Kenny In Kansas City
Kenny Baker had the longest tenure of any fiddler in Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. I was a teenager in the early 1960s the first time I heard and saw him play fiddle with Bill Monroe. I was hypnotized by the movements of his bow, especially how he drew out his long tones. I didn’t see Claude Williams play until the 1990s. He had played violin with Count Basie and was a Kansas City legend who could be heard over a horn section without having his own microphone. His nickname was “Fiddler”.
Perfect Strangers’ first CD, entitled Perfect Strangers, did pretty well and we thought we should make a second disc. Circumstances broke up the band —or at least put it on permanent hold — before such a recording could take place. But we got as far as discussing the possible repertoire. Chris Brashear suggested “Kenny In Kansas City”, explaining it was a new tune of his that combined the fiddle styles of Kenny Baker and Claude Williams. It was in B flat. We were all interested in hearing this new piece. Some time passed and another round of suggestions was made and “Kenny In Kansas City” came up again. We asked to be reminded what it was. Same explanation. And it’s in E flat.
OK, wait a minute now, wasn’t it in B flat last week? It turned out that “Kenny In Kansas City” had not yet been composed. Inspired by the idea, I decided to rectify the situation and, mandolin in hand, I made the tune in about 20 minutes. All I knew at the outset was that it had to be in B flat. (It just did).
“Benny” is no one in particular. It could be any of the Bluegrass Bennies I saw and heard in the sixties like Benny Williams or Benny Martin. He’s a rhyme for “Kenny”. There is no Kansas City bow pattern or style that I know of. “You ought to hear him jump that bow” is just a reference to Kanas City Jump music.
Does “Kenny in Kansas City” actually combine the fiddling styles of Baker and Williams? You decide. The real fiddling star of this recording is not Kenny, Benny, or Claude. It’s Chad.
Kenny In Kansas City
© Jody Stecher, Vegetiboy Music (BMI)
Benny didn’t know about the Kansas City bow
You could hear that violin a mile away
But Kenny knew about it and he couldn’t do without it
And he had to go and hear it today
It’s racy in KC, the place he heard “Fiddler” play.
Kenny In Kansas City!
You ought to hear him jump that bow
Baker and Claude, decidedly odd
To hear them puttin' on a show
Then Kenny showed Benny how the Kansas City blueses go
Jody Stecher: mandolin, vocal
Chad Manning: fiddle
Keith Little: guitar
Eric Thompson: guitar
Paul Knight: bass