Monday, January 18

The Bostonians (Interview #24) : Kenne Highland and Jody Moore

I am very happy to publish this interview with my friend Kenne Highland because for those of you who don't know him yet, you will discover the vividness of someone who can seriously be considered as today's reincarnation of Falstaff in Boston. Before reading this interview, you must be warned that you will be confronted to something different, rock music as well as blues and country tunes are just oozing out of Kenne's words and this is some experience indeed !!
Kenne originally began his musician career with the mighty Gizmos in Bloomington, Indiana. He settled in Boston end of the 70's and started to lead numerous bands as AfriKa Korps, Hoplessly Obscure and at the begin
ning of this century a collaboration with Jody Moore.

Together they did Highland-Moore which has been brought back to life last year, the Kenne Highland Clan and the Goody Goody Gumdrop
s about which I will talk a bit later as Jody has kindly participated to this interview as well. Kenne, as the genuine artist he is, has sort of advertized on the internet this interview to come. I am copying below his words as it will be our introduction. but first a recent video of our friends in action

Jacques B has wrote from Paris,wants to interview me for a Jon Richman fanzine; I said oui cause I got Hugenot ancestors born in Strasborg. Extra points for Les Variations question,mon ami....let me think out each answer to give you a timeless tale. wow-I was a 15 year old fanzine writer...('72!)....any other fanzine...s,please contact me,I ain't oasis ("don't wanna live forever"....). My parents were eighth cousins (founders of hartford,Conn.) plus,when,at age 13, I first listened to "We're Only In It For The Garlic" , I loved it so much,I played it AGAIN! Zappa and Highland, born only an hour or so apart on Route 95, below the Mason-Dixon line.....lastly,my mother's Springfield,Mass. ancestors SURELY knew the Reverend Pynchon!

Wired on three cups of coffee, M. Jacques got a Keroaucian blast of Kennethen on Jonathon! Moore to Comm! this is a reference to "Back to Comm" from the MC5, one of Kenne's favourite bands- My great-grandmother Highland's grandmother was a Gardiner (as in museum AND island off Long Island); say she has a Hugenot ancestor,Reverend Hugh Mosier,born Strasbourgh,came to Newport,RI 1600s. Wait'll I write my piece on how the ... See Morerevocation of the Edict of nantes shaped rocknroll! (Highland/Keith Richards mom/Eno and mine ancestor escaped from Hainault on horseback after being captured twice,then lived on Threadneedle street,London....)..

- Did you see the Original Modern Lovers live ? If so how was it ?

The original Modern Lovers, I guess, existed whilst I were high in school; class of '74,Brockport,NY;I skipped school, went to House of Guitars and met a fellow 18 year old: Greg Prevost! -later in the Chesterfield Kings-

- What was the first Jonathan song you ever heard, what was your reaction ?

So Jonathon and I were both copying Lou Reed oblivious to each other. January 1976 (Gizmos recorded 20 March) or so, Beserkly Chartbusters came to the Gulcher office. I think we all dug on "Roadrunner";I immediately noticed the chord solo was similar to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue"! and Beechnuts "Cycle Annie" also.You didn't have to be a Jimmy Page virtuoso on guitar to rock!
So I start visiting Boston in 1977;21 August Afrika Korps Live At Cantones! Rich Coffee has a photo of a drunk me, Felice and JoJo! So I met him? Come up Labour Day, Real Kids and friends live at Cantone's, Jonathon does a bunch of love ballads, which at the time I hated! I wanted that dark, broody Velvet thang; but he always followed his own path, like me, so I respect that Moore.

- You told me you saw Jonathan Richman live quite a time ago, what did you think of it ?

Kenne with moustached Jonathan and Asa.
Then second Afrika Korps gig, Cantone's with Baby's Arm in November '77. Jon gets up with Billy Cole and kinda takes over Frank Rowe's set, but he starts playing ostrich guitar and I see "Roadrunner" live!
1980 I move to Boston, commence work in Harvard Square, run into Jon and Asa Brebner on my lunch hour a LOT (near ye olde market my Puritan ancestors went to in 1630s).Once Jon was over Frank Rowe's, Frank played Iggy's Soldier (a NEW album then) and me, Frank, Jon jam in the kitchen; me unplugged Fender, Jon-acoustic; Frank-a child's xylophone! "Rawhide" and "It's All
Over Now";as usual, I drunkenly led the jam! Lastly, I was in a Harvard Square place now gone, served Texas Toast and Jon said, excitedly, "is that Ken?!" ain't seen him since!(1981?)

