Kenneth Walter Gwyn


Kenneth Walter Gwyn


1 Aug 1951
Jersey City, Hudson Co., NJ


22 Oct 1996
Troy, Rensselaer Co., NY


26 Oct 1996,
Fairmont Crematory
Newark, NJ


Singer Guitarist


James Walter Gwyn


(Private Female) Stewart


1. Grammie Lory

Satcha Faith (1969-)

2. (Private, Female) Pierro

From his obituary: A professional singer-guitarist, with a loyal and loving following from Greenwich Village to Arizona, Kenny will be remembered for the warm and generous heart he shared through his music.

This is a website I made to honor the memory of my father, whom I missed for most of my childhood, but miss even more now, knowing that he left a hole in my heart, and also for 100's of people who loved him for his generosity, his heart, and his remarkable, awe-inspiring talent as a singer and guitarist.

My Dad and I had a rocky relationship. Mostly that was because fatherhood was never his biggest priority. He was a musician first, and he had a serious problem with drugs and alcohol for most of my life, which put his children (and spouses) much lower on his list. It doesn't make for a great father child relationship, but I'm not a child anymore. I try to work with what I have now. I have a lot of good memories of Dad. Aside from singing and playing (which he did I guess every day) he also loved to read. He would get absorbed in a book and it would seem like he had left the room. He loved science fiction books, as I recall, but lots of others. He could run really fast, which was surprising considering that he never really "exercised" and he certainly didn't take care of himself. He loved jokes, telling stories, and hanging out with friends. Some of his favorite foods were: fried eggplant, fried calamari rings, saltines with sardines and hot sauce on them, ketchup (on nearly everything). He also loved to listen to all kinds of music, but he mostly sang a lot of 60's and 70's rock songs. He never became a commercial success, but everyone who heard him knew he had great talent. I have been collecting all the recordings I can find of him so that they won't be lost.

He had lots of friends wherever he went, and most of them were good, true friends. I miss him, of course, and I really feel sad that my children will never meet him, but at least they can hear him sing. Please contact me if you have photos or recordings of Dad to share with me, or if you would like recordings of him. We also now have a group on Facebook: Late Great Kenny Gwyn Fans, and welcome you to share memories there. - Sasha Mitchell

late 60's The Situation Band
'68-'72 Black Forest Rhodes - Leroy "Jerry" White, Ken Gwyn, Danny Schiano, Jamie LaVecchia, Tom Arnold, George Gangi Carlisle, PA,
'72-'79 32 Breeze - Ken Gwyn - guitar, Kevin Candio, Guitar, Frank Wildeman, John Forsdahl - Keyboards, Tom Arnold - Bass, Lou Sellari - Drums, Joey Brennan - Drums, George Gangi - Guitar,
: Back Door, Rochele Park, D Place, Dover, NJ
about '79 Trilogy - Ken Gwyn, Linda Pierro, Kate Comeau

Board of Directors - Ken Gwyn, Linda Pierro, Kate Comeau, Andy Rogenstein & Vinnie Hancock
Venues:The Village Gate, Inner Circle, NYC

'81 Kenny Gwyn and Friends - Silver Dollar Saloon, Harrison, NJ
'88 Restless with Steven Weinglass - Tucson, AZ
1990 Bill Haley & the Comets Ocean City, MD
  Kenny Gwyn Band
1993 The Leaves - Kenny Gwyn - Lead Guitar & Vocals, Marc West - Bass & Vocals, Mike Daly- Guitar & Vocals, Jeb Stuart - Guitar & Vocals, Nat Seeley - Drums.
1994 to 1996 Gwyn, West, and Inzeo - Ken Gwyn - Lead Guitar & Vocals, Marc West - Bass & Vocals, Lou Inzeo - Drums, former soundman at Kenny's Castaways, they played a lot of Holiday gigs through those years. Also, John "Cisco" Cusak was another friend of Dad's who played bass with him over the years, based in Alexandria, VA and still playing.
February 11, 1972

