March 17, 2012

Kenny Gross... ...I'm Not Crazy Yet... ........Just About Half (Lancaster 1984)

Kenny's name was always spoken with a warm-hearted laugh and a roll of the eyes, followed by some story of crazy escapades. Some even called him "Psycho Kenny," but in today's tidy education-speak he might be considered an individual with "multiple exceptionalities." He was gifted, spastic, addicted, and overflowing with creativity all at the same time. Not easy for someone like Kenny to fit into a classroom, four walls, or a band.
Jeff Coleman: I first met Kenny hanging out in a park, sometime in the early 70's. He was sitting on a rail fence in front of the amphitheater there, playing his guitar, with a circle of people around him. As I got closer, I realized that he was making up a song about the hat I was wearing- it was pretty funny. I hung out for a while and everyone who came by had some lyrics sung about them. 
He was the first singer of Lancaster's first full-on punk band, The Bodies and wrote songs ready to play with anyone willing to put up with that lanky hyperactive personality.
Gumby: Kenny was a nice guy and extremely talented with some great songs but he had a bad drug and alcohol problem.... Johnny Scrotum: Tommy caught Kenny shooting heroin in the bathroom of his parent’s house.... He had just purchased, found, or stole a female manikin which he used as a microphone stand. Once the heroin kicked in, Kenny took it upon himself to dry hump the naked manikin on the front yard...in a typical suburban neighborhood.... At this point we all knew that Kenny was not going to work out long term. He was too much of a mess.
A few years later he went into the studio with Jeff Coleman and Steve Patton (The Blame, Fender Twinns, The Red Roosters). They got on tape what may be a tiny few of hundreds of songs Kenny wrote in his wanderings, and Jeff's cheesy synth organ give them a super cool pop flair.

Ugly Girls
About Half  

I Don't Need It  
Mix and Mingle  
The Taking
Dress and Dance  
Nucular Rat
To Lonely People
Jeff Coleman: ...Kenny came in and played guitar along with drummer Steve Patton. Later I "bounced" those tracks to another tape machine while adding stuff like bass, guitars, and keyboards. At some point we'd get Kenny back to redo vocals, which was really hard for him, because he wasn't in a band then and the structure was loose.
I first met Kenny hanging out at State of Confusion, the Cotton sisters' punk rock shop in downtown Lancaster. He played in the store once around '85 or '86 with Rex Litwin, Rustle Noonetwisting (The Real Gone, Jack Lord's Hair, The Chelsea Squares), and Steve Patton as backup band billed as Kenny Gross's Suicide. I don't think anyone recorded it, but I still have Kenny's chorus in my head, "I wanna kill Dick Clark, so I can be the world's oldest teenager...."

In 1987 Kenny played with a short-lived band called Future X and recorded a few songs on a boombox.
Dan MacLellan: All who knew Kenny had a story as Kenny was the “great story teller”. One never knew if his stories were truth or fable though you could never deny his ability to write great lyrics.
Kenny's travels...
Drew "Loki" Shaw: I don't remember the exact time I met Kenny but he and I both were hustling for dollars and sleeping on Simonton Beach in Key West, Florida I instantly loved the guy! He was wearing a dress and singing his song "Bum Sleep Beach" on Duvall Street and I had to sit down and just listen man....
Kenny died in 2004.
Intelligencer Journal: Kenny Gross, 51, of Manhattan, N.Y., formerly of Lancaster and Key West, Fla., died of natural causes on July 26 in Manhattan.
A musician and songwriter, Gross performed solo and with several former bands, including the Bodies, Future X, the Psycheholics and Thunder B Band. He previously worked for Burnham Corp., Lancaster, Elixir Industries, Leola, and Lapp Electric, Lancaster. He also was a commercial deep-sea fisherman out of Cape May, N.J., and the Texas coast.
He was a 1971 graduate of Manheim Township High School....
..................... 

Thanks to Jeff Coleman and his basement Steam Powered Studio for the tracks and words. He has a very cool community-minded philosophy:  I don't charge people to record here. I don't charge for the music we make here either. Instead fans sponsor the studio and the work we do. Sponsors get access to the fabulous catalog of 300 or so songs... including the rest of the Kenny Gross session. A veritable archive of Lancaster music from the mid-70s to now.

5 comments:

  1. I knew Kenny. We lived together in New Orleans in the french quarter. Him, Melissa and my self Joe Bliss. We fell in love with psycho after we heard him play I'm taking Jilly to Texas. I met a dreaded girl on the amtrak who upon hearing my name asked if I'd ever heard of a guy named Psycho. I said Psycho Kenny Gross? Like eww gross? And she started telling me about Psycho in key west and this song he'd written about me. I never heard the song but I wish I had. He was supposed to marry a girl named Anya and he had found my number somehow and invited Melissa and I to his wedding. I reckon he wanted me to hear that song but he's jamming in heaven now. Love yo Kenny. R.I.P Psycho Kenny and Murphy's Law. <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kenny lived at my house in Vermont for awhile shortly before his death. I played music with him allot and have his song "handrails" memorized. I could tab it out if anyone wants me too. His music really did have a powerful energy all its own, and he owned any room he played in. Rest in peace kenny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could you please! He stayed with me in Maine and our friend George and him would play handrails I miss hearing it! Also does anyone have Planet Janet or Truth is Beauty? I miss his wild heart and am really grateful for everyone who put this page together. ♡

      Delete
    2. We all had tape recorders back then. If any other recordings by Kenny ever turn up I'd love to hear them too!

      Delete
  3. Kenny was an amazing songwriter and musician. I was at some of his impromptu sessions in the late 70s early eighties. As previously mentioned Kenny would own the venue. Parks or parties back then for me and many Lancaster Co.folks. Refreshing energetic and dark songs were created and duplicated as needed, and once heard and witnessed one could never forget. Sad to hear of his passing and troubled life. Back then we just knew him as Kenny Gross. Yeah maybe a lil loose in the format, Kenny had a song for everyone and a smile even in the rain and fog. Thanks Jeff for this amazing tribute and the recording of a small fraction of his works. Sincerly, Chuck Lefever

    ReplyDelete