This US soul/funk act, originally called the New York City Players, was formed in 1974 by Larry “Mr. B” Blackmon (b. New York City, New York, USA; drums, vocals) and vocalists Tomi Jenkins and Nathan Leftenant. Building up a strong following by
undergoing rigorous touring schedules, with their backing group at times numbering almost a dozen members, they signed with the Casablanca subsidiary label Chocolate City, where they recorded their 1977 debut, Cardiac Arrest, produced by Blackmon. Touring alongside Parliament and Funkadelic enhanced their reputation and subsequent album releases gained modest positions in the US pop chart. In Britain, they enjoyed a loyal cult following, but it was not until their seventh album release, Knights Of The Sound Table, that they were afforded an UK release. However, in 1984, the single “She’s Strange” crossed over into the pop market and Cameo found themselves with their first UK Top 40 single. After the success of the following year’s “Single Life” (UK Top 20), “She’s Strange” was remixed and peaked at number 22. Three sell-out shows at London’s Hammersmith Odeon followed. Having won over the UK pop market, it was not until 1986 that they finally broke into the US Top 40 chart; “Word Up” had reached number 3 in the UK, and subsequently reached number 1 in the US R&B chart and number 6 in the Billboard pop chart. Having trimmed down the group to the core trio of Blackmon, Jenkins and Leftenant, and only using additional session players when necessary, Blackmon attracted most of the media attention. His image was helped in no small degree by the expansive, bright red codpiece he wore on stage. Blackmon’s own studio, Atlanta Artists, allowed him almost total control over Cameo’s sound and helped him to promote and nurture local musical talent. By the 90s, their commercial success had dramatically waned, but they continue to tour and release the occasional new album.