"Payin' Ma Dues" West Coast Style!!!

(A legend in his own  time and mind!)

"California Kyn"............(Columbus Kenny)

Seeing .....as how the California Northern "Bay Area" has been my "base station" or "home port" on the West Coast since the sixties, I've paid a lot of my dues around here too! As a matter of fact, I don't think I've missed playing too many places on the entire Coast! Very few! From Tiajuana Mexico to Edmonton, Alberta. When I arrived here (from Columbus, O.) the "Beatnics" were on their way out and "The Beatles" landed shortly after. From suits, ties and tams, short "Ceaser" hair cuts, being "cool", jazz, reciting poetry, coffee houses and flowing money - to - Long hair, loud bell bottoms & nik niks, micro mini's, a lotta weed, acid, the "peace sign" and broke! Does the phrase "Got any spare change" sound familiar? I still have my beaded American flag wrist band that I bought at San Francisco's "Candlestick Park" the last time the Beatles played together, And that's a fact. August 29th, 1965 and packed.

You see,
before the "Triplites" and long after the "Falcons"................

I rolled into the San Francisco Greyhound bus staton in early March (the 3rd) 1964. Got a job-tending bar at the "Aztec Room" in San Mateo, California. Didn't know anything about it, but, Barry's (Vallejos/Falcons) brother, got me the job and taught me how to tend. Their older brother owned the club. A very nice room. Semi-elite. Jazz-funk bands. And as many whites and asians, as well as blacks & latinos, packed this club! A family sffair!
About 20's to 50's age range. And on any given day or night, you gonna see a few minks. That kind of a crowd. George Duke - Kenny Gee, Brian McKnight, Nancy Wilson, or Gene Harris would fit right in.
It was hip. I would always sit-in (sing) with all the bands, just so I could keep my chops up. One night,
Rick Baker came in. Sharp as a tack. He sat down at a table with his lady and ordered some drinks. He was a local singer based in San Francisco, living in San Mateo. Later he sat in with the band.

"the boy was bad and I do mean good."

Polished away! Later on, I sang a couple of songs with the group. Rick came up to the bar, afterwards,
and introduced himself. We complimented each other and struck up a conversation and an immediate lifetime friendship. He asked me if I knew anything about the club scene. I said, "no, not really". And he said. "If I don't know where it is, it ain't here". Man, he was not kidding.
Rick had a 1957 "Fury" convertible that looked like a Rolls Royce and ran like a clock. White and blue, baby blue top, w/gold trimmings everywhere.
We would go to clubs throughout the bay area, riding & leaning. "Getting caught & taught!"
So, this one night he says. "Hey man, I know just the club for you. The Embers. There's this ole Italian guy named Don Zirilli who owns the club that I want you to meet. I bet you guys hit it off. It's your kind of a club
Kynne". So, it's a Friday night and we head to Redwood City. We walk in and "Bamm". Long story short......what a club!!!!!

A gasper. Spotlight and all. There was hardly even standing room. We went directly to Don's office/sound room. Rick introduced us to each other and told him that I was a singer too. And, that I had just recently moved to California. Don told us that the band playing was great, but the lead singer had left and went back to New York, so the "Act" needed a lead singer. The group was the "Dartels". Had a big hit out called "Hot Pastrami" (yeah, yeah, yeah - real name "Mashed Potato"). It just so happens.........I knew that song. So I go up and sang it with them. Don hires me on the spot to front the group for the rest of their gig and immediatly became my manager. The next thing I know he puts me with the next band that comes into the club. "Harvey Kaye and the Larks!"  One thing I have to say about Don is, he was the smartest club, lounge, or showroom owner and manager that I have ever known. Man, I played with a lotta' bands during those times and he guided me so that I really enjoyed it while I picked up more show business sense, style and technique.

Looking back on it, Don always had all the latest sound equipment, p.a. system, and stages. He even had a stage built, in his club, that came out electronically from the main stage. Cordless mikes, and my favorite, the "floor spotlight" that was for trailing you everywhere you went. I loved it. I can actually say that I watched that club expand in size, and remodeled completly three times. His best friend, in Sacremento, Tom Lyle, booked bands and owned two clubs. The Tropicana and the Trophy Room. During these years I would "FRONT" bands or Do "my show" with any band, anywhere. So, what you got was a three part "Show". The band. Me and the band. Me. Man, I started out as a "single artist" and you will see that during and in between the bands, I always came back to solo performing. The "Embers" is where Don tought me how to "polish up my single act". In music and personal life. To be "ready" for the "Big Time".....With or without a band! The Embers was always a "class act" club and my "base". In size and appearance we grew together. During this time we made a lotta' music! Every time I came off of the road, it was back to the Embers for four weeks. I played with a lotta' bands and did a zillion solo shows during & after the "Larks". Also, during this time I worked at a clubs in San Francisco. Three years later I joined & formed the "TRIPLITES"

After two great years with the TRIPLITES , and a heartbreaking break up, I said to myself. "It's time to really devote your time to your "solo" career!" So, I stumbled up on a small cozy club in San Franciso that was just openining up called "The Chamber Room".

