Jimmy Wisner

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Jimmy Wisner
Birth name James Joseph Wisner
Also known as Kokomo
Born (1931-12-08)December 8, 1931
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died March 13, 2018(2018-03-13) (aged 86)
Genres Jazz, pop
Occupation(s) Pianist, songwriter
Instruments Piano
Years active 1959–2018

James Joseph Wisner (December 8, 1931 – March 13, 2018) was an American pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer. He is best known for his 1961 hit single "Asia Minor", released under the name Kokomo.


Born in Philadelphia, Wisner received classical training as a youngster, and attended Temple University as a psychology student in the late 1950s. He formed the Jimmy Wisner Trio in 1959 with Chick Kinney on drums and Ace Tesone on bass. This ensemble backed musicians who toured through Philadelphia, including Mel Torme, Carmen McRae, Dakota Staton, and the Hi-Lo's.[1]

He released several full-length albums as a jazz musician, but in 1961 recorded a rock & roll adaptation of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor, using shellac on the hammers of a cheap piano so as to effect a honky tonk sound.[2] So as not to alienate his jazz fans, he released the tune, titled "Asia Minor", under the name Kokomo; he was turned down by 10 labels and had to release the track on his own label Future Records.[1] The song became a hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100,[3] and #35 on the UK Singles Chart[4] despite having been banned by the BBC.[1] Wisner released further singles as Kokomo on his prior label, Felsted, but did not have another hit.

Following the success of "Asia Minor", Wisner launched a successful career as a songwriter, producer, and composer for film and television. He wrote "Don't Throw Your Love Away", a #1 UK hit for the Searchers in 1964, as well as the Tymes' "Somewhere", which went Top 20 in the UK. As a producer and arranger Wisner worked with Bobby Rydell ("The Joker", by Newley-Bricusse from Roar of the Greasepaint) as well as numerous others including Freddy Cannon, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton, Herbie Mann, Len Barry ("1 - 2 - 3"[5]), Miriam Makeba, Judy Collins, Paul Evans, Spanky and Our Gang, Tony Bennett, the Cowsills, Carly Simon, Al Kooper, Iggy Pop, Barbra Streisand, Tommy James, Brigitte Bardot, and Roberto Carlos as well as Randy & the Rainbows. He also headed Columbia Records' A&R department from 1968 to 1969, where he recorded Donna Marie, who went on to perform with the Archies.[6]

Wisner died on March 13, 2018, at age 86.[7]


As Jimmy Wisner
As Jimmy Wisner Orchestra
As Kokomo
  • Asia Minor (Felsted Records, 1961)

As sideman[edit]

With Herbie Mann


  1. ^ a b c Jimmy Wisner at Rockabilly.nl
  2. ^ Review of Asia Minor. Allmusic
  3. ^ Billboard, Allmusic
  4. ^ Search for "Kokomo" performed on Everyhit.com Archived 2008-10-12 at the Wayback Machine. database on August 15, 2008.
  5. ^ Len Barry: 1 - 2 - 3 at Discogs (list of releases)
  6. ^ Pinto, Laura (November 2002). "The Donna Marie Interview". Donna Marie Fan Page. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Passings: Jimmy Wisner (aka Kokomo), Hitmaker, Songwriter & Producer (1931 - 2018) accessdate March 16, 2018

External links[edit]