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Friday, June 17, 2011

ABOUT: Kenny and the Kasuals



KENNY AND THE KASUALS. This musical group came together in 1964and is recognized as one of the most seminal and long-lasting rock and roll bands from Texas since the 1960s. They are also considered to be one of the first pioneers of the psychedelic era.

The beginnings of the group that would become Kenny and the Kasuals first met in the living room of Kenneth B. (Kenny) Daniel. Encouraged to play music by his father, also a musician, Daniel and his Bryan Adams High School classmate Tommy Nichols called themselves “The Illusions Combo.” Both boys played electric guitar and both sang, with Tommy Nichols taking the role of front person. Soon they added two neighborhood friends, Blaine Young (drums) and Charles Beverly (bass). As the Illusions Combo, the four high schoolers played backyard parties, dances and other small local events as Daniel and Nichols kept their eye out for bigger opportunities.

In late 1964, the Illusions Combo was forced to restructure; Tommy Nichols left the band, Blaine Young passed away from a rare form of meningitis at age 18, and Charles Beverly did not wish to tour and so, was replaced. Kenny Daniel took over as the front person, re-naming the group the “Ken Daniel Combo”and added two other classmates to the mix. Jerry Smith and Lee Lightfoot had been members of another local band, The Vibrations, but they soon joined Daniel as lead guitarist and bassist, respectively. Subsequent additions were made with David “Bird” Blachley added on drums and Paul Roach on keyboards.

Daniel and Smith both worked as lifeguards for the swimming pool of a local motel, The Lamplighter Motel, owned by Dallas businessman Roy Norwood. Every Friday the Ken Daniel Combo would play at a teen dance party held in the club of the motel. One of the regular patrons was impressed by the young band and told her son, Mark Lee, about their talent. Lee, who attended a rival high school (Hillcrest), dressed up in a suit and tie and sought them out at a show the very next evening to introduced himself as their new manager (and, that very night, dubbed them henceforth “Kenny and the Kasuals.”).The band accepted this arrangement and Mark Lee began to promote and reinvent the band to maximize their chances of success. The arrangement worked well; Kenny and the Kasuals began to play adult and teen clubs alike; not only in Dallas with clubs like the Three Thieves and The Studio Club, but throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

The primary venue for Kenny and the Kasuals was The Studio Club in Dallas, owned by Larry Levine (founder of the Chili's restaurant chain). One notable evening for the young band started out as usual; they were all relaxing backstage before one of their regular shows. Someone at the club walked in and informed them that there was an English band in the front room asking if they could play a few songs before Kenny and the Kasuals went on; Kenny and the Kasuals agreed. The band was in the US on one of their first tours, and were in Dallas to play a show at Memorial Auditorium; their name was the Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page on bass and Jeff Beck on lead guitar.

The bookings continued to mount in what was turning out to be a very lucrative vocation for the high school boys. In addition to their bookings, they also appeared regularly on a local WFAA television show that aired every Friday night, called “Sumpin' Else” and hosted by Ron Chapman. Other regional bands appeared on the show as well, such as The Nightcaps and the Chessmen (featuring a young Jimmy Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall). As the band accrued finances and honed their craft, recordings began to be made. Kenny and the Kasuals' first release was a 45” entitled “Nothin' Better to Do”, with a B-side called “Floatin'.” Several more singles followed in short succession, and then the band made a decision was to record a live album at The Studio Club and and independently release it as an LP.

The recordings were made (albeit not entirely live, by the band's own admission), and it was released with a 500-copy pressing and the audacious (yet auspicious) title “The Impact Sounds of Kenny and the Kasuals Recorded Live at the Studio Club.” Known amongst fans and collectors as simply “Impact,” the LP is highly prized; Rolling Stone magazine categorized the first pressing of this album “as one of the most collectible American albums” ever released.

