They looked like rock stars: Singer Robert Wilkinson with that Beatle-y mop top, guitarist Johnny Rey and bassist Jody Ray with their Jeff Beck rooster hairdos, drummer Bob Meide with his I-could-win-a-Ringo Starr-look-alike-contest-except-for-my-shaggy-hair look. And then there was keyboardist Joseph Behrend, a visual outlier with his balding professorial vibe.
It was 1977, and they called themselves Flamingo. In an era when the punkish Suicide Commandos and the arty Suburbs were dominating the Twin Cities rock scene, Flamingo was the local new-wave band with the most commercial potential.
Regulars at such clubs as the Longhorn, Duffy’s and the Union Bar, Flamingo got radio attention with the tune “I Remember Romance.” Pioneering video maker Chuck Statler (Devo, Elvis Costello) directed a video of the song, which landed on MTV, and another clip of 1981’s “Stop.” The story was that Flamingo got close to a record deal after a show at the Longhorn, but their manager wouldn’t let the big-time talent scout meet the band.
Because a 1950s doo-wop group owned the name the Flamingos (“I Only Have Eyes for You”), the Twin Cities band was forced to find a new moniker, choosing the Flamin’ Oh’s. They flamed out in 1987 after the release of their fourth indie album, “Paint the Sky,” under the moniker the Oh’s.
In 1997, the Flamin’ Oh’s reunited for the splashy Mill City Music Festival in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, which also featured Ray Charles, Joan Jett and B.B. King. In 2005, the below-the-radar group delivered a solid new album, “Long Live the King.”
Wilkinson and his latest incarnation of the Flamin’ Oh’s still play the occasional gig — none more significant than a 40th anniversary celebration at 9 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Famous Dave’s Uptown. More info at flaminohs.com.