Jean-Michel Byron is a South African funk and rock vocalist, best known to many for his brief, yet prolific, tenure as the lead vocalist of the rock band Toto, providing vocals for the new material that was to sit alongside their greatest hits on 1990’s Past To Present. His appointment in the band caused controversy from the very beginning: he was suggested by the band’s label to shake up their sound and image, an idea which Jeff Porcaro supported initially, while Steve Lukather was less than happy, describing in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock‘s Jeff Giles how “the personalities didn’t work at all, especially between me and him.”
Tensions only grew between Byron and the band when they went out on tour: while no one can deny the musicianship of either party, it can not be ignored that their backgrounds just weren’t compatible. Byron’s stage antics, which were comparable to Michael Jackson’s sense of showmanship, simply didn’t sit well with Toto fans, who Lukather described as “flipping him off.” Byron was released from the band: he felt that they didn’t understand his vision, Lukather responded with “I understand your vision, it’s just the wrong ****ing one!”
However, just because Byron didn’t work so well with Toto, that didn’t mean he wasn’t destined for great things. In 2005, he contributed vocals to the Michael Sanders & The One Tribe Nation debut album Servants of a Lesser God, appearing alongside such musicians as Luis Conte and Andy Vargas of Santana.
While this mixture of Jazz Rock and Funk suited Byron much more than his earlier work though, he never really shined quite so much as an individual until he took full creative control and released a solo album. Simply titled Byron, and released in 2009 through FM-Revolver, he got to mix African rhythms in with his rock influences, creating a fusion that shows his true musical nature better than any of the other releases he’s been involved with to date. Byron remains active today, producing other artists alongside his own work.