Kenny Pore

Finding the source of his musical ideas

Kenny Pore's uniquely American musical journey takes another large step toward his goal of personal maturity with this collection of CDs. His journey has been rough-edged at times and it has been filled with elements familiar to generations of restless young people in both literature and reality: a gritty path through life chosen by an eager and hungry high school drop-out, searching urgently for something he hardly understood himself. The search encompassed far more than merely a quest for his musical vision; it led Kenny to his appreciation today of the value of family ties and friendships, to the fundamentals of a balanced life. But in another sense, Kenny came to see eventually that the search itself was in part the prize, a rich source of his musical ideas. Such an experience has been shared by many artists ---- prose writers, painters, poets, sculptors ---- all of them gaining strength from the good and bad times. In Kenny's case, it provided him, and the rest of us who relish his work, with the basis for a musical legacy that is gaining in reputation. This CD collection is certain to increase the pace of the recognition his work deserves.

The journey starts

Kenny Pore was born into a musical family on a cold mid-winter's day in Chicago, Illinois, in 1952. His grandfather was one of the original craftsmen making Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His stepfather, Jimmy Zitano, was a jazz drummer in Al Hirt's band and had worked at various times with Cannonball Adderley, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis. The family stereo was always spinning swing jazz, Coltrane and the like. To hear his rock records, Kenny had to retreat to his room to play them on a cheap player with pennies taped to the arm so that the needle wouldn't skip. Your stuff will distort the speakers on the stereo, his stepfather told him. With his stepfather playing in clubs and his mother working late as a cocktail waitress, Kenny's house attracted a lot of his buddies who brought their instruments over to jam. It also attracted the police ---- because neighbors complained about the noise.

Playing the streets

At 16, Kenny dropped out of high school, grabbed some essentials including his guitar, and set out to see America. He was attracted to the pop festivals around the country and found it useful to get to them a few days early to pick up roadie work like setting up scaffolding. He could also hang with musicians. At one point he worked with Herman Stalvey, a tent preacher out of Florida. While the preacher sang and prayed, the young rambling musician played his guitar. To this day, Kenny feels that Preacher Stalvey taught him about aspects of life that really mattered. In San Francisco Kenny was a street-corner troubadour, playing folk licks all day long for 18 to 20 bucks on a good day. He had to keep an eye on winos who would pretend to listen ---- and then grab his paltry takings and run. During this period, Kenny started taking guitar lessons with teacher Dave Smith who had studied with Joe Pass. In 1979, Kenny was living in Detroit and eager to record demos of his work. His buddy Fletch Wiley invited him to Dallas where he could help with the recording. There, Fletch told him about Pat Coil, just out of North Texas State and the talk of the town with his own brand of music. Pat joined him in the four or five tunes on the demo ---- and Kenny set his sights on Los Angeles and the big time. But the reality of breaking into the LA scene set in when he arrived there. Nobody seemed interested in his tape and he found himself working the midnight shift as a hotel bellhop near the airport and sleeping in his car. He took off back to Dallas.

Recording in North Hollywood

At this time Kenny started picking production skills while hanging out with keyboardist Pat Coil and Bob Gentry, the bass player in Pats group, Recoil. Another friend, guitarist Hadley Hockensmith, suggested Kenny book time at a recording studio in North Hollywood and recommended an emerging young bass player named John Patitucci as well as Alex Acuna who had worked as a drummer with Weather Report. Kenny was a little anxious about going back to LA because of his earlier experience but with Pat Coil agreeing to go along too, he flew there and booked three hours at Weddington Studios ---- all he could afford. With everyone set up and ready to go, there was still no drummer minutes before the expensive session was due to start. It turned out there had been a mix-up with scheduling and Alex was not available. With time running out rapidly, John suggested that Vinnie Colaiuta be called in hastily. A wild scramble ensued and, with nearly two hours of recording time used up, Vinnie and his drums were finally in the studio and ready to go. Kenny was despondent and discouraged about the delay ---- the players started going over the charts with less than an hour left.

They just came together.

Kenny recalls: "Things were sounding pretty good from the start. I remember Vinnie saying we should lay one down after about 15 minutes of rehearsal. They were playing Inner City Dreams as though they had been playing it all their lives. It was great. Then we cut Endurance and that was the end of my session for the day." But it was the start of a long and fruitful relationship between Kenny and musicians he liked and admired. He also learned to trust John Patitucci's judgment. If John said get this musician or that one, he was always right. "He introduced me to Brandon Fields, Rick Riso, Robben Ford and, of course, the drum legend Vinnie Colaiuta ---- who had come in hastily to help out a fellow musician in trouble."

-- Neil Lurssen