Cameo is an American soul-influenced funk group that formed in the early 1970s. Cameo was initially a 14-member group known as the New York City Players; this name was later changed to Cameo to avoid being confused with Ohio Players another funk group in the 1970s.
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 March 2016.
In 1974, Cameo started out with 10 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 concerns that 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 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.)
The height of Cameo's career was in the 1980s, particularly Word Up! with its hits, "Word Up!" and "Candy".
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.
1985's album Single Life, featuring the title track and "Attack Me With Your Love" continued the band's momentum, paving the way for what was to come the following year. The song "Word Up!" hit the radio airwaves in mid-1986.
Two years later, Cameo would release Machismo to lukewarm pop response but favorable critical reviews and R&B success. 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 Leftenant, but the return of guitarist Charlie Singleton as one of the "main" members. Leftenant 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. In 1994 In the Face of Funk was released and got some club play, a single release, and at least one track that received critical acclaim (for "You Are My Love").
Cameo began a new residency show at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, opening March 2016. The show, produced by Red Mercury Entertainment, continues into 2017.
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 hit 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 2 CDs on his own label, Allspice Record Co. "A New Hip" which is a smooth Jazz CD in 2007. "Funk Funk (Just For A Little Time)" in 2012 which is an urban funk CD.
Main article: Cameo discography
- Cardiac Arrest (1977)
- We All Know Who We Are (1977)
- Ugly Ego (1978)
- Secret Omen (1979)
- Cameosis (1980)
- Feel Me (1980)
- Knights of the Sound Table (1981)
- Alligator Woman (1982)
- Style (1983)
- She's Strange (1984)
- Single Life (1985)
- Word Up! (1986)
- Machismo (1988)
- Real Men... Wear Black (1990)
- Emotional Violence (1991)
- In the Face of Funk (1994)
- Sexy Sweet Thing (2000)