Cheryl Cooley – “Klymaxx”
SKII: This evening I’m speaking with Cheryl Cooley. You’re a guitarist, correct? Cheryl: Yes, I am.
SKII: Okay great! When did you start playing the guitar and what inspired you to start?
Cheryl: I started to play the guitar when I was eleven and what interested me in playing the guitar, was that my sister was married to jazz musician, Hubert Laws while he was on tour with Mongo Santamaria, they were staying at my mother’s house; he had his guitar there, so I’d play with it. Then, I got my toy guitar for Christmas and accidently tuned it to a TV theme song. One day, my sister suggested I get guitar lessons. And, it went on from there. SKII: What’s your sister’s name? Cheryl: Marlene SKII: At the age of eleven where did you reside? Cheryl: At that time I resided in Los Angeles, California, but I was born in Chicago, Illinois. It’s funny, because I feel as if The Universe, Higher Power, or whatever you want to call “It” moved my parents [at the time that they did] to put me in the right place for my musicality to be discovered. Everyone in my family has their own talents. My mother was a tailor/seamstress, Father was an artist – he use any art medium, sculpting, painting, all of that! My sister went to Juilliard School of the Arts and became a dance choreographer there. And, that’s how it became that she married Hubert.
SKII: You’ve continued to live in L.A. and what schools did you attend?
Cheryl: Yes, I still reside there. In Chicago I attended a private school named Saint Edmund Parochial School. I still have contact with my schoolmates from there. When I came to L.A. I went to 54th Street School, then to Audubon Junir High School, and then Crenshaw High School in L.A., as well.
SKII: How was your experience going to Crenshaw?
Cheryl: Oh my goodness, Crenshaw was what it was. However, I was lucky to have a teacher who taught me music on a different level. My teacher taught me music theory how to write music! I used to write for the marching bands for the football games, because I’d learned how to write music for marching band instruments. I got so much training in writing composition in music that it helped my studying commercial music in College, in Hollywood, California. I got my degree there in Commercial Music, because I could’ve gone on to get my Bachelors and Masters, but I would’ve had to go out of state to get those degrees at the time.
SKII: How did you get involve with Klymaxx?
Cheryl: I played in various club bands and one day I just happened to be in rehearsal and girls were looking-in, because seeing a girl play a guitar [at that time] was unusual so all of a sudden they walked in and said, “Hey, you don’t want to play with that band., you want to lay with our band.” You know, I was playing with a lot of bands, so I had the experience. So, to see how they were so bold as to barge into someone else’s rehearsal was funny to me. I wasn’t going to be rude, so we then exchanged numbers and I called them on a Thursday where they asked me to come to their rehearsal on that Friday. I went and we were having fun – that’s what drew me in. I asked them what was the name of the band and they were like, “Klymaxx”!!! I started to write music for the band. Watching them attempt to read my material was funny, because I’d realized that they couldn’t read music; so I’d show them what I wrote and they’d love it. I was the lead vocalist at first and the audience loved it. We didn’t play a lot in clubs and while I was playing with Klymaxx I was also working at a bank. I spoke to my supervisor about my music and she asked me to give her a copy of our music to give to her uncle Johnny Pate, who was a popular producer at the time. My job supervisor, Linda Pate took the photo and tape to her uncle who listened to the tape, but really didn’t like it. We felt a bit overwhelmed, which happens, but it never stopped us. We were trying so hard to make people let us in, and like us, back then. I’ve always said to my fans that you may hear a hundred, “No’s”, but it only takes that one, “Yes”. We’d finally gotten that one, “Yes”! Johnny was having lunch one day with Margaret Nash, the ex-wife of Johnny Nash and the Vice President of Solar Records which is the Sound of Los Angeles Records. Johnny told her about us and gave her our demo tape. She took the music and then out of nowhere she called me explaining how she’d heard our music and wanted to see us rehearse. Let me go back to my life, because I left something out. When I was a kid before playing the guitar I had a dream that I was playing a guitar being on stage getting to step up to a microphone, about to sing to a huge audience. Then I looked to the right of me, but couldn’t really picture what was there. But, ten years later I lived that exact dream and when I looked to the right and see what I couldn’t see in my dream…it was an all female band. So dreams do come true! By-the-way, this was before I had taken any decision to play anything! So now, back with Mrs. Nash. She liked everything she saw and really loved us and signed the band within months. At that time I had been in the band for six months – then we were signed to a record deal!
SKII: Did you ever play in Brooklyn, New York?
Cheryl: Yeah, we’ve come to New York before…
SKII: What is Flashback Friday’s Universal about?
Cheryl: They had this thing every year where they would bring a band back for a throw- back kind of thing, it was in Universal City, California, playing with my own version in Klymaxx. I’m the only original member around.
SKII: You did a tribute to Michael Jackson. Tell us about that?