1966 brought further success to Kenny and the Kasuals. During an extra hour of studio time, guitarist Smith and Mark Lee, the Kasuals' manager, wrote a song called “Journey in Tyme,” in about an hour. Lee Lightfoot had recently heard some recordings by The Who and had just rushed out to buy a fuzz-tone pedal, which he set up to use on the new song. The recording was heavy on fuzz bass and existentialist lyrics and is often considered to be one (if not the first) song released of what would be come the “psychedelic” music genre. The evening that Kenny and the Kasuals recorded this song, a local DJ named Jimmy Rabbitt was present in the studio. Greatly excited by what the band produced, Rabbitt took the original acetate from that session and walked it over to his radio station and put it on the air. “Journey to Tyme” became a regional, and then a national, hit song. Major label United Artists (UA) optioned and won the rights to the song and assisted in its becoming a national hit, particularly in the Northeastern part of the US such as New York and Pittsburgh.

Based on this success, Kenny and the Kasuals decided to pursue stardom even further. Now students at El Centro College in Dallas, they had befriended a New York transplant; named Vinny Albano who urged them to come to New York City and play to audiences there. It was decided that the band would go to New York for about a month; Mark Lee booked them rooms at the Albert Hotel in Greenwich Village. Upon their arrival, the Kasuals found that other soon-to-be-legendary sixties bands such as the Seeds and the Lovin' Spoonful were already there doing the same thing; indeed, they were staying at the same Greenwich Village hotel as Kenny and the Kasuals.

During their month in New York, the band played venues such as the Rolling Stone club, and as they experienced what 1960s New York had to offer, saw many shows as well. While they were in New York, United Artists had presented Kenny and the Kasuals with an opportunity to play at Shea Stadium, sharing a bill with the Bill Black Combo, the Ronettes, and the Beatles. They were advertised as playing on the bill, but last-minute bureaucratic red tape involving band management disallowed them from performing, and in fact put and end to their dealings with UA and, subsequently, interest from any other major labels was pulled as well.

Upon their return to Texas in 1967, the band dynamics began to decline, until most of the members of Kenny and the Kasuals formed a separate group called “Truth;” the band contained all members of the Kasuals, sans Kenny. In addition to this change, the Vietnam War was calling men to duty, and several members were drafted or joined the military, while others went back to college. Kenny and the Kasuals reunited on April 5, 1968 for a final show called “The Flower Fair,” which also boasted acts such as Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Jimmy Reed, The Turtles, the Box Tops, The Doors, The Association, and more. The show was a huge success. The next morning, Kenny Daniel went off to the draft and was later sent to Germany as a gunner and in 1969, traveled to Vietnam for the Tet Offensive.


In the 1970s, the band members all worked towards their own pursuits (Kenny Daniel started a successful local band called Summerfield); however, collectors in Europe were expressing increased interest in Kenny and the Kasuals' earlier releases such as “Impact.” The album was re-released in the late 1970s and, at the suggestion of Mark Lee, the band reformed with several of the Kasuals and Kenny Daniel. The 1980s saw the eventual departure of all but Lee Lightfoot, who rejoined on bass. Alan McDaniel, Chuck's brother, joined on lead guitar. Since the 1980s, this has been the standard lineup for Kenny and the Kasuals, who still play frequently in the Dallas area.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Daniel, Kenny. Personal interview. June 15, 2011.
Dugo, Mike. “Kenny and the Kasuals”. Interview transcript with Kenny Daniel. 60sgaragebands.com. Date unknown. Web, Accessed 21 April 2011.
Hall, Michael. “Three Chords and a Station Wagon.” Texas Monthly. March 2010.
“Kenny and the Kasuals”, kennybdaniel.com (Band website). Web, Accessed April 21, 2011.
Parker, Richard and Daniel, Kenny. Stomp and Shout: the All-Too-Real Story of Kenny and the Kasuals and the Garage Band Revolution of the Sixties. Fort Worth, TX: Oomph Media LLC, 2011.
Spiker, Darcy. “Kenny and the Kasuals Interview: SXSW 2010.” Spinner.com (AOL). March 15, 2010. Web. Accessed May 15, 2011.

2 comments:

JML said...

great music which you can hear at the balcony club saturday nights and some thursday nights.a dallas institution! vocals rich and strong! joan

Jim Muncy said...

I remember loving "You Make Me Feel Good" from Sump'n Else. A haunting tune that I had to, and did, learn to play on my glentar.