Group's name sets tone for performances


If you've ever been puzzled about why the members of Tony! Toni! Tone! took on such a name when there isn't an Anthony among them, it's only because you're thinking of the wrong kind of "tony." As Dwayne Wiggins explains, what the group actually had in mind wasn't the nickname "Tony," but the slang term meaning high-class and stylish.

"It's just another way of saying 'a fly outlook,' " he says. "We came up with that before we came up with the group. It started out being a nickname for the way we used to dress and party and stuff."

Don't be fooled into thinking that focus on fashion means that the Tonies! are interested only in appearance, though. Tony! Toni! Tone! may be on the road with the Club MTV tour, but the soul of this quintet is musical, not visual.

In fact, the Club MTV Tour's insistence on billing itself as "All Live" seems almost silly to these guys. "I guess they have to advertise it because of the last MTV event," Wiggins says, referring to the minor scandal that erupted when it was revealed that Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli, who co-headlined the last Club MTV outing, lip-synched their performances. "They had to let everyone know that this one is real, I guess."

Still, it's hard for Tony! Toni! Tone! to be anything but real. Having grown up in Oakland, Calif., the group has a deep sense of musical tradition. "Oakland -- that Sly sound, Tower of Power, Larry Graham and all that -- that's really the roots of a lot of music," says Wiggins. "So there are a lot of roots that come from there."

Which, perhaps, explains the traditionalist bent of the group's current single, "Me and You" (which can be found on the "Boyz N the Hood" soundtrack). "It's actually more like the old school," says Wiggins. "More like something you'd hear the Stylistics or the Spinners getting into.

"But I don't consider myself a real serious singer," he adds. "I just consider myself a performer. So when I come across on the mike, I think people can relate to it better because it's a real person up there singing. I'm not a Luther Vandross or anything like that -- just a person who gets the point across through his lyrics."

Tony! Toni! Tone!

When: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

Tickets: $19.50

Call: 347-2010 for information, 481-6000 for tickets

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