Meet our writers, artists, producers, and engineers
Gregory Abbott | Marc Blake | Sylvester Burkes | Claytoven | Ashling Cole
Gregory Abbott GregoryAbbott.com In college he majored in psychology and minored in music and dramatic arts. He holds a Masters degree and is currently working towards his Ph.D. and was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship to Stanford University's Creative writing Masters program. While pursuing graduate studies at Berkeley, and Stanford he helped pay his tuition by starting a band. It was here he developed his own personal musical style. While teaching English at Berkeley, he decided to become a professional musician, built a studio, and applied his academic discipline to developing skills as a singer, composer and producer. Abbott released the single and album "Shake You Down" shaking up the music industry with countless honors and awards. "Shake You Down" has become the first and fastest song in the history of BMI to reach one million radio airplay's (now well over three million), and won BMI's Pop Song of the Year award. He's had numerous top five hits both performed by himself as well as produced and written for other artists. Abbotts' music has crossed every barrier imaginable. You hear the Caribbean/Spanish influence in his music, topped off with his incredibly smooth, soulful voice. Gregory Abbott is noted for coining the term "groove ballad". When referring to him music writers have affectionately used the term "Wall Street Soul". He's a favorite with the ladies for his sophisticated demeanor and intelligent green eyes, with a sense of something much more, Abbotts' music has gone to number one on charts all over the world. He's won first prize at the Tokyo Music Festival, two "Soul Train" music awards, has been the star of the New York Music Awards, (receiving four), and two CEBA Awards (Communications Excellence Aimed at Black Audiences) among many many others. Abbott comes from a family of entertainers. His first cousin Diahnne Abbott was for many years married to actor Robert De Niro, and is herself an actor of merit. Gregory has guest starred on the daytime drama "All My Children" and is now delving more heavily into acting and film production. Some of his community service work includes Rock Against Drugs, joining them when they brought their message to Washington, DC. He has also participated in the "Bands to Beat AIDS" campaign focused on AIDS awareness across the US. Abbott has served on the Board of Directors of both NARAS (the Grammys'), and the NAPM (Songwriters Hall of Fame). His own foundation supports aspiring musical talent.
Gregory Abbott GregoryAbbott.com
In college he majored in psychology and minored in music and dramatic arts. He holds a Masters degree and is currently working towards his Ph.D. and was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship to Stanford University's Creative writing Masters program. While pursuing graduate studies at Berkeley, and Stanford he helped pay his tuition by starting a band. It was here he developed his own personal musical style. While teaching English at Berkeley, he decided to become a professional musician, built a studio, and applied his academic discipline to developing skills as a singer, composer and producer.
Abbott released the single and album "Shake You Down" shaking up the music industry with countless honors and awards. "Shake You Down" has become the first and fastest song in the history of BMI to reach one million radio airplay's (now well over three million), and won BMI's Pop Song of the Year award. He's had numerous top five hits both performed by himself as well as produced and written for other artists. Abbotts' music has crossed every barrier imaginable. You hear the Caribbean/Spanish influence in his music, topped off with his incredibly smooth, soulful voice.
Gregory Abbott is noted for coining the term "groove ballad". When referring to him music writers have affectionately used the term "Wall Street Soul". He's a favorite with the ladies for his sophisticated demeanor and intelligent green eyes, with a sense of something much more, Abbotts' music has gone to number one on charts all over the world. He's won first prize at the Tokyo Music Festival, two "Soul Train" music awards, has been the star of the New York Music Awards, (receiving four), and two CEBA Awards (Communications Excellence Aimed at Black Audiences) among many many others.
Abbott comes from a family of entertainers. His first cousin Diahnne Abbott was for many years married to actor Robert De Niro, and is herself an actor of merit. Gregory has guest starred on the daytime drama "All My Children" and is now delving more heavily into acting and film production.
Some of his community service work includes Rock Against Drugs, joining them when they brought their message to Washington, DC. He has also participated in the "Bands to Beat AIDS" campaign focused on AIDS awareness across the US. Abbott has served on the Board of Directors of both NARAS (the Grammys'), and the NAPM (Songwriters Hall of Fame). His own foundation supports aspiring musical talent.return to top of page
Marc Blake SwordofCreation.com
He operates five web servers hosting a number of domains. Musicians love him because he is quick to lend a hand helping musicians and bands with their web sites, marketing materials, and developing the "merch" for their concerts.