"a shot away" by Steve Kenety
The Dickinsonian
Carlisle, PA

December 27, 1985 "Introducing the one and only Kenny Gwyn: Everyone knows he'll be star, 'cause he can play that there guitar, on Jane St." by Joe Glickman & Lydia Saiger
The Daily News
New York, NY
October 10, 1990 "Talking with a Master Musician (The Hendrix of Downtown)" by Stephen Witt
The Street Singer's Beat
Village Voice
New York, NY

1957 Ken Gwyn
This is from a photo Memory Book. Dad in a nutshell: 1957

Grade: Kindergarten
Hobby: Cowboys
Movie Actor: Rin Tin Tin
TV Show: Roy Rogers
Song: Back in the Saddle

1957 Ken Gwyn Report Card

Grandma & Dad about 1966

Paul Kulkosky, Alex Thomson, Ken Gwyn
1967, Tappan Street

Ken Gwyn 1969  Kearny High School

1969 Kearny High School Play


Dad, Mom & Me

Dad & Sandy MacDonald

circa 1970 - LeRoy "Jerry" White, Jamie LaVecchia, Tom Arnold, _____, Kenny

circa 1970 - Tom Arnold, Kenny

Excerpt from: "a shot away" by Steve Kenety
The Dickinsonian, Carlisle, PA
February 11, 1972

The old school was certainly treated to some fine rock and roll last week in the person of Black Forest Rhodes... We think that there should be more functions like this - but then, how much rock and roll is there in Carlisle, anyway? Before now, mark that at almost zero - now, give it a chance.

Their music was certainly tight and well arranged, and their original material was some of the best we've heard in a long time. In addition to that, their renditions of other people's songs was, well, quite fine.

We especially enjoyed a somewhat bizarre version of the old Spencer Davis tune, "Gimme Some Lovin", which put you on your feet and dancing, if you weren't there already, like you should have been...

Add to this the use of two fine guitarists, and you've got yourselves quite a band. Guitarist Kenny Gwyn's voice was certainly something - he alternately sounded like Roger (ne Jim) McGuinn, Joe Cocker, and Jim Messina.

We found them all to be an engaging, friendly bunch of guys, free of all the hang-ups that one often finds in rock bands. They especially played down their house, which could have become a big ego trip...

We should be glad to have them around. Thanks go to WDCV for making it happen.
If you think playing rock and roll is easy all the time, think again. As soon as they finished playing Thursday, they packed everything up, put it in a trailer - and drove straight to Mt. Snow, Vermont, where they had to play the next night. Quite a trip. 12 hours away, with the snow pouring down...

This film recording was made by "Sebastian" Bud Styple who gave me permission to post his video on YouTube. It is a soundless movie of Black Forest Rhodes performing at Rutgers Newark campus in about 1968-1969.
Leroy Jerome White - Vocals and Percussion
Ken Gwyn - Guitar and Vocals
Jaime LaVecchia - Drums
Tom Eckstein - Rickenbacker Twelve String Guitar
Thomas R Arnold - Bass and Vocals.
Time: 6 minutes, 27 seconds.

Early 1970's - Black Forest Rhodes - Leroy "Jerry" White, Ken Gwyn, Danny Schiano, Jamie LaVecchia, Tom Arnold

August 1971

Dad's buddy Alex - August 1971

Jerry Leroy White - August 1971

(l-r) Frank Sgro, Jamie LaVecchia (drums) Kevin Candio
Ken Gwyn, John Forsdahl

1970's - 32 Breeze (l-r) Frank Sgro, Wally Katula,
Ken Gwyn, Kevin Candio, John Forsdahl

Black Forest Rhodes & Bruce
Black Forest Rhodes & Bruce
I recently learned that my Dad's band opened up for Bruce Springsteen way back when. Since Bruce went on to enjoy far more popularity and fame then Dad did, there is a wealth of archival information about him on the internet, which is how I was lucky enough to find the two posters above from 1971.

