Keyon Harrold was born in Harlem, New York City. He was one of six children of Emmett Parks, a world-renowned artist, painter, and composer. His parents, Patrick and Ida Parks, were both teachers. Their musical interests were sparked by a chance encounter with jazz percussionist, pianist, and singer Louis Armstrong. Keyon Harrold attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he played the drums, but later in his adult life worked with renowned jazz musicians such as Lawrence Olivier.
He was chosen to perform after Armstrong’s “Mystery Train” tour. After the concert, in which he played “Cariba” (with Ella Fitzgerald), he received a call from Ella Fitzgerald offering him a role in her new album. The album, titled Simply Iridescent, was produced by King Curtis and featured future jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Buddy Holly, and Charlie Parker. According to some biographies, Harrold was so impressed by the album that he decided to record it himself. However, this was only short-lived because after hearing only a few of the songs on the album, he decided to move on to other projects.
Eventually, he formed his own band, featuring guitarist Louis Armstrong and bassistorry. The band had several hit singles, including “Dixieland Soul” and “online-Lotion.” Armstrong, along with future musician and friend pianist Henry Mancini, would collaborate in writing and playing their own music. Armstrong also appeared on “Cariba” as well as “Mystery Train.” These recordings helped establish the “EDB” sound movement, which continues to this day.
An essential album in the Keyon Harrold/IBDA timeline is “TP.” This was the group’s third album and featured future soul, rock, and pop icons like Elvis, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin. The album reached #2 on the chart. Although the single “I’m a Believer” does not feature any keyboards, it is clearly the disc’s highlight. The song is an absolute classic.
Keyboards featured heavily on the “LP.” Early in the album, Keyon sings about being “partners” with Mancini. Four months later, Mancini would pass away from cancer. Many fans believe that Keyon took his chance at stardom after his partner’s death and channeled his grief into creating such a powerful album as White Room. It would be unfair to say that the keyboard player lost his mind after passing, though, as he was able to keep working with the band throughout their live sessions.
“TP” was also the last album that Keyon was a guest keyboard player for. It featured backups by various artists, but none more than Cream. He did appear on the track “Don’t Worry” from the Black Sabbath album, though. This would set the stage for Cream’s legendary” Sabbath” album, which was actually recorded while Keyon was with Cream.
Following Cream’s Neil Young’s death, Keyon took over as lead vocalist for The Rolling Stones. The experience was both unnerving and life-changing for the young man. He became a permanent fixture on the front line of popular rock anthems such as Hey Jude, Come As You Are, and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. While many thought he had lost his ability to sing altogether, he has become known for his amazing guitar work. He was nominated for Grammys in two different categories, Best Rock Song nominee For A Lifetime Of Rock and Best Rock Album for Sticky Fingers.
One of the highlights of Ozzy Osbourne’s tenure with Cream was the inclusion of Keyon Harrold on the hit “Cigarettes In The Mouth.” Even though the keyboard player was only playing the second guitar, the song became one of the most beloved hits in the band’s history. Though he didn’t have a chance to appear on stage with Ozzy during their time together, Ozzy is still very connected with Cream fans, especially those present at the beginning of their career. This connection is evident in the numerous covers of Cream songs that continue to surface in various music genres, including blues, pop, alternative, and heavy metal.