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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kenny and the Kasuals

DALLAS BAND DETAIL: Kenny and the Kasuals

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photo of dallas band Kenny and the Kasuals' nostalgic live tunes will take you back to a time when there were only AM radio stations, when Elvis was still "The King" and "The English Invasion" was a distant rumor. This timeless, versatile rock band from Dallas has been playing since the 1950's and love to play the golden oldies from the 50's, 60's & 70's with a variety of current favorites.

From 1964 to 1967, the top teen band in North Texas was a five piece combo called Kenny and the Kasuals. To earn the distinction of being number one was no easy task in those days as the competition was fierce. The hot r&b band The Nightcaps were still rockin' the city in the mid-sixties and younger rock bands were also filling local clubs and dances. Jimmie Vaughan was leading The Chessmen while his younger brother Stevie Ray was just starting to be noticed in a band called The Cast of Thousands. With competition from The Novas, The Briks, The Sensations, The Chaparrals, The Outcasts, The Five Americans and so many other talented groups in town, it meant that the choices when booking a band were huge.

But the top choice was always Kenny and the Kasuals. They were the kings of the proms, frat parties and dances, drawing full houses and demanding top dollar. But it didn't begin that way for the band. Back in 1963, known most often as The Illusions Combo and sometimes as the Ken Daniels Band, they played at almost any venue that would let them onto the stage. Sometimes they were paying gigs, but just as often the band played for soda and chips.

"We would drive around in a 1941 Plymouth with our sign in the back that obstructed the drivers' vision so much that we ran into everything when we backed up," recalls Kenny. "Our bassist was actually playing the low strings of a regular guitar, and members came and went. It was a rough start, but we were getting better and better." ,

By early 1964, the band discovered that the style of music they liked best was also the style that their audiences wanted to hear. The new British beat hits from the Rolling Stones, Animals, Yardbirds and the Kinks, plus American r&b dance hits like "Money", "Walking The Dog" and "Knock on Wood" became the staple of their repertoire.

A teenaged entrepreneur, Mark Lee, heard about the band from his mother, who had caught their act at local teen dance at the small East Dallas venue, The Lamplighter Club. She urged Mark to check out this new group, telling him that they were "better than The Beatles." So Mark caught their act at the Lamplighter's outdoor pool-party area and began to think about the possibilities. A short time later as The Illusions Combo played at a local apartment party, Mark Lee walked in and watched the band again. After only one set, Mark approached Kenny, announced that he was the band's new manager and that the group was now called Kenny and The Kasuals. Kenny knew that with a little guidance the band could do a lot better than play for small teen dances and immediately agreed to the new name and new management.

The impromptu stage in the girl's gymnasium at the huge Bryan Adams High School provided the first major exposure for the band as a thousand kids would show up for each of the school dances held there. Charging 25 cents a person and charging for soft drinks, the Bryan Adams staff realized that with these dances they could make a steady income for the school even after paying the live band a decent fee. The school was soon sponsoring dances three or four times every week. Many area teen bands got their chance in the spotlight at these dances, but one band stood out and became the most requested rock entertainers in East Dallas - Kenny and The Kasuals.

Other schools began to draft The Kasuals for their school dances too, and soon the band's reputation was city-wide. The quality, quantity and pay scale of their performances all increased, as Mark Lee aggressively worked the telephones and learned the ropes of the Dallas professional music scene. Mark, though still a student himself at neighboring Hillcrest High School, was astute beyond his years and began plugging the band into better and more high profile engagements."He was very business-like for a kid in high school," recalls Kenny. "He took us out and dressed us up in silk suits and black and white saddle oxford shoes, and began to get our pictures in the papers and our name on the radio." Upon the opening of The Studio Club, the first upscale all-teen club in Dallas, Mark made sure that Kenny and The Kasuals were the ideal choice as unofficial "house-band". The club was filled to the breaking point each time the band appeared and the overflow lines often stretched around the block. The only thing that kept The Kasuals from playing there every time the club was open, was that other even more lucrative gigs were coming their way. Fraternity parties at the several local colleges were perhaps the best paying and most fun engagements. Wild frat boys and sorority girls would be doing dances called the Dog and the Gator as Kenny and the band wailed onstage. Then the band's reputation as a hot-rocking hit-playing band began to spread to the local music establishment.

