Hailing from New Zealand's sunny Bay of Plenty, Kokomo (originally “Kokomo Blues”) has been together now since 1991, and has become renowned for dynamic live shows and smart distinctive song-writing. During this time the band has toured extensively throughout New Zealand, performing at the country’s major rock, blues, jazz and folk festivals.
Between touring the band has released 15 albums and a live concert DVD. The early albums were collections of traditional blues, while subsequent albums focus on the band’s own songs.
The band was formed in 1991 after a chance performance at the National Jazz Festival. Derek Jacombs had been invited to present a set of solo blues and brought Grant Bullot to join him. The concert turned into a runaway success and, along with Grant's brother Roger, they formed acoustic blues trio Kokomo Blues.
The band name? Well, Kokomo Blues, as it was then, came from the Kokomo Arnold song The Old Original Kokomo Blues, one of the greatest bits of slide guitar ever played.
Later that year - armed with 50 or so old blues songs, mostly pre-war, a mixture of Delta and ragtime - the band set out on the road with a “we play anywhere” policy, which saw them playing around 200 shows a year, everywhere from the Kaponga Backgammon Club and Great Barrier Island to Auckland’s Aotea Centre. And they started recording. That set the scene for following years.
In 1992 they made their first album, The Old Original Kokomo Blues, very quickly and with no budget. All the songs were trad blues. A second album, When In Rome Do Rome (1994), followed that principle, but included a couple of original songs at the end. On the strength of that the band signed with independent NZ label Jayrem Music, and were approached by singer/songwriter Tracie De Jong about a writing/recording collaboration.
That led to the Stromboling album, recorded with Tracie at the Radio New Zealand Studio in Wellington. The band then returned a year later to record To Be Or What (1996), a transitional album mixing a couple of trad blues with original songs of Derek's and and a couple of instruments which gave them the chance to stretch out musically.
Roger retired from the band at the end of 1998 and, as a mark of respect for seven years together they changed the band name to just Kokomo. Nigel Masters, an old friend of the band (who recorded When In Rome Do Rome at his studio The Boatshed in Tauranga and had toured with Kokomo as a keyboard player) came on board to play bass. The band immediately went back to his studio to record Little Heroes, a set of original songs, which was released in July 1999.
At this time Wellington trumpeter, Sonia Trappitt, who had been guesting with Kokomo live for a number of years, moved to Tauranga and (eventually) married Grant, becoming Sonia Bullot. She recorded with the band for the first time on Little Heroes and became an official Kokomo member in 2000...