December 1972

December 1972, Friends at Paul's house
Ken Gwyn, Linda Pierro, Kate Comeau, circa 1979
Ken & Kate
Ken & Kate in Washington Square Park

From a note paid to Dad in his guitar case:

To the Under the Arch Singers,

As I am currenly in financial straights myself, I have no spare change to reward you for your wonderful songs. However, some day I will be repulsively wealthy, and then I will fill the guitar case with Gold Krugerant as there is nothing better to do with money than repay you folks for the times you have cheered me up. New York city is a bitch when you're alone and your music reminds me that there are nice things still around. Thanks Much.


Chuck - a devoted fan

(The Arch is in Washington Square Park, where Dad played with Linda, Kate and other friends. Dad saved this note in his address book)

Ken Gwyn Washington Square Park
Ken Gwyn and Albert Owens at Washington Square Park (early 80's?)
Inner Circle Poster
Poster advertising Kenny Gwyn & The Board of Directors Debut at the Inner Circle for David Mamo's art show opening.
Board of Directors
Board of Directors at the Inner Circle. circa 1980

Inner Circle
Ken & Board of Directors at the Inner Circle
with Schlomo

1980 (Photo ©Frank Wildemann)

1981- Seaton Hancock, Ken, Aaron Budnick

Photo ©Douglas Falkner, 1981 used with permisson

Ken in his room at the Jane St. Motel, December 1985

"Introducing the one and only Kenny Gwyn: Everyone knows he'll be star, 'cause he can play that there guitar, on Jane St."
by Joe Glickman & Lydia Saiger
The Daily News New York, NY
December 27, 1985

Prince, George Thorogood, Steve Forbert and Marianne Faithful drop in to hear him play. Paul Butterfield, Rick Danko and Jaco Pastorius come to jam. What draws these stars to the Inner Circle, an obscure club located at 113 Jane St. in the Village?

Kenny Gwyn, resident guitarist extraordinaire, rips out hits of the '60s and early '70s with a virtuosity that has earned him a cult following. Regulars claim to have seen him every weekend - some say every night - for the last three years.

At age 21, Gwyn played lead guitar for Chubby Checker. Later with his band Black Forest Rhodes, he shared the stage with Richie Havens, Ike and Tina Turner, John Hammond, Edgar Winter and The James Gang. Now at 34, Gwyn labors six nights a week on the outskirts of the Village - a talent so compelling one wonders how success has eluded him. "The only success I have," Gwyn says, "is the mastery of my craft."

Kenny Gwyn spent most of his childhood feeling isolated. The youngest of three(sic) children, he grew up in Kearny, NJ, one of the handful of blacks in a working-class Irish/Italian town. "I was made to feel inferior," Gwyn says. "I was called 'Nigger,' spat at and was always getting in fights." When his sisters went out on dates, Kenny sat alone in the car singing along with the radio. At home if the radio wasn't wailing, the sounds of Ray Charles, gospel and Johnny Mathis were. When his Mom finally handed him a guitar for Christmas, he was 14 and "horny to play."

The guitar became a means of expression as well as a vehicle of escape. "Music was an obsession that I couldn't get enough of, " he says in an animated voice. "My mother would send me out to the yard to sweep leaves and I'd be out there playing the broom. I played eight hours a day." By age 16 he was drawing crowds with his singing and acoustic guitar in Washington Square Park.

Twenty years later, Gwyn and his band The Board of Directors, fill the Inner Circle with the sounds of Clapton, The Grateful Dead and Hendrix. Hunched over the neck of his Ovation, the ashes of a cigarette in his right hand growing and falling, Gwyn calls on his repertoire of some 700 songs. His curly black hair flops in front of tinted glasses; the veins in his neck pop out as if he were tearing notes from his chest. "Besides being an incredible technical guitarist, " raves one of the regulars, "Kenny puts out so much."

On weekends, crowds of 200-plus jam the Inner Circle. Photos and paintings by students from the School of Visual Arts line the walls. Between a red-eyed poster of Albert Einstein and the seductive gaze of Clark Gable across the room, scores of students in patched jeans and tie-dyed shirts dance as long as Gwyn plays. Here is the best of the '60s they were too young to remember, and for those who are starting to gray around the temples, it's a chance to recapture musical memories.