Marc worked in the music industry (Hollywood, California) as a professional photographer in the 80's. He was the go to guy that was considered a "pretty-painless photographer" as donned upon him by Don Henley. As a photographer, Marc has worked with Stephen Stills, Donovan, The Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Loggins, Michael Bolton, Pablo Cruise, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Graham Nash, The Doobie Brothers, Yanni, Arturo Sandoval and a ton of others.
In 1988, he traveled on a songwriter's summit into the Soviet Block -- just when "Glastnos" was happening. Along for the trek was Barry Mann, Mike Stoller, Desmond Child, Harold Payne, Michael Bolton, Cyndi Lauper, Brenda Russell, Albert Hammond, Alan Roy Scott, Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, Diane Warren, Gregory Abbott and executives from CBS Records and BMI.
As a photographer, Blake did work for MTV (video award parties). His photos have been used by Rolling Stone and other industry publications.
It was in 1995, that Marc began building and hosting web sites. This was at a time when the "Internet" was still about 4 to 6 years away from becoming a household name.
Marc is a very creative person and his resourceful nature draws a number of people to him quarterback the plays.
"My father, a caricature artist, once said to me when we were looking at paintings at the Los Angeles Museum of Art that the problem with most artists is not that they can't draw. It's that they can't really see what they're drawing. That message stays strong in my mind and has given me a wonderful advantage," Blake comments.
"I spent about five years traveling to a number of our natural parks. I was creating photographic images that I would print in my color lab upon my return, then frame them (in my garage). I'd sale my art photos at swap meets. People would comment on my compositions and I would often think to myself about the words my father shared with me."
In January, 2006, Marc Blake received confirmation from the Department of Treasury that his newly started non-profit organization, "Fresno Conservatory of Music," was granted tax-exempt status under Section 501 (c)(3). Blake indicates that with the Conservatory in place to support worthy projects, many wonderful programs can be implemented that will benefit, not only youth, but those of all ages who are involved with and have a passion for music.
Marc co-owns First Kiss Records.return to top of page
He taught himself to play the piano when, at age ten, his mother bought him a small plastic toy (piano). Little did she realize that she had just launched a career for her dedicated young boy and that he would go on to work with the top of top stars in Gospel Music. This musically inclined youth, who used to feel the music, had become the music.
Sly has worked with Patti LaBelle, Bee Bee Winans, The Hawkins Family, Yolanda Adams and the wonderful Reverend James Cleveland - one of the actual pioneers of gospel music. Sly has worked with nearly a dozen Grammy winning artists as well.
He also has performed at the Apollo Theater. He can bee seen in a music video with Tramaine Hawkins which was aired during an award show (by award presenter Luther Vandross).
While on tour, Sylvester had a chance to enjoy Bernie Mac, who was performing his comedy show at an intimate local club. Since Sylvester was in a very handsome suit that evening, while others in the audience were dressed more casually, Bernie Mac singled him out by calling out, "Hey Reverend!"
Bernie asked, "Hey Reverend. What you doing here?"
"I'm on tour," Sly answered politely.
"On tour doing what, Reverend.?" Bernie continued to play up his comedic roast.
"I play an instrument," Sly said.
Responding quickly, "What instrument?"
Being a small and intimate club, one might easily guess there'd be a piano close by... and, in fact, it was right on stage. Bernie Mac, without missing a lick and not sure he even believed the Reverend's claim, coaxed Sylvester to the stage to make him play. Bernie was stunned when he realized that he had just been up-staged (by the power and glory of Gospel Music). Thank you Sylvester Burkes. ...and if you ever run in to Bernie Mac, he'll remember that night that a well-dressed man who came to enjoy the show, became the show.
Through his commitment to the gospel music, Sly actually turned down doing session work (in the pop genre of music) with Prince and Frankie Beverely & Maze.
First Kiss Records is blessed to have Sylvester's talents show up on some of our songs. Due to the fact that our debut release, "Songs from the Heart" is created with new brides in mind, as well as new couples setting the tone for the rest of their lives, Sylvester was eager to provide his best work to the project as his gesture sharing his own beliefs in the value of commitment, relationships and love.return to top of page
Though he grew up in a tough, East Oakland, California neighborhood, Richardson's shaping forces were positive. Instead of hanging out on the streets in high school, Richardson toured Europe with Phil Reeder's Castlemont High chorus, “The Castleers.” “Being in that group was my first time leaving the country, and learning my world was bigger than my little neighborhood,” said Richardson.
