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Passings: Jimmy Wisner (aka Kokomo), Hitmaker, Songwriter & Producer (1931 - 2018)

Source: Tommy James' Facebook
by VVN Music

Jimmy Wisner, who hit the top ten in 1961 under the name Kokomo and worked extensively with Tommy James throughout his professional life, has died at the age of 86.

Professional partner Tommy James said:

I am so sad today to have lost my great friend, Jimmy “The Wiz” Wisner who passed away March 13th. He was my arranger, co-producer, and songwriting partner for 52 years. Our first record together was "I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW" in 1966. Our latest collaboration was two songs on my soon to be released new album ALIVE!... he will be terribly missed! Our prayers go out to Jane, his wife, and Matt, his son.

Wisner was originally trained as a classical musician but, while attending Temple University in Philadelphia, ventured into jazz with the Jimmy Wisner Trio.

In 1959, he released his debut jazz album, Blues For Harvey, and followed the next year with Apperception but it was a rock record he recorded under the name Kokomo that brought him his biggest, although hidden behind the pseudonym, success. Taking an old piano and putting shellac on the hammers, he played a boogie woogie version of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Wisner shopped the song around to numerous labels but couldn't find interest, so he released his track, called Asia Minor, on his own Future Records. He also made the decision to use the name Kokomo so that he wouldn't alienate fans in the jazz community.

Asia Minor became a major hit, going to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. The song also spawned a number of imitations including B. Bumble and the Stingers' "Bumble Boogie" and Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Long Long Hair".

While it was Wisner's only hit, it launched him into a career writing hit songs (The Tymes' "Somewhere", The Searchers "Don't Throw Your Love Away") along with doing producing and arranging for the likes of Bobby Rydell, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton, Judy Collins, the Cowsills, Carly Simon, and, as mentioned earlier, Tommy James.

Among his work:
  • Our Love / You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It - Kenny Gamble (arranger)
  • Esther Phillips Sings - Ester Phillips (arranger, conductor)
  • It's Magic - Barbara Lewis (arranger, director)
  • My Cup Runneth Over - Ed Ames (conductor, arranger)
  • Soul Artistry - Jerry Butler (arranger)
  • I Think We're Alone Now - Tommy James & the Shondells (arranger)
  • Here, There and Everywhere - Gloria Lynne (producer)
  • I Stand Alone - Al Kooper (arranger, conductor)
  • Both Sides Now - Robert Goulet (producer, arranger, conductor)
  • To Love Somebody - Nina Simone (arranger, conductor)
  • I've Gotta Be Me - Tony Bennett (producer)
  • Funky - Spencer Davis Group (horn & string arrangements)
  • Ev'ry Day of My Life - Bobby Vinton (producer, arranger)
  • Rock Billy Boogie - Robert Gordon (string arrangements)
  • Party - Iggy Pop (arranger)
  • Torch - Carly Simon (orchestrations)