- Do you think Jonathan had an influence on the Boston scene in the times you were deeply involved in it ? And what about this influence today ?
Willie Alexander and "braveheart"Kenne circa 1996 - (photo by Linda Garrow-Highland)

Boston music scene has changed TOO much for me and it's not like years ago and I AM old and cranky.....thinking back on the "golden years",everyone was influenced by and knew who Iggy and Lou were, so Jon just kind of fit in with the whole '70s scene. Nowadays, I can't even tell you What Is Hip? either I gig, or see my "old" friends, and that's it (and they die off TOO often, sadly).

But Jonathon and I are both so divorced from what's happening, that we'll always be "originals" and he will continue to do his thing and I shall continue to do mine. Is that an iconoclast? Sorry, English is my first language! (haha; my great-great-great-grandmother Sophie LeDuc Veilleux was the last one to speak Quebecois and she died in 1899!)

- Your music has evolved through the years from the Gizmos, punk band extraordinaire, to the Afrika Korps, Johnny and the Jumper Cables (we are all waiting for some re-issues) and the Kenne Highland Clan and so on.. Here is one of the 1st step of Kenne's resurection in rock music...

Today your music in Highland
Moore is back to basics. Can you comment on this Project ?

From my DEVOlution of GizMOORES to Highland Moore;

HIGHLAND- I was in DC hanging out with original Slickee Boys singer Martha Hull and her husband Bob Berberich (look at those Grin albums!) and we'd jam on hillbilly music up there in Braddock Heights, Maryland. Folks wanted me to play in clubs again, though I was perfectly happy playing gospel music in Baptist churches. But All Hallow's Eve, my Scorpio Queen, Jody Moore (bands back to '90) said wanna reunite? So I Said Yeah. We recorded a couple UNRELEASED albums down south and I got Nashville Skyline out of my system....Christmas tunes next? (Dylan=Highland?)

The 2009 reunion !

JODY MOORE- Kenne, aka; Mr. Charming, and I reconnected on MySpace in ‘07 and phone calls ensued. He told me he’d been findin’ joy playin’ the Lord’s music on Sunday’s, and goin down South, driving all the folks crazee with his fine roots pickin‘. There was always something magical when we did the George Jones/ Tammy Wynette thang so we crossed the Mason Dixon line 2 more times (and crossed back again), stopping in at Garlic’s Happy Room and Slickee Boy Marshall’s house to lay down some trax. Highland Moore was birthed.

Our HIStory began 20 yrs. ago when I videotaped Kenne in the Jumper Cables at the Middle East. He chatted me up and Big Daddy Kilslug told me Kenne was trouble. Intrigued, I accepted Kenne’s advances and we started The Clan. Weekly Hootananny’s were held at Kenne’s house complete with Miss Lyn (Boston Groupie News) on spoons. We were the premiere Bakery band, calling ourselves Kins They’s Ashamed Of (Pumpkinhead movie). Our Flamboyant side began to call us to duty in the camp band The Peecocks where we played CBGB’s and opened up for Ronnie Spector. The KH Clan continued on in many incarnations through the 90’s (Jo Jo Laine joined us onstage for Jumpin Jack Flash in ‘96) till The Goody Goody Gumdrops were created. Signed to Aram Hellar’s Stanton Park label, Kenne Kane rocked his Kilt off , often, as Sugar Kane and Kandy Kane killed the crowd with keilbasa kennelingus. After much Reincarnation and Transition, our duo project actually began in 2000. We discovered that not only were we kissin’ cuzzins but audiences really dug our Roots Rock Blues… Fade to black…

Here I have to tell the reader about the Goody Goody Gumdrops, the ultimate Boston power pop band ! GGG were Sugar Kane (aka Jody) and Kandy Kane and they joined the Kenne Highland Clan (Walking Kane (aka Kenne), Nova Kane, Killer Kane). This Combo was the 21st century Shangri La's ...

They released an EP which is as crucial as the Shaggs LP "Philosophy of the world". There is in particular one song "Guys are not proud" which is just classic stuff a la Bonzo dog Doo Dah Band. This genuine piece of existensialism is emphasized by Jody's singing those of us who have heard it know..!! Voila.

