Cameo is an American soul-influenced funk group that formed in the early 1970s. Cameo was initially a 13-member group known as the New York City Players; this name was later changed to Cameo to avoid a lawsuit from Ohio Players,another group from that era.
As of 2009, some of the original members continue to perform together, while two others were hired by thehip hop group Outkast. Cameo was a top R&B/Funk band in an era with notable peers such as: Rick James, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bar-Kays, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ohio Players and The Isley Brothers, and singers like Marvin Gaye, Billy Paul, Prince, Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder, and Bootsy Collins.
In 1974, Cameo started out with 10 members created by Larry Blackmon and called the New York City Players. Signed by Casablanca Records to theirChocolate 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 lateGwen 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. The first hit single "Rigor Mortis" was the start of Cameo's hit-studded career; it went gold. 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 majordisco smash and was included on the soundtrack to Thank God It's Friday. But the sleeper hit in the movie was "It's Serious".
The height of Cameo's career was in the 1980s, particularly Word Up! with its hits, "Word Up!" and "Candy". The writers of "Word Up", Cameo's biggest hit, were Larry Ernest Blackmon (founder and front man) and Thomas Michael Jenkins (member of the group).
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'sAlligator 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. 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. Next, 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 ofWarner Bros. Records. It also saw the absence of Nathan Leftenant, but the return of guitarist Charlie Singleton as one of "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").