New wave ironist Tonio K. was born Steve Krikorian on July 4, 1950 and was raised in Palm Desert, CA. While in high school he formed his first band, the Raik's Progress. In 1973, he appeared on his first album, Remnants, as a member of the former Buddy Holly backing band the Crickets. After going solo, he assumed the stage name Tonio K., apparently in honor of the Thomas Mann novella Tonio Kröger. His debut LP, Life in the Foodchain, was a critical smash upon its 1978 release, winning acclaim for its scathing wit and smartly crafted songs; Amerika followed two years later, and although it fared poorly commercially it helped establish the singer as a major favorite on the L.A. club scene.
A follow-up, Too Cool to Be a Christian, was recorded but never released; despite Tonio K.'s famously sarcastic attitude, the project's title was far from a joke, however, and his growing spirituality remained the focus of his work in the years to follow. After 1982's La Bomba EP, he was silent until the release of 1986's Romeo Unchained, which heralded a newly mellow sound; 1988's Notes from the Lost Civilization was his final proper LP, although a planned follow-up, Olé, was recorded but not issued. (It was finally released in 1997). During the 1990s, Tonio K. was most active as a songwriter; in 1998 he issued Rodent Weekend '76-'96 (Approximately), a collection of unreleased material. Yugoslavia followed a year later. His songs have been recorded by artists ranging from Al Green and Aaron Neville to Bonnie Raitt and Burt Bacharach. ~ Jason Ankeny