Goody Goody Gumdrops live with the Kenne Highland Clan (Jody and Kenne front right).

HIGHLAND- I must also mention Highland Moore has a MySpace page AND we've morphed into Highland MoJo, which could be described as a live jukebox. Nancy Neon, and other devotees, were making requests for classic and obscure rock and roll from the 60's, 70's, 80's. I proclaimed, "We gotta give the people what they want!" Highland MoJo is Mo from The Brooklyn's and Jo is Jody. Lotsa covers ala Pinups, hairspray, makeup and black undies; plus the reason I have Mo and Jo harmonise is because Humble Pie had the Blackberries. ALL this is on YouTube, so PLEASE check it out!

JODY MOORE- Aaah. Shameless self promotion. Push my product!

- Jonathan eventually went solo with Tommy his drummer, what do you think of this similarity?

I dunno, Jonathon wanted to be the Rockabilly Yobs? (that's me and Eddie Flowers, YEARS before Flat DuoJets, March '76, it's on Gulcher plus an Italian release). Jonathon and I are both kinda rooted in the '50s,only I'm I/IV/V and he's I/Vi/IV/V....that extra chord makes a difference!

- What do you think of Jonathan style of music today ?

Jonathon's style of music today?: I Live In A Time Of My Own. (-reference to a Roky Erickson song for the 13th Floor Elevators)...Ronald Reagan was NEVER elected president, I never moved to Boston and we're still listening to 8-tracks! Cantone's never existed and the Raspberries never broke this point, I guess I jammed with Jon 30 years ago, but otherwise, not even sure he's at/what he does....but send all copies of stuff I should hear to:
Kenneth Highland
PO Box 300817
Jamaica Plain,Mass.02130

I remember gleefully checking the Gulcher p.o. box in 1975....what COOL fanzine was arriving?!

- What is your favourite Jonathan song and why ?

Favourite Jonathon song: #1, I'll be honest and those that know me (haha)...I'm too CHEAP to have ever bought any Jon records, though I KNOW he and I owned the same Velvets records. So, keeping all that in mind (and I think the Lou influence permeates both Gizmos and Modern Lovers, so we were more similar then...),folks have played me that black Modern Lovers album and Prime Movers used to do a GREAT cover of "She Cracked" about count me in as "She Cracked"/first lp PLUS I have a soft spot for Beserkly Chartbusters (age 19,pre-Gizmos etc.).....

- If you were considering covering a Jonathan song which one would that be ?

covering Jon: I played along with EVERY song on Chartbusters in those pre-Gizmos days (do I REALLY know Greg Kihn songs? and the chords to Earthquake?), so I like "Roadrunner"'s "Peggy Sue"-ish guitar solo and the chord progression to "new Teller".....yes, I WILL confess I check out the bank teller babes and that damn song goes through my head! Ditto, when walking through Government Center! Jon turned me onto General Johnson and the Showmen by covering "It will stand" the end, Kennethen covers Jonathon....SEND MONEY! especially if you own New Rose records! will GLADLY record ANYTHING....(I love money...och!)

- As an insider could you tell us about the Boston scene today ? Which are your favourite bands?

ok, now for my spiel on Boston scene today,then/now,33 years: I'll keep it short!
I first came to town when Live at The Rat was released, so, in the end, THOSE are my favourite bands, it's never gonna be the same, when I was 21, it was a VERY good year! (1977).

Jeff Connolly (lyres)- John Felice (Real Kids) - Kenne circa 1996 (photo by Linda Garrow-Highland)

So I usually end up on Neon Night at the Cantab with said "old" friends, that are still living, still playing what we always do. Billy Borgioli has got a GREAT new lineup of Varmints, Classic Ruins are still good after all these years, Last Ones still sound like Cantone's in 1981; dunno what's up with Willie/Felice/Monoman lately, been a while since I seen 'em.