Outside the lights of Hoboken and Union City stare across the Hudson River. Around the corner at the Jane St. Hotel, Gwyn and his girlfriend Linda Pierro, (she tends bar and sometimes sings with the band) share an 8 x 20 room with their kitten Georgia. Were it not for the five guitars leaning in the corner, this would be another anonymous room with no phone, bathroom or kitchen: A stopping place for people in transit. "I don't find it depressing, "assures Gwyn, "People here have personality."

Gwyn is a street musician at heart; a man who has spent many nights under the arch in Washington Square Park. "I just want to be known as a musician. To some extent I'm successful, although not in my own right since I'm playing other people's music. I'd love to be discovered and fulfill some of my dreams, make Linda's life a little easier; give my two daughters some of the finer things in life; repay my parents. But I'm not an aggressive person. I'm just a player. I don't know how to go about promoting my self. Though in my own slow way I'm making an effort."

After a month in the hospital - the longest he's been away from the guitar in 20 years - Gwyn beat a long-standing addiction to drugs and alcohol. Now that he's back dazzling inner Circle patrons, Gwyn is constantly asked why he doesn't play original music.

"Maybe some of it's fear," says Paul Butterfield. "His originals are melodic, beautiful songs." Says Gwyn, "It's not that I'm afraid of success," he says without hesitation, I'm just not at that stage with this band to be comfortable enough to play my own music." Butterfield agrees: "Kenny needs to play with a higher caliber of musician."

In the meantime, Gwyn recognizes the conflict. "There won't be any success until I start playing original music," he says. "That's partly my fault - something I'm conscious of. We've worked on originals, but the band as a unit .... I don't feel all that comfortable... they're just not approaching the material right."

Kenny Gwyn is a study in contradictions: An accomplished musician showered by applause while laboring in obscurity, a guitarist who jams with stars like Danko, Butterfield, Pastorius and Jimmy Page, while leading a band he must carry, a versatile musician who, to date, has not played his originals in public.

I plan to use him on my next album," Butterfield says. "Jaco (Pastorius), Kenny and I are working on some songs and we're thinking about touring. This is a turning point for Kenny. He has a shot to do something."

Ken & Aaron in Tucson
A typical backyard party in Tucson, Fall 1989

Dad playing at a party in Tucson, AZ
November 1989

Ken, Linda & Eden
September 1988

Ken Linda & Eden
July 1989

On the Mall at University of Arizona
October 1989
Ken Gwyn & Reuben Riera
Ken Gwyn & Reuben Riera

"Talking with a Master Musician (The Hendrix of Downtown)" by Stephen Witt
The Street Singer's Beat, Village Voice, New York, NY
October 10, 1990

Last Saturday, while purchasing some strings at Matt Umanov guitars, I ran into Kenny Gwyn, who was also purchasing strings. It was good seeing Kenny, who had been away from New York the last few years playing in Tucson, Arizona, and touring with The Comets of Bill Haley and The Comets fame. I had learned Kenny was back in town a few weeks earlier from the buzz among musicians in Washington Square Park and on Bleecker Street.

Musically speaking, Gwyn, a singer/guitarist/interpreter of songs, is about the closest thing in the village to Jimi Hendrix. His understanding and use of total music theory, including complicated chord structures, rhythms, and lead playing are watched and studied by many local musicians. He is also one of the most pitch perfect and soulful singers around. Among his followers are such notables as Buzzy Felton, Jimmy Page, Jorma Kaukonen, and Rick Danko, who from time to time seek out Kenny for gigs or to jam. While Gwyn was playing at the now defunct Mills Tavern, the previously mentioned musicians, as well as the late Paul Butterfield and Jaco Pastorius, would often come by to listen or sit in.
Like Hendrix, Kenny has had a rough go of it in New York. Although, he is able to eke out a living by playing beneath the arch in Washington Square Park and in the clubs that line Bleecker Street, his talent deserves a better income. He is a tall, light skinned black man, with wild hair, thick glasses and a large flat forehead.

"I got kicked out from playing underneath the arch yesterday. The police said my voice is too loud even though I was playing without an amp," Kenny told me, as we walked west on Bleecker Street from Matt Umanov's. "It always smacks of surrealism to me that given the volume of trucks, cab horns and sirens, which are omnipresent in the city day and night, that they would chose to persecute singers and musicians."