Instead of getting into trouble in high school, he studied clarinet and saxophone at the SF Conservatory of Music and entered UC Berkeley's Young Musicians Program (YMP) for gifted, “at-risk” youngsters. YMP instructor Bill Bell became “like my second father,” said Richardson. “He'd teach me arranging, how to score compositions. I learned music just from basically being part of his family.”
Thanks to those instructors and many others, Richardson went to the University of Michigan on a full scholarship as an Oboe principle. It was during one of his school vacations that he acquired a name that neatly described the direction his life was taking. Childhood friend (now business partner) Larry Batiste accidentally fused Richardson's given name, Clayton, with that, shall we say, of another artist, and out came “Claytoven.” The impressive name stuck, and its owner determined to work hard to live up it.
Claytoven's singing career was also unintentional. After college, he played sax with and co-produced Bill Summers and Summers Heat. Summers overheard Claytoven singing reference vocals to get the sense of a song, and then asked Claytoven to perform lead.
He has been in demand as a session singer ever since, singing background vocals on countless gold and platinum recordings featuring: Kenny G, Tevin Campbell, Michael Bolton, Elton John, Peabo Bryson, New Kids on the Block, Ricki Martin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, and many others. His work on the #1 song for Celine Dion (which was also the title track for the “Titanic” soundtrack), “My Heart Will Go On” won him Grammy recognition in 1999.
Claytoven's work on First Kiss Records debut CD, "Songs from the Heart," goes beyond the music. Claytoven and First Kiss Records co-owner, Skyler Jett, are life-long friends, brothers, who, together have worked with the greatest names in popular music.return to top of page
Soon after her stint with the San Francisco Girls Choir Ashling went on to join the Academy of Media and Theater Arts. There she had a chance to show her natural ability in the acting field. Her ever-growing talents soon helped her garner many leading roles in plats such as West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate and You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.
As a young teenager Ashling was drawn to the uprising Hip Hop movement and her skills soon landed her opportunities to sing on various recording sessions with Digital Underground, Christian, among others.
At 17 she caught the interest of industry heavy weight, John McClain and was signed to Interscope With Executive Producers Ron Perry and John McClain at the helm the album, Just Be True was born. Though the album met with moderate success in the public's eye, it catapulted her into the role of the go to singer when you need vocals in the music world. Ashling has performed with countless artists including Jimmy Cliff, George Clinton and P-Funk, The Rolling Stones, Holly Near, SoVoSo, Bill Hopkins Rockin' Orchestra, The Black Market Jazz Orchestra, and many other talented musicians and bands.
Ashling has recently found a new music and spiritual home as a Praise and Worship leader at South Bay Community Church in Fremont, California. With the foundation of this new solid home she has currently started working on a new gospel CD, due to be released by the middle of the year. She has also been regularly performing with the powerful gospel ensemble Derrick Hall and Company. Singing for the glory of God is what has been calling to me for some time now. And I'm sure that when you hear this talented and powerful singer you will feel her anointing.
Rick Cowling, Jr. RickCowling.com
Rick's writing, performing, engineering and producing skills have been an important part of many major projects including work with Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Manchester and Peter Frampton. He's written with Lamont Dozier, Jim Peterik (Survivor), Laura Brannigan and other prominent recording stars. Rick conducted the band on ABC's "Trista & Ryan's Wedding" in 2003 while country star Brad Paisley performed — music written by our very own Rick Cowling.
First Kiss Records is providing the song that was heard by over seven million people on its debut release CD "Songs from the Heart." If you are lucky enough to ever be in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area and are able to catch one of Rick's live shows... you'll be entranced by his ability to write and deliver pop songs and ballads that are simply captivating.return to top of page
Clydene Jackson Clydene.com
You have likely heard her powerful, soulful, yet angelic voice singing on numerous platinum records by Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Michael McDonald, Patti LaBelle and many others. If that amazing lineup isn't enough, you've also heard our dear girl singing in top-grossing films like The Lion King, Princess Diaries II, Toy Story 2, Mean Girls, Glory Road and King Kong — plus one heck of a lot of national television commercials and network TV shows. Clydene, simply, is a singing icon in the industry.
Clydene performs with her life-long band "Gravity" at several concerts throughout the year. When not on the road, Clydene is in the studio doing sessions for every type of project you might imagine — film, TV, recordings, national campaigns, and theme songs for charitable work.return to top of page
Genevieve Goings is part of a musical act called, "Legato" which delivers a musical world, flush with intense, soulful vocals, catchy hooks, and hip-hop rhythms.
