Cameo frontman Larry Blackmon: ‘Word Up’ was music before its time; paying tribute to Prince

Editor’s Note: As Robin Leach ends his month-long Italian family vacation and gets ready for his annual month-long stay in La Jolla, our next guest columnists today are Nick Hawk, the controversial star of Showtime’s GIGOLOS, set in Las Vegas, and Larry Blackmon, who has led Cameo for four decades. The band is now headlining at Westgate Las Vegas. Here’s Larry:

By Larry Blackmon

Thank you, Robin, for handing me the reigns while you are on vacation. Hello, Las Vegas! After playing together as Cameo for more than 40 years, we celebrate many things, but this year we celebrate 30 years since our hit album “Word Up” was released, and I wanted to talk a little bit about it because “Word Up” was music before its time.

We always made it a point to have our own style of not just R&B but contemporary urban music. Every time I hear “Word Up,” it’s like the first day I heard it. We were in the studio in New York, and the president/CEO of PolyGram Records in New York, Dick Asher, was there along with fellow Cameo band member Tomi Jenkins and the U.K. director.

It was so weird because the song played, and, all of a sudden, there was silence. Then David, managing director of the U.K. PolyGram, stood up and said, “That’s a smash!” Then Dick stood up and said, “That’s a smash!” But it was obvious that Dick didn’t necessarily get it as much as David, who had come up through the ranks in the U.K. He believed that “Word Up” was that significant, impactful, hit, and we felt that way, too.

It just sounded good, and it was before its time. You can play “Word Up” anyplace anywhere, and someone is going to be grooving and bobbing their head. Our sound was unique, as well. I haven’t heard another one like it, and we probably won’t hear another one like it in the future. It was that significant for us.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the album, we want our fans to celebrate along with us. If you are a fan, musician, dancer or just fun, we want you to enter our video submission contest. You can enter at TicketBat.com/Cameo86. Anything from your rendition of your favorite Cameo song, dance move or outfit.

We’re selecting one winner to join us for a special Sept. 3 anniversary show for our big ‪#‎30YearsofWordUp celebration. You also can follow along with ‪#‎Cameo86. We would like to give our appreciation for sticking with this act and believing in this act and having that Cameosis in your heart that made it necessary to follow along with us and be along with this ride. It has been quite a journey, and we appreciate it very much.

The passing of Prince

People throw around the word “genius,” but Prince was a true genius. There are artists who I like to call “streamers,” people who bring to you their interpretation based on how it’s coming to them, and Prince was a consistent streamer. His new material always had something to offer musically, and you would hear so much more in his music than from the average John Q. Michael Jackson’s organization with Quincy Jones was like that, too.

Prince and I were honored to be mentioned in Miles Davis’ autobiography. Davis hosted a birthday party in New York on the East Side in the 1970s, and we were invited. We were sitting at a table, and a member of Miles Davis’ entourage was very talkative, a little beyond what was necessary. Prince leaned over to me and said, “Larry, I can’t take much more of this. I’ll see you guys later.”

It was a little funnier than that, but that impressed me. He was a very private person. He wasn’t very talkative, especially in an environment he wasn’t familiar with, but he was always courteous. That was the last time we had that much time together. We would run into each other occasionally, and it was always a pleasure. He was a class act. When we had our encounters, it was always warm. We both felt like we belonged to a special club.

In turn, there were a lot of people from my organization who Prince would choose to work. They called it the Cameo orientation. The most recent was John Blackwell, who played drums for Prince from 2000 to 2012. Johnny would tell me that Prince used to yell at him and say, “Man, I need that Larry Blackmon funk on the damn drums!”

RIP, His Purple Highness.

Cameo performs Thursdays through Sundays in Cabaret Theater at Westgate Las Vegas. For tickets, visit TicketBat.com/cameo.

Be sure to check out our other guest columnist today, Nick Hawk of Showtime’s GIGOLOS, set in Las Vegas, and our weekly Celebrities in L.V. weekend rundown.

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