Tony O’Malley’s distinctive vocals and funky piano playing have always been key to the sound of UK Soul Pioneers, Kokomo. These skills come to the fore with his own band, in which he’s accompanied by some of Britain’s brightest young talent: Richie Aikman on guitar, Sonny Winslow on bass and Ally McDougal on drums. The average age increases when they’re joined by fellow Kokomo founders, the “guitarists’ guitarist” Neil Hubbard if he’s not on tour with Bryan Ferry, and sax man Mel Collins, if not on duty with King Crimson. The influence of greats like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Richard Tee and Steely Dan is plain to hear in his eleven solo albums. But Tony’s own style, energy and personality shine through in every show, whether on a festival stage or in an intimate jazz club.
Photo credits: Steven Cropper At the tender age of twelve, Tony formed his first band, The Defenders, with his brother Kevin, Julian Harris and Terry Horn from his hometown Harrow-on-the-Hill in North London. They played the local youth clubs and dances until he was fifteen, when he joined Irish showband, The Skyliners from Enniskillen. Life on the road had begun.
The Skyliners worked the Irish clubs up and down the country until Tony was spotted at an audition by Ian Samwell, writer of Cliff Richard’s first hit “Move It”. At that time, Ian was managing soul band Malcolm McGarren and the Blueshealers, which Tony eventually joined at the age of 16.
The band was later to become Ronnie Jones and the Q Set that played a long residency at the Bag O’Nails club in Soho, where such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix would often pop down to jam with the band. The Q Set then toured the UK, France, Italy and Greece, before Tony joined The Counts, featuring his long-time friend and bassist extraordinaire Philip Chen. (Philip went on the play with Rod Stewart, Jerry Lewis, Linda Lewis, Jeff Beck, the Doors, plus many more.) KOKOMO
Tony joined forces with his friend, drummer Terry Stannard. This marked the birth of Kokomo, a ten-piece band featuring Arrival singers Frank Collins, Paddie McHugh and Dyan Birch, Neil Hubbard and Alan Spenner from Joe Cocker’s Grease Band on guitar and bass respectively, Jim Mullen on guitar, Mel Collins from King Crimson on saxes, plus Jody Linscott on congas.
Kokomo took London by storm in 1973, culminating in a debut album: “Kokomo 1”, now a classic among collectors. The band was managed by Steve O’Rourke, the brains behind Pink Floyd’s success, who sadly passed away on October 30th 2003, aged 63. R.I.P. Steve. Kokomo recorded three albums, touring the UK, Europe and America, supporting their old friends The Average White Band on several tours and recording with Bob Dylan in New York on his album “Desire”. 10CC
Tony joined 10CC in 1977 and toured the UK, Europe, Japan and Australia, recording one album, “Live and Let Live”. In 1978 Tony left 10CC to pursue a solo career.
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