant) on trombone. They released one self-titled album in 1973 on the independent label Encounter.
Cameo started with a deep, funk sound, but it was obvious from the start their sights were set on the dance floor. Their first album was Cardiac Arrest which featured its first hit single, "Rigor Mortis". Ugly Ego, We All Know Who We Are, and Secret Omen contained dance floor songs such as "I Just Want To Be" and "Find My Way", the latter of which was a major disco smash and was included on the Thank God It's Friday soundtrack. ("Find My Way" was their cover of a 1972 Three Degrees and a 1969 Tymes tune.)
1980-1992: Mainstream breakthroughEdit
By the time Cameosis came out in 1980, it reached 25 on the Billboard 200 and was their greatest position yet. Cameo had gained considerable momentum in the charts through recent releases. Albums such as 1981's Knights of the Sound Table and 1982's Alligator Woman saw the band playing up their eclectic style. The latter album reached 23 compared to the former releases 44 which did not spawn a major single, whilst out performing Cameosis for highest charting album in the Billboard Hot 100 at that point. However, the Alligator Woman eponymous single failed to reach the top 100 and only charted in the Top R&B charts, reaching 54. The band released She's Strange in 1984, which performed well and hit 26 on the Billboard 200. The album also contained the eponymous single that become the band's first charting Billboard Hot 100 track (excluding bubbling under), hitting 47 on the chart.
1985's album Single Life, featuring the title track and "Attack Me With Your Love", hit 3 on the Top R&B chart and continued the band's momentum, paving the way for what was to come the following year. The single "Word Up!" hit the radio airwaves in mid-1986 and reached 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, thus becoming their highest charting single. The album also hit numbers 8 and 1 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B charts respectively, becoming their highest charting album.
Two years later, Cameo released Machismo to mixed critical reviews and dropped to chart at numbers 10 and 56 on the Top R&B and Billboard 200 respectively. Cameo then followed up with 1990's Real Men... Wear Black and 1992's Emotional Violence both of which failed to reach the charts. The previous release was followed by two compilation albums in between the time of their next recording.
1994-2000: Later yearsEdit
In 1994, In the Face of Funk was released on the band's independent label and hit 10 on the Top R&B chart. This album was then followed by a 6-year unofficial hiatus with several compilation releases, until the next album Sexy Sweet Thing in 2000. The album hit 64 on the Top R&B chart, and is their most recent charting release.
2000-2016: Inactivity/unofficial hiatusEdit
These years saw a great period of inactivity and unofficial hiatus, in which time 6 compilation albums were released. Blackmon is thought to own the band's moniker regardless of activity within the band at a given time and is thus virtually always active. The compilation albums released in this period were, in chronological order: The Hits Collection (2000), 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Cameo (2001), Anthology (2002), Classic Cameo (2003), The Best of Cameo (2004), Gold (2005), and The Definitive Collection (2006).
2016-Present: Recent yearsEdit
In March 2016, Cameo began a year-long Las Vegas residency show at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. On February 20, 2019, Blackmon announced the upcoming release of "El Passo", the first new Cameo single in 19 years, the release failed to chart.
Aaron Mills continues to tour with Cameo as well as other artists. He has worked with Outkast, playing on their singles "Ms. Jackson" and “Prototype”, among other tracks. Ex-Cameo vocalist John Kellogg became an entertainment lawyer, representing such artists as The O'Jays, the late Gerald Levert, and LSG. He also pursued a career in music industry higher education, becoming Assistant Chair of the Music Business/Management department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Gregory B. Johnson has released two CDs on his own label, Allspice Record Co. — in 2007 "A New Hip", which is a smooth Jazz CD, and in 2012 Funk Funk (Just For A Little Time), an urban funk CD.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 95. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
- Griffith, Spencer. "Bassist Aaron Mills' best years may be ahead of him | Music Feature | Independent Weekly". Indyweek.com. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
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