Cameo’s ’80s funk still in the groove

In the 1980s, the R&B/funk group Cameo hit the mainstream with singer Larry Blackmon leading the way with his signature red codpiece and famous “owww”catchphrase.
Now, more than 30 years later, Cameo continues to tour and will perform its classic funk jams Saturday alongside R&B stars Morris Day & the Time, and Steve Arrington at the Fantastic Funk Jam, presented by radio station V103 (WVAZ-FM), at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.

The group has been bringing its brand of funk and R&B to the masses since the 1970’s when Blackmon founded the band with other musicians performing in clubs in the tri-state New York area and Michigan.
Originally called the New York City Players, the band changed their name because it was similar to another group, the Ohio Players, Blackmon said.
“We changed our name to Cameo because at the time when playing clubs it was important that each individual can perform more than one thing,” Blackmon said.  “So if you played an instrument it would help if you could do vocals. So it was a more or less cameo performance by each of the members.”
The group had already enjoyed success with hits such as “Shake Your Pants,” “She’s Strange” and “Style” but the release of the “Word Up” album in 1986 helped catapult them to superstardom.  It also began a signature style that Blackmon continues to rock to this day.
“At the very beginning, we all had codpieces on our outfits,” Blackmon said.  “When we were shooting the video for “Word Up” the costume director decided that I would be the only one wearing a cod piece and it would be red.  That’s how it started.”
Pair the codpiece with Blackmon’s “Owww” catchphrase and fans could hardly forget the funk band.
“It was something that was natural,” Blackmon said of the catchphrase.  “Sugarfoot [Leroy Bonner of the Ohio Players] was the first person I heard use it but I wasn’t thinking of him when I used it.”
Cameo recently completed a tour in England and regularly performs nationally in countries such as Japan and France, Blackmon said.  The group plans to release a double CD of new material in late spring.
Blackmon said he enjoys Chicago because of the down to earth people and for one other city haunt.
“I love the seafood restaurant in the Drake Hotel,” Blackmon said.  “I’ve been going there for at least 28 years and they have excellent Dover sole.”