Legato's innovative sound fuses meticulously arranged instrumentation by Producer Roland Apikelis, former dancer for PRINCE, with the savvy, soulful freestyle lyrics of San Francisco vocalist Genevieve Goings, who has performed on the same stage as P. DIDDY and LES NUBIANS. For the past two years, Legato has performed at clubs all over the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Harry Denton’s Starlight Room and the legendary Elbo Room, as well as sharing the 2004 San Francisco Gay Pride Main Stage with Chaka Khan.
Born to musicians, Genevieve grew up in front of live audiences, where she developed her vocal talents through years of performing. She began her career in hip-hop and found herself featured in a multitude of live shows and studio albums. To date, Genevieve can be heard on almost 40 albums.
Networking on these projects brought her to producer Roland Apikelis' studio in 2001. The two partnered their styles and talents to create the sound of Legato and are currently performing hits from their self-titled - and Genevieve's first - full- length album all along the West Coast.
In addition to writing lyrics and melodies for Legato, Genevieve composes for other rising female artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has partnered with fellow musician Cait La Dee as well. She is involved in voice-over acting projects for major video game companies on the West Coast and has recently released Choo Choo Soul, a full-length children's album
Eric Gilliom www.EricGilliom.com
Born into a family of gifted performers, his passion to entertain is an inevitable heritage, and one need only spend a few minutes with him to realize he is a thinking personification of art all his own.
Eric Paul Gilliom was born in Lakewood, California and raised on the valley isle of Maui. He is of Hawaiian, Ojibwa Indian and Norwegian descent. Raised in a musical family, Eric's grandmother, Jennie "Napua" Starred in over 200 Hollywood films and T.V. shows, notably the Harry Owens show for CBS.
At 22, Gilliom became the first person of Hawaiian ancestry to earn a bachelors degree from the prestigious Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. Only two months after graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and landed a role in the movie Hoosiers opposite Gene Hackman. Over the next year he would garner in guest starring roles in "Moonlighting", "My Sister Sam," "Heart of the City" and the Hawaii series "Island Son," with Richard Chamberlain.
It wasn't long before he ended up in New York singing and dancing for choreographer Debbie Allen (of "Fame") in the original Broadway and London production "Carrie" and soon after "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." But Hollywood beckoned Gilliom once again. In 2001 he joined the cast of the Jamie Foxx Show for the Warner Brothers Network. Foxx has enlisted Gilliom's broad range of talents for a sitcom currently in pre-production.
Gilliom's theatre production company continues and gives Hawaii tour-de-force sold-out performances annually of "The Rocky Horror Show," showcasing his masterful portrayal of Dr. Franknfurter.
The singer-songwriter released two critically acclaimed recordings in the late 90's, "Into the Mystic" and "Like Chow Fun". In April 2003, Gilliom performed as special guest with the Honolulu Symphony at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
A local boy at heart, a world traveler of significant Hawaiian heritage in this 21st century, Gilliom know his roots are secured to the island that "gives me my wings Maui."return to top of page
That year Disco Nights won GQ an American Music Award for Best Disco song of the year, tying with Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy."
GQ's promotional tour initially began with numerous Television appearances like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Midnight Special and many more.
Touring extensively throughout the US and abroad, GQ set out to make a name for themselves in the performance arena. Needless to say, they accomplished just that.
In fact GQ has been one of the most sought after Concert groups in the R&B Classics market ever since. Even today they are unstoppable in terms of Bang for the buck live shows!
Recording for Arista records proved to be a very rewarding experience for GQ, yielding Platinum & Gold awards as well as a reputation of great quality and endearing products.
GQ went on to record a total of 3 albums for Arista. Additionally in 1999 GQ recorded a Tribute to Marvin Gaye & Billy Stewart for ITP records. Today Mr. GQ's Emanuel Rahiem LeBlanc adds record label owner to his name, with his NU CLASSIC RECORDS Imprint.
Summer 2006 will see a breakthrough CD release of GQ's Mr. Q project. Also look out for a duet version of their "I Do Love You" with Rapper Shea soon to be released.
Skyler Jett SkylerJett.com
Skyler tours with the Family Stone which carries on the legacy of Sly Stone with original Sly and the Family Stone members, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, R&B Hall of Fame Pioneer Achievement Award & Grammy winners.
Skyler Jett, also a writer and producer, has worked with some of the greatest artists of our times, including;
In the late 90's, Skyler hooked up with Cory Lerios of Pablo Cruise. They produced all new rearrangements of two of Pablo Cruise's hit songs "Love Will Find a Way" and "Whatcha Gonna Do (When She Says Good-bye)?" both written by Cory Lerios and David Jenkins. You can check out these recordings at: CigarintheBottle.com These two songs quickly demonstrate why Skyler Jett is one of the most sought after vocalist in the music industry.
