Tommy McConnell

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Tommy McConnell, drummer of '80s dance/funk band Skyy, co-wrote with keyboard player Joe Williams (not the jazz legend) the band's number one R&B hit "Start of a Romance" issued on New York-based pioneering…
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Tommy McConnell, drummer of '80s dance/funk band Skyy, co-wrote with keyboard player Joe Williams (not the jazz legend) the band's number one R&B hit "Start of a Romance" issued on New York-based pioneering dance label Salsoul Records. The Queens, NY, native became smitten with music in the '60s after attending shows with this mother and father at the Apollo Theater. The teenager got a job with the city's parks department and raised enough money to buy a drum set. He started writing songs. Years later, after an audition with Skyy, he began playing with the group.

Skyy leader Solomon Roberts Jr. knew Randy Muller of the disco/funk band Brass Construction who had a 1976 number one R&B hit with "Movin'." Muller got the group a deal with the Cayre Brothers' Salsoul Records. Skyy had a consistent run of hits for the label: "First Time Around," "Let's Turn It Out," "High," "Skyzoo," "Here's to You," and "Superlove."

The group's first chart-topping single, "Call Me," parked at number one R&B for two weeks on Billboard's charts in late 1981. That was followed by "Let's Celebrate," "When You Touch Me," "Movin' Violation," "Let Love Shine," "Bad Boy," "Show Me the Way," and "Dancin' to Be Dancin'." McConnell also played drums on fellow Salsoul act Rafael Cameron's LP Cameron's in Love ("Funtown U.S.A." and "Boogie's Gonna Get Ya'").

Switching to Capitol, the group hit with "Givin' It to You" (number eight R&B, spring 1986). It was their sole charting single for the label. The group didn't record for three years while they shopped for a new record deal. With no hits generating income or performing gigs, McConnell was forced to take an exhausting job at a salt factory. On his off days, McConnell would write songs at his Brooklyn recording studio, Culture Sound. One beautiful summer day, he was inspired to begin writing a song called "Start of a Romance." Reaching an impasse while writing he called in his friend, keyboardist Joe Williams to help him. The rough demo that included a rap, additional keyboardist Rickey Williams, and vocals by Skyy lead singer Denise Dunning was given to Skyy co-producers Muller and Roberts. They thought that, after a little polishing, it had the makings of a hit, though the actual record retained the raw feel of the demo. Finally Skyy got a deal with Atlantic Records with McConnell and Williams' song being the LP title track and first single of the band's Atlantic debut. Start of a Romance stayed at number one R&B for two weeks in early 1989 bringing the band back in a big way.