Thursday, 30 June 2011

The dealing's done for Kenny

This post is long overdue; so are a number of things with me at the moment, but that's another post in itself.

There are many curious characters who make up the fabric of the night life in Courtenay Place. You're likely to come across them at least every weekend and usually in the wee small hours. Some are more sociable that others, but all have their quirks. There's the infamous Blanket Man who is quick to abuse anyone who crosses his path, the guy who gets off a bus outside the Star Mart and asks for $2, the 'superstitious' guitarist, who plays Stevie Wonder's Superstition almost continuously outside the National Bank ... and then there was Kenny.

'Kenny', little known by his real name, John Adams, died of a brain tumour on 6 June. He was street performer with many strings to his entertaining bow, least of which was his musical ability, yet that is what he will most likely be remembered for. That, and his ongoing petitions to the Wellington City Council, appealing to Noise Control to have his impounded amp back. Yes, apparently the residents of Courtenay Place were not all Kenny fans.

Kenny petitions the WCC
to get his impounded amp back
I was beaten to the punch by Blog on the Tracks for already writing much (or much more) of what I might have written about Kenny myself. I didn't hear him recite Shakespeare, but I do recall catching snippets of Rudyard Kipling's If during late night jaunts down Courtenay Place during the mid-late 1990s. More commonly, I came across Kenny somewhere along the fence by entrance to what is now Reading Courtenay (but was at the time under construction), a drunken crowd around him dancing and singing along to whatever he was trying to play at the time. One night, I wandered past to see a clearly tipsy woman with her around Kenny's shoulder and trying to get him to do the can-can with her; turns out it was my best friend at high school, who I hadn't seen for a few years but was not at all surprised by her efforts that night.

Word has it that in the early days, when asked to play The Gambler, he claimed to not know it, yet is what he is most commonly associated with. Whether he ever actually learned to play the song is questionable, but it quickly became part of a very limited repertoire for Kenny.

As a young musician, I think I was most offended by the terrible sound quality emanating from his microphone, which was gaffer taped inside his leather jacket and hooked up to a crummy 40W amp. His guitar wasn't much better. The fact that he barely knew how to play it was simply par for the course. And, yet, he had crowd-pulling power.

There was no sendoff for Kenny, although locals have called for a tribute. Kenny finally 'broke even' and is hopefully now entertaining the crowds in sky - if he ever managed to get his old amp back, that is. ;-)

One last time for 'Kenny':

Image source:
Used without permission

1 comment:

Alli said...

It's amazing how people can touch our lives. Sometimes we don't even realize it til we're gone. May Kenny be remembered well!