Kenny remembers: "We were the opening act for most of the big name bands that came to town - Sonny and Cher, The Buckinghams and The Beach Boys, just to name a few. Sonny and Cher even came to see us perform at The Studio Club. Our band caught on and our style of dressing caught on too, especially the black-and-white saddle oxfords. One store at Northpark Mall had a display of the shoes in the window with a sign that read 'Kenny's Kasuals'. By 1966 we were regulars on Ron Chapman's TV show "Sump'n Else" which aired every Friday all across North Texas."

Soon the band and Mark Lee began talking about recording. In those days a quality local band with a good record could get played on the radio. KLIF and KBOX, the local rock stations were always in competition to discover new records and new acts and a few Dallas area bands found themselves becoming local radio stars. Kenny and The Kasuals, not content with covering a British album cut for their first single release, decided to become songwriters, too. Kenny and the original lead guitarist Tommy Nichols, sat on the steps of a local nightclub and penned "Nothin' Better To Do" in about fifteen minutes. Raw, spirited and full of a teenaged boy's offhand attitude toward relationships, the song was recorded and sold well in the area. The b-side was a Nichols instrumental entitled "Floatin'". Soon Tommy Nichols left for military service and was replaced by Jerry Smith on guitar. The line-up was now set: Kenny Daniel, guitar and lead vocals. Lee Lightfoot, bass and backing vocals. David "Bird" Blachley, drums. Paul Roach, organ. And Jerry Smith on lead guitar and backing vocals.

The next big recording effort for the band was a full album - an idea almost unheard of in the local teen music scene. Earlier Dallas rock-kings, The Nightcaps, had proven that it could be done successfully with their album "Wine Wine Wine" pressed primarily for sale at their local gigs. Kenny and The Kasuals decided on the title "The Impact Sound of Kenny and the Kasuals Recorded Live at The Studio Club" for their first LP. This mouthful of a title was rarely used, and almost everyone referred to the album simply as "Impact". Only 500 albums were pressed, the band and Mark thinking that it might be difficult to sell even that many. It wasn't. The album sold out (except for a few dozen copies which were warped beyond salvation in the heat while in drummer David "Bird" Blachley's car one summer day.) That album - "Impact" - has been cited by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the most collectible of American albums ever, and original copies still sell for over $400. The LP was reissued on vinyl in the seventies and is now available on CD.

As the band's success and local legend grew, they realized that with a little luck they had what it took to break through on the national recording scene. After a couple of additional single record releases, in 1966 they hit on the song that would be picked up for national release. It was called "Journey To Tyme" and has been labeled as the very first "psychedelic style" recording. Co-written by Kenny Daniel and new lead guitarist Jerry Smith, the song is a wild, uptempo screamer inspired by a town in England named "Tyme". Dallas' number one radio personality at the time was Jimmy Rabbit and he sensed that the band had a hit on their hands. Local airplay and positive sales caught the attention of the successful national record label United Artists who negotiated with Mark Lee for the American rights. The song received good radio station play around the country, making the top ten in its hometown and reaching number one in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Kenny has stated that the band's unwillingness to sign exclusively with the United Artists label kept the song from breaking into the national hit charts. Nevertheless, the song and the band were doing very well and it seemed like a good time for going "big time" and that meant a move to New York. "In New York, we played The Rolling Stone Club after The Young Rascals and stayed in a hotel in Greenwich Village," Kenny remembers. "The New York bands we saw were terrific - Jimi Hendrix at the Nite Owl, The Seeds and The Lovin' Spoonful. We were asked to open for The Beatles at Shea Stadium. It was a great adventure." After returning from a successful month in the Big Apple, Kenny and the Kasuals went back to their lucrative frat-party and nightclub circuit, becoming the most popular live band in Texas. They were still playing their hot mix of The Byrds, Stones, Zombies, Yardbirds, Animals and U.S. r&b songs, and now were mixing in their original recorded songs as well.

But by late 1967 and early 1968, during the Vietnam buildup, the draft was cutting into band line-ups around the country. Kenny and the Kasuals were not an exception. With two members facing armed forces duty, the band and Mark Lee decided to go out with a bang. In early 1968 Mark put together one of the first music festivals, calling it The Flower Fair. The several stages were packed with local and national talent for the multi-day fest. In addition to the farewell performance of Kenny and the Kasuals, attendees got the chance to see such stars and soon-to-be-stars as The Doors, The Box Tops, Keith, The Association, The Turtles, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Jimmy Reed at the festival. The best of the local bands rounded out the roster of talent.

