Back to the fellas this week. In the early 90s the group motif was the way to go. There were a plethora of girl groups and boy bands during this time all vying for our attention. From the polluted pool of boy bands was a group who didn’t quite fit the mold. Color Me Badd , their only comparison was Boyz II Men.
The quartet better known as Color Me Badd took the r&b and pop charts by storm. Kevin Thornton, Sam Watters, Mark Calderon and lead singer Bryan Abrams made up the group who brought us the classic I Wanna Sex You Up. The song was featured in the smash and now classic New Jack City movie. When the movie blew up and so did Color Me Badd.
The group from Oklahoma City wasn’t the typical boy band. They didn’t dance, they weren’t typical heart-throbs, though a case could be made for Bryan Abrams and they weren’t “gangsta” . Another group who also didn’t fit that mold was Boyz II Men who would go on to break world records with their single End of the Road. There was one thing that separated the two groups, who’s sound were both unique and refreshing during that time, there was only ONE black guy in the group. And we embraced them as if they were all black (just goes to show that music is color blind).
Their debut album “C.M.B” would go on to sell 6 million records and spawned 3 top ten singles. The group seemed ripe for a long career in the business. Unfortunately disagreements with management and the label (member Kevin Thornton insists that the label and management were embezzling from them) substance abuse, sex addictions and a failed attempt to be more “street” sent the guys into a downward spiral.
The group would release their sophomore album and in the midst of a new wave of music (grunge, pop and west coast hip hop) they tried to appeal to a very broad music base and failed horribly. The sophomore album had two singles, Time and Chance with Ice Cube directing the video and Choose.
After their sophomore album caught the ill-fated jinx they were left out of the decision process all together. Their third album (swear I didn’t know they released another album) failed to crack the top 100 on Billboard and were subsequently dropped from their label.
After being dropped from their label they signed with Sony and a heartbroken Tommy Mottola would not only hand them their worst single ever but he also predicted that they’d never see the success of their first album. In 1998 the group split for good. Sam Watters left to pursue his writing and producing dreams. Kevin Thornton says a call from God made him leave the group. And that would be the ultimate nail in the coffin. The third label they were looking to sign with backed out after Kevin quit the group.
During this time the guys were still living together in Long Island. Mark Calderon says that was what caused the split the most because at that time Bryan Abrams’ drinking problem became everyone’s problem. Abrams as some of us remember, showed up to court in 2010 looking nothing like the smooth suave lead singer we all knew instead he looked more like Jared from Subway BEFORE Subway.
Bryan had a very close relationship with the wrong side of the law. D.U.I’s litter his record. In 2005, while working in a tire shop, Abrams was sued by two of his ex wives for back child support. One of his ex wives Shon Gables, a former news anchor and current host of Black Enterprise,has seen some hard times as well. She was hit with three bench warrants for failure to pay her second husband $250,000.00.
In 2013 we saw for the first time what would become of Bryan. He walked into Court a massive 300+lbs and on a walker no less (reporters say that when court adjourned, he tossed the walker to the side and walked up the stairs of the courthouse). He was in court due to a probation violation from a 2012 arrest for domestic violence. He had already been in trouble before with regards to domestic violence in 2010 when he allegedly threw his wife at the time across the table. In 2014 he quit a reunited group sans Sam, to focus on his sobriety. He has since been clean and rejoined the group AND has had another massive transformation. Look at his most recent photo. Though it seems he’s recently packed on the pounds again…see clip of them performing in Pomona, CA in Sept 2016 .
Sam Watters has not been apart of the band since 1998 but has arguably had the most success since the split. Sam has written and produced for the first three American Idol winners, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia and Jordin Sparks. He’s also worked with legend Whitney Houston and also was responsible for launching Jessica Simpson’s career. He has been featured on a couple of singles such as Why Would I Ever with Toucher. He became VP of A&R for Island Records in 2014. He is married to former American Idol top 5 contestant Tamyra Gray.
The two met while he was working with American Idol first season winner Kelly Clarkson on her debut album in 2002. The couple wed in 2006 and have a daughter together, Sienna born in 2010. See ladies, goes to show you that the dorky looking ones are usually the best pick.
Kevin Thornton as I mentioned left the group after “God told him he should” . Before being called by God Kevin suffered from what he says was a horrible bout with sex addiction. “I used marijuana and alcohol but my real vice was girls.” Thornton fathered three children during his eight years in the band. “Women that looked like models were coming on to me, and I indulged. I was wildly irresponsible.” He says after the relationship with him and one of his children’s mother turned bad (no details of how bad) he contemplated suicide. He said everyone has their vices, weed, coke , alcohol but for him it was women. He once stated that you could put any of the aforementioned on a table and he may or may not partake but if you were to put a stripper on the table he would lose all sense. Saying his heart would race and his palms would sweat. Damn I always thought sex addiction was a cop out but if there are actual physiological effects, I guess not.
Kevin released two gospel albums as well. He and Mark and Bryan have reunited three times since 1998 and as of now things are okay with the trio. Though, last year, not so much. Kevin filed a suit against Bryan and Mark, after Mark allowed Bryan back in the group after they replaced him with Martin Kember.
Not sure of what became of the suit but as of last weekend it’s been Abrams, Calderon and Thornton on the I Love the 90’s: It Feels Like a Family Tour.
Mark Calderon is married to the groups former stylist Lisa Smedley in 1992. The couple do have children, though how many I’m not sure.
Interesting notes before I close, the guys once sang for Jon Bon Jovi in the back of his car.
Bryan Abrams heftier size was nothing new to anyone who knew him before fame. In high-school he was 350lbs. Sam Watters credits their hungry and humble beginnings to his eventual 190lb frame when they made it big. “…We didn’t realize he would be the most attractive guy in the group “.
Bryan’s mom would follow tour buses after they performed in Oklahoma city and the guys would bum rush them when the bus would stop at the stations. These encounters had the guys singing for Huey Lewis and the News, The Ojays, Toni Tony Tone’ , Kool and the Gang and more. Kool and the Gang’s managers ended up signing them to their management company and moved them to New York.
Though Bryan Abrams has been told he resembled rapper Snow… his old pics are now being compared to one of the Golden State Warriors splash brothers, Klay Thompson. I think it’s an uncanny resemblance .
Sam Watters cut his hair after incessantly being compared to Kenny G, even by the man himself .
I hope this was informative and entertaining. Talk to you next week.