"Did they stop you before or after the big marijuana sting operation," I asked, referring to the two-day police operation to bust nickel and dime marijuana dealers and buyers in Washington Square Park. "They stopped me right after the operation." "That was one stupid drug bust operation," I said. "Yeah. Especially seeing that most of the reefer in Washington Square Park is bogus anyway, and in light of the violent crime situation in the streets, it seems like a tragic waste of police manpower."

We arrived at Kenny's Castaways, where Kenny had stashed his guitar. There over a beer, we continued our conversation.
"I'm from Kearny, NJ," Kenny told me. "My mother bought me my first guitar when I was 14. I was basically until that time a singer. I just wanted to learn how to accompany my voice, but then lead guitar became popular. There was a fellow on a tv show called Shindig. His name was James Burton and he already achieved nororiety as a session man on a lot of Ricky Nelson albums and later with Elvis Presley. Watching him play guitar like that made me want to learn, also. Subsequently, I've been influenced by Clapton, BB King, Freddy King, Albert King and Django Rheinhart. I don't see myself as a composer of songs. I'm more of a song stylist. I like songs like 'Everybody's talkin" by Fred Neil, 'Colorado' by Rick Roberts, or 'Georgia on my Mind' by Hoagy Carmichael."

"How do you see music as an artistic and spiritual force?"

"Music is an extension of the oral folk tradition. It has the ability to transport individuals and groups out of otherwise mundane experience to places, climes and encounters as varied as the wealth of music available at the present time. As a musician, I get as caught up as the audience in any given song."

"How was it in Tucson, Ariz.," I asked.

"It was great. I played the clubs and the parties around the University of Arizona. I also played the streets behind the Pima County courthouse, and also on the mall at the campus. My band also played the 4th Avenue street fair. It is an annual street fair that features some great Indian arts and crafts. The only problem with the music scene there is that it's seasonal. You can only find work when school is in session."

"Do you ever think about getting a record contract?"

"I would like to get a record contract. I'd like to make a million dollars just to take care of my kids, and my mom and dad."

After we finished our beers, we walked outside with our guitars and Kenny showed me how to play "Danny Boy." I had asked Kenny if he could show me the song for my gig later at the Sine-e Cafe. I had remembered Kenny moving me very deeply with this song a few years back. Anyway, he played the song with a very complex arrangement featuring major chords, minor chords, major 7ths, and miner 9ths. However, all the chords seemed to fit into the melody in a very logical order. Indeed, playing with or learning music from Kenny Gwyn is a humbling experience.

Yes, that's Dad
The things we do for love...

Jason Aberbach, Ken Gwyn & Marc West at Eden's 3rd birthday party
Old Westbury, NY

Dad on the Himalayian with niece Pam and her son Trevor
Pt. Pleasant Beach, August 1996

Ken and his daughters Alison, Sasha & Eden
August 31, 1996 (the only photo of us together)

We danced to "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You"
August 31, 1996