It was during 1969-72 and the high point of the Hippie era. I myself, by this time, was a "materialist" hippie. Liked the "free love", proudness, pride, togetherness, music and the loud clothes . Didn't like the ole' no bath part. Hey, Kesar Stadium, Bill Graham's "Day On the Green" concert... I was there tripin'. meanwhile.............

........soon to be continued!


When I first got here (Ca.), there was about twenty to thirty people from Columbus living in San Mateo! One buddy of mine had a "girlfriend" whose cousin was Sylvester Stewart. When we met we became instant friends. My buddy and I went to see him record Bobby Freeman (live) at the Cow Palace. "Sly" was also a great disc jockey on KSOL, and was playing at the Condor in San Francisco with his group "Sly and the Mojo men". Also, at the same time, the "Condor" club owner managed singing duo "George and Teddy" and the Condors (band). I played right next door at "Big Al's". Singer, Wally Cox (no not Mr. Peepers) and I, did separate shows with the Jimmy Mamoo band.

Boy, do I remember that! The "Batman" TV series had just began to get popular lotta' nightspots were so named. In L.A. there was the "Haunted House", in Mountain View there was "Wayne Manor". Big Al's contribution was that the house band wear Batman costumes. Cowls, tights, masks, boots and all.
Everybody in the band wore these outfits, but one.

The trumpet player, Cynthia's (later of Sly & the Family Stone) outfit was that of "Robin". Then there was "Gina the Bat Girl' (dancer), Tara the "Snake dancer", who danced topless with two big pythons. The police used to pull "fake" raids, at least twice a night.

Now first, I'd better give you a little setting. San Francisco's "North Beach section of town. The "Beatnik" area had just passed. Funk & soul were in! I was singing at "Big Al's". Judy Mack (dancer) showed up one night and took her top off at a dance contest at the "Galaxy". That sprung the boob craze. Next thing I know Johnny Mathis was gone from the El Matador, Les McCann was gone from Tipsy's, and all the jazz clubs, comedy clubs, and coffee houses turned "Topless" (except for Basin Street and the Jazz Workshop). The perverts swooped in like a Miracle paint job. I'd never seen so many black business suits, ties and white shirts in my whole life.
At the same time, the "hippies" were beginning to wake up to what was going on around the country and people, mostly "kids", from everywhere starting flowing into the San Francisco "Haight Asbury" district. And I mean young kids.

Anyway, it was around this time that I had quit Big Al's and Don Zirrili was hiring me out to bands as a "front man". So, I was appearing for 4 weeks at the "Embers" and back and forth to Vegas. Right down the street, from the Embers , the old "Tin Pan Alley" club opened up and it was now called the "Winchester Cathedral".

Jerry Martinez,saxophonist from the "Condors" band, had formed a new band along with Sylvester Stewart called "Sly and the family Stone". Cynthia from Jimmy Mamoo's band (our band) went with them too. And just by coincidence, while wood shedding out at Sly's mom's house in San Francisco, the "Winchester" was their first "test the band" gig. It was the perfect setting. Located on El Camino Real in Redwood City, Ca. And, it was right down the street from the Embers. I couldn't have asked for more. I couldn't have planned it better, myself!

Every Friday and Saturday, two bands alternated playing "after hours". "6/8th Paradox" band from 2am till 2:45am, "Sly and the family Stone" 3am till 4:00am, than 6/8th again 4am till 4:45am, and last The Family Stone from 5:00am untill whenever. By 3am everybody from all sides of the "Bay Area" would be sitting in the "Winchester". Packed! No dancing! Jammed packed! Standing room only. All watching the "Family Stone". I would finish my gig about 2:00am, head to "breakfast" and then to the Winchester!

This went on for about the first six months of the band. We got to see history being made and I knew it! Shortly after, me and the TRIPLITES" played the same club "circuit". Our bands relieved each other at various clubs. "Frenchies" in Hayward California, "Wayne Manor" in Sunnyvale California, the Haunted House in L.A., and of course the "Pussy Cat a Go Go" in Vegas, and many more. Other bands like the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, The Checkmates, The Mob, Cold Blood, The Rightous Brothers, and the Loading Zone played this circuit too. Just to name a few.

Hey, I still say, after the Beatles, the next major "music change" came by the way of "Sly & the Family Stone". If you don't believe me, Check out why Motown and other companies/atrists changed to none other than the "Sly sound". They all may say different. But, not only d\id I hear and see it, I know!

The TRIPLITES and I parted and went our separate ways much later after we played the "Lemon Tree" in Reno. So, back to my "one man show" again, and on to the 70's and the bell bottoms. Now, the longest I 've ever played at one club was the Chamber Room in San Francisco.....

........to be continued

 Music Is My Life


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