Cheryl Cooley is the heart and soul of KLYMAXX. An original member and guitarist of KLYMAXX, the first all-female Funk/R&B/Pop band, rising in the mid-eighties and maintaining the magnetic power of the unruly genre that defies labels. Cheryl Cooley infused electric passion into the rhythmic beats. Her passion and creativity carved the unique sound into the spirit of KLYMAXX. Guitarist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and gifted performer, the dynamic force, Cheryl Cooley crafted the unique funky beat. Bold words like “the men all pause when I walk into the room”, “there’s a meeting in the Ladies’ room” and “don’t slap me cause I’m not in the mood” set KLYMAXX in a position of power in the industry and blew open doors in a male-dominated industry. 

It’s Black Music Month. How do you feel that music impacts the culture? 

Cheryl: Music evokes emotions, and it is in every fiber of cultural expression.  Like how upbeat music might affect us to be happy with dance and singing to feel good about life.  Or how slower rhythms might affect us to be more solemn and contemplative which expresses all parts of life expressions and culture. I mean Black Music was a thing prior to there even being a name for it. Black Music is my way of life, and so many genres are based on it. We are in everything. 

Who do you feel is your target audience? 

Cheryl: I have seen all ages at our concerts.  From an older crowd reminiscing about their past to the much, much younger crowd saying, “This is real music”, and even comparing it to what may be popular on the radio today. Since Saturday Night Live has done a couple of skits featuring “Meeting In The Ladies Room,” our music has been introduced to a new generational wave of listeners.  Just a few days ago, CEO and internet sensation, Draya Michele and Kayla Nicole posted in their Instagram stories a moment of them having fun outside the bathroom and added the song MITLR to it. This same thing happened with acclaimed actress Sanaa Lathan only a few months ago. Well-known drag Queen Vanessa Savanjie has performed this song several times.

When did you know you wanted to become a singer/entertainer? 

Cheryl: When I was a kid and I saw the Beatles performing on television, I thought, “Gee, I want to do that when I grow up”.  My parents always gave me a toy guitar every other Christmas, so I would say the guitar choose me, lol.  When Sly and the Family Stone introduced funk music into the music industry, I felt in my soul funk music would be the style I wanted to learn and play.  My sister was married to a Jazz musician, Hubert Laws, and one day he had his guitar at my parents’ house, and I told him I had (a toy) one also.  So, I played a little tune on it and my sister screamed, “Let’s get Cheryl some guitar lessons” and that was the start of my musical journey. 

What makes your band so unique? 

Cheryl: Kymaxx is a self-contained all-female band; this means we play every instrument live with arrangements. At this point, I feel like I’ve had to be very specific that we are women that play musical instruments, and we are properly trained to do so.  And at this point in time is STILL the only R&B all-female band that has charted on Billboard Magazine. There are still a lot of people that have not seen an all-female band ‘to this day and I hope to keep changing that with our performance tours. Quiet as it is kept, KLYMAXX paved the way for many of the more prominent female artists of this current generation.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Cheryl: Being the musical director and responsible for getting Klymaxx to the connection for a record deal. Having written the music for Klymaxx’s first record release.  Having gold/platinum records with Klymaxx.  Wrote music arrangements for my high school band for the football games season As a learning youth musician, being a part of the City of Compton’s community Communicative Artists Jazz Band, both as a guitarist and a junior conductor. My first professional paid gig as a kid was performing as an opening act for comedian, Redd Foxx.  Having a Music College Degree in Commercial Music.  Being able to read, write, score, and arrange music.  Being the first chair (guitar) for 70’s artist, Thelma Houston, when she travels with a band.  Klymaxx was awarded the first annual Women Songwriters Hall of Fame award in Washington, DC in 2021.  In the Klymaxx song, “Wild Girls”, writer/producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, specifically wanted me to play the wild guitar solo at the vamp end of the song.  Their confidence in my guitar acuity and abilities, catapulted my own confidence in my performance ability. It changed the way I play even today, and I am forever grateful to them for that.

Name 3 current artists that you enjoy listening to. 

Cheryl: Bruno Mars – Leave the Door Open, I even did a little dance with my friends to this song, Janelle Monáe – I love her confidence and how she has evolved,  and Charis Reese – that is my best friend and protector, she’s bringing live music back in this generation, my favorite song is Allergic. There are other artists that I am impressed with, but these are the ones that come to mind without hesitation. But I have been blessed to play with Thelma Houston, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and others.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Cheryl: Performing live concerts as much as I possibly can, recording new music and having fun doing it.


Photo Credits: Photo Provided