Ironically my last photo of my dad, waving goodbye at the wedding.
He died less than 2 months later on October 22, 1996.
This photo was taken by an old friend, Bud Styple.
Some Memories of Kenny written by Kevin Hinninger: Kenny Gwyn was an underground musical legend and a fixture on the Greenwich Village streets and music scene from 1967 until his death in 1996.  Besides being such a phenomenal guitarist and singer that he was an inspiration and mentor to a generation of NYC musicians, Kenny helped spawn the jam band scene, and held down the fort, keeping good old fashioned guitar driven rock and roll alive in New York throughout the punk, new wave,  dance music explosion, and metal years.
Kenny was a New York institution and a legend in Washington Square Park and on Bleecker Street.  Tourists, suburbanites, and New Yorkers alike were awed by Kenny's talent, and spread the lore of "The guy with the Afro and glasses who is Jimi Hendrix reincarnate." This is where I was lucky enough to stumble across the man who inspired me to go from music fan to musician.
Kenny made many of his musical connections on Bleecker Street, which was hopping with all kinds of different music clubs, as was down town New York in general.  Jazz musicians from the Blue Note or the Village Vanguard would show up at Kenny's shows and jam with him.  Folk, bluegrass, and blues artist from Folk City would do the same thing, singer songwriters from the Bitter End or the Bottom Line would drop by, as would classic artist from the 60's and 70's who were playing the Lonestar or the Ritz.  Countless musicians who came through New York would hit Bleecker Street, be blown away by Kenny, and want to Jam with him.  Prince was one of them, so was Maryanne Faithful, Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Butterfield, Jaco Pastorious, and Rick Danko.
I want to focus on Kenny's time at a club called the Inner Circle, that revolved around his talent.  He performed there 6 nights a week, I believe from late 1984 to early 1986.  This club was on Jane Street and the Westside Highway, right on the Hudson River in a desolate part of town right below the meat packing district that was crawling with nothing but transvestite hookers.
The story as I got it is that Rueven Adam Halperin, a fellow musician who played with Kenny at Mills Tavern and in the Park, was a resident of the Jane West Hotel.  He pushed for the owners to open the vacant basement bar as a venue to showcase Kenny's talent, and Kenny played his heart out there 6 nights a week. This is the year of heavy metal and hair bands, Madonna rules the charts, rap is gaining momentum, NY has a thriving hard-core scene, MTV and NY rock stations are inundating our ears with Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, and Phil Collins.  There was no good rock radio in NY and no such thing as a classic rock format at this time.  WPLJ, WNEW, and WAPP played a few classics, then it was heavy metal, Journey, and some Huey Lewis and the News.
There was a good old fashioned rock and roll void in NY, especially at the grassroots level, no good rock clubs or rock radio.  At this time NY was crawling with classic rock fans, quazi-hippies, and Deadheads who were starved for entertainment (It should be noted that NY has always been a hot bed for the Dead, even in their lean years, and Kenny's connection to them goes deep, the sound man from his old band Black Forrest Rhodes, went on to do sound for the Dead).
An important segment of these New York City rockers was made up of college kids from NYU, Columbia, and the School of the Visual Arts, along with a contingent of suburban loyalists from Long Island and New Jersey.  These kids knew Kenny from the park and from Mills Pub on Bleecker Street, they were not into the metal, punk, rap or dance scenes that were sweeping NY.  It was into this climate and rock and roll void that Kenny reappeared from rehab and the kids flocked to him.
When Kenny reappeared from rehab it was the longest he had been away from his guitar and it seemed to unlock some sort of magic in his playing.  He was playing dangerous, scary, frustrated, mind expanding, emotional guitar.  The formula was simple, drums and bass lay down a back drop, and at every possible break Kenny jams like a man possessed, and he truly played like his life counted on every note. 
It should be noted that there was no Jam Band scene at this time, the Grateful Dead was all there was, the Allmans had yet to reunite, and Phish and the Jam Band scene as we know it today did not exist. 
The kids who went to see Kenny play at the Inner Circle spread the news like the gospel to their friends scattered in colleges and towns across the US.  Every Deadhead, classic rocker or hippy who had connections to NY knew of Kenny and this cool little club by the river.  Kenny would leave jaws hanging when he played, people would laugh - dance - jump up and down - and shake their heads in disbelief at his solos...he was quite simply amazing, words can't describe it, you had to be there.  Never, before or since, has a musician made me see colors when he played, Kenny did, and just when you thought he could take a song no further, he could raise it to new heights, simply unbelievable.