In 82' Skyler replaced Lionel Richie in The Commodores touring 31 countries.
"My mom was a gospel vocalist," says Jett. "She rubbed off on me and I've always been singing."
Skyler co-owns First Kiss Records.return to top of page
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Shana Morrison shanamorrison.com
Vanguard Records signed Shana in 2001, and 7 Wishes was released in 2002. This time, she received favorable reviews from newspapers and magazines across the country, as well as airplay on KMTT Seattle Wa, KINK Portland Or, KSGR Austin Tx, and KBCO Denver Co. Shana's style has been called pop, with a side of blues and a side of rock. She has also been known to include other ingredients, like country, r and b, and jazz to the mix. Her material seems to be ever changing, and hard to pin down categorically. What always remains the same is Shana's unique and wide-ranging voice.
Chronologically listed, some highlights of Shana's career follow: Since 96, Shana has participated in benefit concerts for Oakland's "American Legends Foundation". Paying tribute to and playing for artists such as Brownie McGee and Charles Brown, Shana has shared billing with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, and Dr. John. She has also played for festival audiences. Caledonia played on the main stage both at the Guinness Fleadh in New York in 97, and in San Francisco in 99. In 2000 Shana performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival, The Ottawa Blues Festival, and the Edmonton Folk Festival. Recently she has had the type of exposure she deserves; opening shows for Lyle Lovett, Joe Cocker, Michael MacDonald, John Hyatt, and Keb 'Mo. Shana has also had international exposure.
Her band did a live broadcast for the BBC's "Kelly Show" which aired in 1996. Shana sang at the BRIT Awards in 96 when her father was presented with a lifetime achievement award. This has been broadcast on A and E in America several times since. She also participated in a VH-1 father's day special and was featured in People magazine in 97, Rolling Stone in 99, and Interview magazine in 2002. Most recently, Caledonia played on the Oxygen channel's Pure Oxygen tv show and Shana appeared on the Howard Stern show to chat about 7 Wishes and spin the song "I Spy."
This year the band has been busy with tours across the US, Germany, and Italy playing clubs, theaters, and festivals. Most notably playing the House Of Blues in Cambridge, the Bottom Line in New York, the Viper Room in LA, Meinisfree Open Air in Germany, and the Arezzo Wave Pop festival in Italy.return to top of page
Harold Payne HaroldPayne.com
His music has been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary and Snoop Dog. His work shows up in films like Beverly Hills Cop II, Splash, Legally Blonde and TV's Soul Food and Nash Bridges.
Harold, also a stellar performer, has opened many a major concert for Van Morrison, Kenny Loggins, Collin Raye, The Beach Boys and Hawaiian legend "IZ" (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole).
Playing an eclectic blend of pop-rock, folk and acoustic soul, Harold Payne has been an international ambassador of music and good will Cuba, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India, The (former) Soviet Union and the South Pacific.
Payne performs solo nd with the group "Gravity" playing over 150 shows a year — showcasing his audience interaction with his notorious song improvisations (see CustomSongs4U.com). Harold's live performances are soulful, heartfelt and humorous, being a mix between Don Henley and Wayne Brady.
Recently, Harold created the award winning "Power of Positive Music" series found at PositiveMusic.comreturn to top of page
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Rankin Scroo http://rankinscroo.com
New York City became Rankin's first home abroad where he performed with numerous sound systems and live bands. His vitality and intensity of expression carried his artistry from the Atlantic to the Pacific, pioneering reggae music in the Hawaiian Islands where he formed "Crucial Youth Productions", his recording studio and band.
In Hawaii, Rankin met Ginger and the two began to write and perform together. Their unique blend of musical backgrounds and vocals created the highly acclaimed reggae duo, "Rankin' Scroo & Ginger", and pioneered the sound now recognized worldwide as Jawaiian music.
For the past fifteen years, their releases and live performances have astounded crowds worldwide, from Jamaica to Europe and all over North America. As Joe Aytch of Jah Works says, "Scroo always has a surprise or two up his sleeve, brings the best musicians available, and puts on the best show of any of the local or regional bands around."
Rankin' Scroo and Ginger have won numerous awards and honors for their works and are highly regarded as veteran performers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their songs enjoy regular rotation in Jamaica and Hawaii to this day.
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Licensing and distribution questions can be directed to Operations.