Cheryl: Unfortunately, we were all in shock when Michael passed, so it was really a tribute to Michael. He, and the Jackson Five had inspired us all. Especially Klymaxx, us being an all-girl band was hard, so having the opportunity to give back was a blessing. One day I was invited to his rehearsal by Reverend June Gatlin. She was close to the family and she was one of Michael’s spiritual advisors. So, her inviting me wasn’t shocking. I really didn’t want to just go and intrude on Michael, so I’d asked if we could plan on going another time. A week later he passed away. So, now I was feeling some kind of way about missing out. Not really missing out on the rehearsal, but on just getting the opportunity to see him and met him. So my deciding to do the tribute was truly from the heart. It’s a blessing that I have so many stories of the universe bringing me towards amazing opportunities!
SKII: The song, “I Miss You”, I love that song! Did it hit number one?
Cheryl: In 1986 it actually reached number three on the Billboard Chart!
SKII: Tell me about the other song, “The Men on Pause”.
Cheryl: That song was written about how you want to feel about yourself when you walk into a club or any other party spot.
SKII: Did you ever win any awards?
Cheryl: No, we didn’t win any awards. We were on the ballot, but never nominated. If you go to Klymaxx.com you’ll find a disography listing of everything we’ve done.
SKII: You played at the Morongo Casino. Tell me more about that time and experience?
Cheryl: We were given the opportunity to play there on a regular schedule, for about three years. Our first show was New Year’s Eve, 2010. We had the largest audience on a New Year’s Eve show there! We also had a great relationship with the General Manager, Bruce McClure who made sure we were playing on a regular basis.
SKII: You’re the only original member still standing in the group. What happened with the rest?
Cheryl: I was approched by our old manger in 2002 to get the band back together to do some Old School concerts. I was asked because he knew I had the same telephone number and that maybe I had contact with the other girls. When I asked them if they’d want to come back. Some said they’re too old, or have kids, or feel they’re too fat, and believed that no one would want to look at old ladies singing. When I kept going with the idea, they got mad and accused me of taking the group, but I believed and they didn’t, so I pressed on. I was hoping that they would change their minds but instead they accused me of trying to steal the name. It’s shocking how still, to this day, many people haven’t seen an all-woman band! So I’m going to continue the Klymaxx legacy!
SKII: Do you have any kids? Have you ever been married?
Cheryl: No never really wanted to have kids. No, never been married. Music is my passion.
SKII: What will you tell a younger you or someone who’s trying to do what you’ve done?
Cheryl: Two words – I would have to say it would be: Save Money. It’s really more than just saving for what may or could happen. Have that cushion to help you with hard days or the bleak days; you never know. No one ever taught us how to value the time success. It was all about the music, and what was coming out next, or our next concert.
SKII: What are you doing now?
Cheryl: More music. Going on tour. And, going in the studios. I just want to continue to have fun. To continue the legacy, again. It’s amazing and a wonderful feeling to inspire others just by being apart of an all-girl band. Making an impact for others to go for their dreams is a great feeling! Update (May, 2015): We have (1) new management with M.E.C. Management, (2) a new record deal with M.P.R.E /Sony Records, (3) a tour staring in August and (4) we have a new single out entitled, “My Way This Time”. Check us out at www.klymaxx.com
SKII: Are you mentoring anyone, managing, or teaching/taught anyone how to play the guitar?
Cheryl: I volunteered being on talk panels and talk shows encouraging young artists who’d pick my brain on what I’ve done in the industry. Also, I just recently helped with an organization called the Entertainment Industry Unity Movement Team where I’ll do phone conferences with a lot of young artists, answering their questions in an attempt to help them progress in their careers.
SKII: What’s your inspirations? Who inspired you?
Cheryl: “Sly & the Family Stone” was the first funk group that I listened to and they gave me that feeling that I couldn’t run away from. They kept me going on about some funk music! The drive! The power! The vibe was so moving! So, playing in the band kept me moving. I’m not saying that anyone else wasn’t good enough, though.
SKII: Do you live near you mom and dad?
Cheryl: My mom and dad have since passed away, but, yes we all moved down here. I lived with them until they passed away.
SKII: Thank you, Cheryl and in conclusion: What would you tell a new artist coming to the industry?
Cheryl: Never give up, follow what you believe in, and believe in yourself when no one else does. Be your own inspiration.
SKII: What an amazing lady. Lead guitarist for Klymax along with a great voice and still working hard as if she just started in the business. Since my interview with Ms. Cooley, she had:
- a new management
- a new record deal
- a new tour, and
- a new single released
I spoke with Ms. Cooley for approximately an hour and a half and I could have spoken to her longer. She’s absolutely fascinating. She started an Entertainment Industry Unity Movement Team where she do phone conferences with a lot of young artists, answering their questions in an attempt to help them progress in their careers. She is showing young artists how to make it in the music business. That’s Awesome. And that’s what my magazine is all about. Famous People: I want to know what roads have you taken to become famous; and Entrepreneurs: What roads are you taking, towards your endevors to become famous. With Ms. Cooley’s help, she will definitely lead those young artists in the right direction to becoming famous.