It is important to mention his band, The Board of Directors, which consisted of his partner in crime Marc West on Bass and backing vocals, there were two different drummers this band used, and I do not recall either of their names.  The group was also augmented by a hot little keyboard player who had his own show at one of the bars on Bleecker Street, I think he went by the name of Little Mike, and a guitar player from one of Kenny's old bands, either Black Forrest Rhodes or 32 Breeze.  There was a very special connection between Kenny and Marc one could not help but notice, it was as if they had been through wars together.  They were like Batman and Robin or Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid, their voices were fabulous together, they obviously had musical telepathy, and they brought out the best in each other musically.
There were a lot of factors that went into making the Inner Circle a special place, there was the music, the charm of Kenny and Marc, and the rock and roll void in NY.  There was also no cover charge, it was so far out on the fringe of the city that it was ignored by the authorities and no one had to have ID, drinks were also cheap, and the cliental were overly friendly, you could also openly smoke was heaven.  The Inner Circle had a charming decor to boot,  the place was decorated with works from the kids at The School for the Visual Arts and the ecological and political concerns of the rest of the growing hippy army.
Eventually the heavy hitters who knew Kenny from Bleecker Street made their way out to the Inner Circle to Jam with him, and Paul Butterfield could be seen passing the tip jar to make extra money for the band.  Two of the goofier guys in the crowd during those days were these clowns from Princeton, NJ.  I remember the big guy bringing a tank of nitrous oxide to the Circle one night and passing out, and the skinny cat giggling like a school girl and dancing like a moron.  They turned out to be John Popper and Chris Barron of Blues Traveler and Spin Doctors respectively, two of the first bands on the Jam Band scene that was about to be born.
Eventually there was an article written in the Daily News about Kenny and the Inner Circle, and this was really the beginning of the end for the club.  The small dive bar became over crowded on weekends, limos with the curious and beautiful posers would line up outside, and this small, anonymous little oasis began getting a little too much attention.
A pivotal moment came occurred in the winter of 1985 or 86 via the son of music impresario Billy Graham.  The kid was going to school in NY, wanted to get into music management, and had his eye on Kenny and another young band.  Big Daddy Graham was coming to town to take a look at the bands and advise his son.
So here was Kenny's big break, the bar is packed and rocking, Kenny and the band played a great set, and while smoking a joint with a cute little Asian girl, she informs me that Billy Graham has just shown up to check out Kenny.  After a hideously long break the band reappears, but they all look scared to death and Kenny looks down right sick.  They slowly start launching into a song, but it falls apart and Kenny slumps down on his amplifier and proceeds to nod out.
Legend has it that Billy Graham went across town and signed Blues Traveler later that weekend, a clever band that lured the Inner Circle crowd with free nitrous oxide and mushroom tea.  By the summer these guys were opening for the newly reunited Allman Brothers Band, and on their way to success, opening up the gates to the new Jam Band scene that was about to explode. 
The Inner Circle closed down soon after the Billy Graham debacle, we showed up one night to a chain across the door, seems they were an illegal club, or didn't pay their taxes, anyway our little nirvana was gone,
Kenny went back to Bleecker Street after that, he was basically resigned to playing Mills Pub again with his sideman and brother in arms, Marc West on bass.  This was a big step backwards for Kenny, he was heartbroken, and it was evident in the slow, sad dirges he fixated on.  He basically sang and played with a seriously broken heart from that point on.
Soon after this the Wetlands opened up in NY, using the old Inner Circle as a blue print, and gave the Jam Band scene a home base.  Bands whose members gathered at Kenny's feet such as Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, and God Street Wine went on to commercial success and toured the world, while Kenny Gwyn slipped further into obscurity.
Kenny kept right on playing his heart out, he moved to Arizona for a spell, toured with Bill Haley and the Comets, returned to NY and assembled a hot band called Restless, and he continued to perform as a duo with Marc.  Kenny's two main supporters and running mates in the music industry Paul Butterfield, Jaco Pastorious,  passed away, and sadly enough Kenny followed them on October 22, 1996.
Although I know Kenny is no longer with us, every time I am on Bleecker Street I feel him there, and I expect to turn around and see him.  I believe it is because Kenny Gwyn poured his heart and soul out all over that street, and his soul and presence are imprinted there.  New York City misses Ken Gwyn, an unsung musical hero, and so do I.  Go into Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker Street (The former Bleecker Street Tavern where my parents met in 1963) and you will see Kenny's picture behind the bar.  Raise a glass to the best guitar player you never heard of.  Lots of Love Kenny and thank you for all the great times. Kevin Hinninger



Updated August 28, 2008 by Sasha Mitchell

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