In 1977, the band Flamingo was formed by Robert Wilkinson and Johnny Rey (guitars), Jody Ray (bass guitar), Bob Meide (percussion), and Joseph Behrend (keyboards and vocals). The release of an EP in 1978, recorded at Tracks on Fifth, included the songs “Smart Girl,” “We Do What We Like,” “One More Night” and one of the band’s most popular and enduring songs, “I Remember Romance.” Critics took note of Flamingo and the EP release with descriptive praise:
“Hard edged Stones-like rock’n’roll. East Coast street anthems coupled with Midwestern optimism and enthusiasm.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Howling and grimacing under his vacuous white sunglasses, leaping and stomping across the stage, at times crawling, beseeching on his knees, Wilkinson is an infectious inciter, one who, in the trade, is affectionately described as a ‘showman.’”
St. Paul Dispatch
“Listeners are beginning to discover that these are exciting straightforward rock ‘n’ roll boys, and that their only connection with ‘punk-rock’ lies is their obsession with the politics of ‘cool.’ The four songs on this record tell that story. ‘One more night, that’s what I need to be with you/ One more night with you girl would be so…cool.’ The carnivorous chick in Flamingo’s “Smart Girl” knows instinctually how to play with singer Robert Wilkinson’s ego, how to offend his radio-activated heart: ‘When we were in love last night/ You forced me down/ When we got home last night/ You kicked me around/ You put me down/ Like some kind of clown.’”
Twin Cities Reader
After the Flamingo EP was released on Bigger Than Life Records, the band toured the East Coast playing at New York clubs including Max’s Kansas City and Peppermint Lounge. Founding member Johnny Rey left Flamingo in 1980 to pursue his own writing and soon after formed the band Johnny Rey and the Reaction. After Flamingo released the EP, the 1950′s group The Flamingos contacted the young Minneapolis band and informed them: “Change the name or we sue.” So, the band dropped the “g,” split the original word, and became known as the Flamin’ Oh’s.
As the Flamin’ Oh’s, the band released two albums on the Fat City Records label. The self-titled debut LP (1980), Flamin’ Oh’s, became known as the “green” album to the growing numbers of local followers. The second LP (1981), entitled Oh!, most notably included the band’s hit “Stop.” By this time, the band was playing to packed audiences at Cabooze, Duffy’s and the Longhorn.
In the early 1980s, with new technology propelling the music industry, the Flamin’ Oh’s became one of the earliest bands to make music videos. Chuck Statler (music video pioneer who directed videos for DEVO, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and El Vez) directed two videos for the Flamin’ Oh’s, including one for the song “I Remember Romance” from the first LP. The video featured Behrend playing his keyboard atop a giant scrap steel pile. The video ran on a new television network dedicated to music, MTV. The other video, “Stop,” included the band members as classical musicians decked out in tuxedos. Wilkinson strummed a string harp, Meide pounded on a kettle drum, Rey bowed a cello, and Behrend played a grand piano.
In 1983, between tour dates and while in Miami, the Flamin’ Oh’s recorded, but never released, a third album, Love or Money. As their popularity soared, the band’s busy touring schedule took them around the U.S. and was capped off with a festival performance in Bogata, Columbia. In 1985, the band saw changes in both its name and personnel. The band formally adopted the name fans had long-since used, The Oh’s, and welcomed new members Gary Snow (bass guitar and vocals) and Terry Braatz (guitar and vocals). In that year, The Oh’s released the album Desire and in 1986, followed Desire with their final release, Paint the Sky.
In 1986, after the success of the albums and the rigors of a national touring schedule, Behrend chose to leave the band. Before his departure, he asked Bob Burns (Quadrant, Supraluxe) to take his role on keyboards. Soon after his departure from the band, Behrend died in a much-publicized criminal tragedy that remains unsolved. In 1988, the Oh’s members began to follow various paths to other musical endeavors, marriage, families and much more. It would be more than 10 years before any version of Flamingo / Flamin’ Oh’s / The Oh’s would re-emerge.
In 1997, after more than a decade’s absence from the Twin Cities music scene, the Flamin’ Oh’s reunited for a live performance at the Mill City Festival in downtown Minneapolis. A crowd of thousands was there to greet the band and that one performance led to a lasting reunion. Today, the Flamin’ Oh’s (Wilkinson, Ray, Meide and Burns) perform throughout the region to rave reviews. Long Live the King, released in 2005, marked the band’s first recording project in nearly 20 years.