New bands: The Brooklyns! Maureen Kavanuagh is a GREAT songwriter, I guess she's "alt-country",so I sit in with them pretty often on "roots" covers like Lucinda Williams etc. playing half blues/half country, like Keith/Skynyrd and the rest. Alt-country bands I've enjoyed that we played with: Highway Ghosts, Clydesdale Cowboys; Natalie Flanagan sounds like Neil Young with Crazy Horse! All good stuff.
Let me also mention James Straight and the Kozmetics, which is James Straight, couple Slow Children guys and Lou Miami's drummer doing old James Straight garage Bowie) and Lou Miami covers; a lot of glam and a lot of fun!
Other than that, I'm either readin', watchin' films or sleepin', so I don't go clubbing unless I have to, mainly, do I have a gig. YouTube has plenty of Kenne appearances with me with Slickee Boys/Doom Buggies, I can't remember who else, but, unfortunately, I AM want me at your gig, all you gotta do is say "hey, Kenne, wanna sit in?" (Stones covers with Corolla DeVille: wow!) and mostly I do show up unless I'm in the emergency room and even then I finish the show and THEN go to the hospital!

(Mrs. Moore can vouch for that! See blood stains on TV studio carpet in Mantis’ YouTube video!)

I just remembered a Jonathon influence on ME: RIGHT when we started the Gizmos (5 Dec 75-20 Mar 76),I read somewhere how Jonathon would change the set around ONSTAGE during the set; only one other way of improv that I've seen that and that's playing gospel/jazz/blues. So maybe I will apologise to ANYONE who's ever shared the stage with me and I fly off into a song NOT on the set's all Jonathon's fault, he's a bad influence on me! Please insert Jody Moore comments ...she has been my biggest victim!

JODY MOORE- Jammin’ with Kenne is better than a blind-folded roller coaster ride through rock history paradise! Just sometimes I get dizzy!

MJ Quirk ( bass player extraordinaire who backed Kenne in many of his bands) usually hits the ball from whatever direction I'm coming from; ala Blind Owl following John Lee Hooker on Hooker-n-Heat! - (reference to Alan Wilson -aka Blind Owl- from Canned Heat who managed to anticiapate every twisted lick of JL Hooker)-.

- This is a bit off topics but knowing you were friends with Stiv Bator I cannot resist asking you if you would like to comment on that much missed artist.

Gizmos live in Bloomington, Kenne and John Cougar, fri/sat 8/9 april 77. ONE week later, I'm in Boston, Rat, Dead Boys (two weeks before 2 april 77,21st birthday, DMZ/Johnny Barnes!) Hanging out in the Rat dressing room, me and Cheetah sharing a joint, "I always gotta get fucked up before I play"-me and Cheetah still alive, NOT that way anymore, can't you see! Dead Boys sounded very Stooge-ish (as did Gizmos and DMZ-what a GREAT month for music!) and I'd had a riff I wrote two weeks before based on Ramones "you should never have opened that door" and damned if "Sonic Reducer" wasn't my lick! That's ok, Cheetah and I worshipped James Williamson surely.
I got married 20 August and word has it Stiv said "Kenne Gizmo; another one bites the dust" (marriage=death), but truth is, I never had any contact with Stiv! When Cheetah moved here in '85,we had plenty of musical misadventures that I cherish, jammin' with him and stuff (we did "All this and more" and I'd copied his playing so much that the Chuck Berry riff on the chorus I did and he goes "you gonna let me play my lead or what?"-good-natured, it wasn't Keith vs. Chuck Berry-hahahaha!)
So, I saw Stiv live, he was very Iggy-ish, listened to his records, influenced by them, and then he died, sadly......

- This is for the French readers, I remember you told me that back in Indiana, you had met the French band les Variations, could you tell us about it and your opinion about their music?

ok,pour moi francois amis,my Les Variations story: but first,go to Gulcher records,buy Gulcher magazine #0, (MC5 on cover) and there is me as 19-year old interviewing Marc Tobaly.There IS some French-bashing,but i got that from my mother trying to cover up her Quebecois roots! (cf. Hitler with Jewish grandparent;you are what you hate).
Tom Bingham had reviewed Les Variations for WIUS Tipsheet and I was intrigued by the neo-Yardbirds/Mediteranean riffing;I then probably stole a promo copy of Buddah of "Morocan Roll",

loved the North African intro (DNA tests COULD prove some ancestry there on MY part,so look out!),and thought the vocal sounded like Roy Wood.

ok,that was home with Ma (Rock On!,8452 Ridge Road,Brockport NY). Moved to Indiana,Gulcher,the Variations album is there BUT we went to Indianoplis,using our WIUS "press credentials";I THINK the bill was Aerosmith/Montrose/Les Variations. They were great! Especially a solo I copped from marc Tobaly (my unreleased "night of the Green Faerie") where he drones on one string and does a pentatonic scale up and down the neck;cf. "Heart Full of Soul"/"Over Under" etc.
So Aerosmith got jealous and turned on the lights before Les set was over! I still laugh over the road manager's Gallic temper: "those dirty fookers! They turned on the lights during our set!" I introduced myself,referring to a Lester Bangs writeup in a 1975 Creem and road manager says,NICELY (this is the classic French temper of being pissed off one second and calm the next!): "oh you know Les-tair?!" I wouldn't meet Monsieur Bangs til 5 years later,but THEN all went well.