In April of 1968, the day after The Flower Fair ended, Kenny Daniel left for boot camp and soon after lead guitarist Jerry Smith joined the Air Force. Kenny and The Kasuals were suddenly history. At least for a while.Record collectors rediscovered the "Impact" album in the early seventies, and eventually all of Kenny and The Kasuals recordings were re-released. Along with newly recorded albums, the band has several LPs in issue, two available in CD format. Among the album titles: "Nothin' Better To Do", "Things Getting Better" (both available on CD from the Eva Label in Paris, France), "Teen Dreams", "Garage Kings", and of course "Impact" also available on CD.

The band has been featured in write-ups in Rolling Stone (which called them one of the only true sixties bands left in the world), Texas Monthly, D Magazine, Creem, Bomp and Goldmine Magazines and have been featured on television news and variety shows.

Currently, Kenny and the Kasuals still perform, regularly featuring three of the original members. Two other top-quality musicians round out the current line-up. The music they play is still a high-energy mix of the hits and album dance songs that filled the dance floors in the sixties.


Twist And Shout
No Reply
Its Only Love
Day Tripper
Here There & Everywhere
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Bad Boy
You Cant Do That
Till There Was You
Baby Its You
Drive My Car
Hold Me Tight
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
For No One
Strawberry Fields
Here Comes The Sun
All I Gotta Do
Helter Skelter

Rolling Stones

Honky Tonk Women
Under My Thumb
All Over Now
Spend The Night Together
As Tears Go By
Talking Bout You
Let It Bleed
Route 66
Times On My Side
Heart Of Stone
Dead Flowers
Spider And The Fly
Flight #505
Its Only Rock And Roll
Got A Good Thing Going
Good Times Bad Times
19th Nervous Breakdown
Stupid Girl
Back Street Girl
You Better Move On
Under The Boardwalk
Surprize Surprize

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You Really Got Me
All Day And All Of The Night
Tired Of Waiting
Till The End Of The Day
Magic Carpet Ride
Old Time Rock And Roll
Born To Be Wild
Louie Louie
La Bamba
Love Me Two Times
When The Musics Over
Back Door Man
Brown Eyed Girl
Oh Carol
Johnny B. Goode
Roll Over Beetovan
Gimmie Some Loving
Hang On Sloopy
Linda Lou
Line On You
The Letter
Wooly Bully
Happy Together
Outside Women Blues
Bell Bottom Blues
Sunshine Of Your Love
Nazz R Blue
I Aint Got You
Love The One Your With
Rave On
What I Say
I Got A Women
Singing The Blues
Walking The Dog
Born On The Bayou
Jailhouse Rock
Down By The River
Susie Q
Knock On Wood
Shes Not There
Wooden Ships
Sweet Judy Blue Eyes
Mojo Working
Im A Man
Green Onions
Bring It On Home To Me
Rock And Roll Women
Mr. Soul
Do You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star
Feel A Whole Lot Better
Its My Life
Don't Bring Me Down
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Cc Rider
Do You Love Me
Whipping Post
Black Slacks
Waiting In School
Peppermint Twist
Mustang Sally
My Generation
Cripple Creek
The Weight
Mr. Tamborine Man
Surfing Usa
Fun Fun Fun
Wine Wine Wine
Little Deuce Coupe
Great Balls Of Fire
That'l Be The Day
Stagger Lee
In My Room
24 Hours Of The Day
Honky Tonk
Hey Good Looking
Chantilly Lace
Jimmy Reed Songs
Oh Boy
Midnite Hour

Slow Songs

True Love Ways
It Had To Be You
Just For A Thrill
When I Fall In Love
Never The Less Im In Love With You
Angel Eyes
You Made Me Love You
Days Of Wine And Roses
My Girl
Sad Memory
Lady Of The Island
Cherry Pie
Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying
To Love Somebody
Bad Weather
Kind Women
Darlin Be Home Soon
In The Still Of The Night
You Don't Know Me
All These Things
Talk To Me
Daddys Home
Cant Find My Way Home
You Make Me Feel So Good
Let It Be Me
I Cant See No Body
Get Together
Helplessly Hoping
A Song For You
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
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