Marc Tobaly spoke the best English so it was me,him and a tape recorder; I got a history of the band, they used to do lotsa Young Rascals toons (how else did "Come on Up" end up on Be More Flamboyant?) and another French stereotype (sorry, mes amis; Dad has Hugenot and Ma has Quebecois,so I can say all this!); refering to groupies and playing all over Europe, Marc gives the classic Gallic shrug: "you know,you throw your deek into the air and it fall into a hole"......a year old I had done MY first record and I was Muff-Divin' like a madman!(only time I'm quiet).
When writing up the article,Bob Richert,editor,had me call Les V.'s NY office collect and they kindly looked for 45s in the office to help me with the discography (I'm a Goldmine kinda guy).
After talking to Marc, Steven Tyler pushed me out of his dressing room saying "I already talked to you guys!",but somehow we interviewed Tom "hohum" Hamilton;all I got out of him was "Sweet Emotion" was stolen from Stones "We Love You".
So THAT is the story 35 years later,but if you want it fresher,buy Gulcher #0!

Are you a Fender or a Gibson guy ?

Christmas 1970, my mother bought me a $9 Sears acoustic ("biggest mistake I ever made"; she WAS rather

Aunt Mimi-ish!), all I wanted to do in 1971 was get a harmonica rack (made of coat hanger) and "Freight Train Blues"off the first Dylan album and be the Freewheelin' Ken Highland (yes! borrowed Ma' lipstick to play slide;later used it when the Dolls came out!)

fall 1971-a $96 hollow-body Chuck Berry lookin' Japanese thang; totally into Who,
Small Faces,Stones and Chuck Berry.

fall 1972-$35 Japanese solid body from a kid down the road;played it through my
stereo and got a world of distortion,began writing Gizmos songs,did a fanzine,was
totally into Mark Farner.

When I moved to Indiana May '75,had already joined O. Rex in NYC and Solomon
Spector talked me into buying a $95 blue Fender Mustang which I used on first
Gizmos; I swore by cheap Fenders then as Sonics used a Jazzmaster (?)

Fall '76,bought ANOTHER Mustang,recorded O.Rex and 1977 Gizmos eps and Live in
Bloomington,sold to Kim Kane,Slickee Boys;this is "Mr. Wank" because of it's trebly

April 1977 Solomon takes my tax refund and spends $200 on a Gibson Melody Maker;
TOTALLY Black Sabbath through a pignose (OR "She's My Best Bette"!)

These days,Tom "I got high with Carmine Appice behind the Rat" Leger drums with
me,bringing either a Gibson SG or a Mexican Fender. My playing sounds like 1970
classic rock now (sorry!),so I hit a lot of Townshend chords on the SG or some Paul
Kosoff/Leslie West/Gary Rossington. The Fender I morp into Hendrix/Cream stuff.
I been playing 39 years now-but whenever I play a Lucinda Williams cover with
Brooklyns,I still don't QUITE have Mike Bloomfield's biting leads on "Maggie's Farm"
at Newport.....guess that's why Pete Seeger never tries to cut my power......

Any anecdote related to Jonathan or to the golden age of Boston rock scene ?

Finishing with anecdotes: 1982,Real Kids Cantone's (summer), Alpo sees me and goes
"there's that crazy Marine that knows all our songs!"

Once I asked Felice,"you grew up next to Jon Richman;who's more wierder,him
or me?"
JF: " you're the wierdest muthafucka I ever met!"

Another tyme on a drunken bender 'round Thanksgiving, I musta smelled like
GG Allin, I BRAGGED to John (in a bar) about how long it'd been since I bathed
(the EXACT number of days...):

"you're worse than Paulino", he shook his head and walked away; that's
My Buddy Felice!

1 comment:

  1. hi ive been trying to find out where i can purchase KENNE HIGHLAND albums especially HOPELESSLY OBSCURE..ANY IDEA?