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|Personalities -- by Phil Cartwright
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Al Kinney – Multi-Instrumentalist February 2005
Here’s something else that was a revelation to me. In the mid 60’s Al taught himself guitar. Why? Two reasons:
1. He was having troubles with his teeth and thought he should play a non-blowing instrument. 2. He used the
guitar to lay down sound tracks on tape so he could practice playing cornet to the tapes! Fortunately, Al was
able to get R and R for his teeth at CWRU School of Dentistry and has been blowing strongly ever since.
Al played his first paid gig when he was a high school student in the 50’s. He became a full time professional
musician in the mid 70’s. Before that, he was a high school science teacher and then a chemist for GE. Good
training from his bachelor’s degree and graduate work from Kent State University!
Al played a variety of instruments and with different combos in the 60’s and 70’s mostly in the 50’s rock and pop
styles. In 1975, Al needed a piano player and a drummer for his ‘all occasion’ band. First, his 13 year old
daughter, Michelle, joined the band on piano. About a year later, son Marc, age 12, joined on drums and the
Kinney Family Band was born and thrived for several years. The band paid the rent and put food on the table.
One of their last gigs was a memorable one. They had a trio gig in Louisville, KY. At midnight, they drove to
Cincinnati to drop off Michelle and then Al and Marc drove all night back to Cleveland so Al could play a Hymns
of Dixie church service in Hudson! Marc has become a great Dixieland drummer and still plays regularly with the
In addition to his wonderful reputation as a multi-instrumentalist and singer, Al Kinney is known to many
musicians for the two great fake books he put together. They are the New and Old Testaments for New Orleans
musicians in NE Ohio (and other areas, too). He started putting the books together in the late 80’s when he was
leading a small session every Monday night in North Royalton. I first knew of Al through those books and still
Those sessions led to the formation of the Dixie Ramblers and the New Orleans Stompers. In addition to those,
Al has played with just about every New Orleans style band in Northern Ohio. Mostly he has worked with the
Eagle Jazz Band, the River City JB, the New Orleans Stompers, New Orleans Jazz Ensemble, and most recently,
the Earlville JB.
I had assumed that Al had been playing Dixieland and New Orleans music all his life. Not so! Al started playing
an $89.00 Monkey Ward trumpet as a sophomore at Windham High. Soon he was gigging with local groups
playing everything from 50’s rock, through a little country, some pops, even a folk song or two.
Al didn't start playing New Orleans music until he was well along in his musical career. Interestingly, though, he
did have some early exposure to New Orleans music. First, as an elementary school student, Al listened on
Sunday nights to broadcasts from New Orleans on the clear channel radio station WWL. (Ed. Note: Me, too!) It
was always live New Orleans jazz music sponsored by a local university.
Second, when Al was about 11 years old, his sister bought him a tabletop record changer and included a boxed
set of 45rpm Bunk Johnson/George Lewis recordings. Al loved those recordings and still uses them as important
In spite of those important musical influences, Al continued to play what he calls ‘all occasion’ music and there
was no New Orleans music in the picture. That changed dramatically one day in the late 70’s. Al’s friend, Gale
Gorrell, talked him into attending a Dixieland session held by Moe Klippert at the Peninsula library. That was
soon followed by a moving experience listening to a Dixieland church service played by Moe at the Peninsula
Methodist Church. Moe and Al immediately hit it off and soon Al was being called by Moe to play in Moe’s
Rubber City Retreads and his Hymns of Dixie. From then on, there was no looking back to 50’s rock! Clearly,
Moe had a strong and important influence on Al’s interest and competence in New Orleans music.
Al continues to delight NE Ohio jazz fans with his extensive knowledge of songs, his ability to play so many
instruments so well, his great singing, and his whole entertainment persona. The next time you see Gale, thank
her for bringing Al into the New Orleans jazz world!
Jan and Bill Irvin: Many thanks from EARLYJAS February 2005
The music interests of Bill and Jan range from Preservation Hall to Big Band Music as well as our more
traditional Dixieland and Traditional Jazz. One of their more memorable experiences with our kind of music is
when they made a pilgrimage to New Orleans. They both loved the New Orleans music of the Preservation Hall
Jazz Band. So, of course, they walked down the madness of Bourbon Street, took a right on to St. Peter’s Street
and another quick right into that venerable institution, Preservation Hall. It was a summer night – hot and
humid. The crowd was thick, wall to wall people, elbow to elbow, all sweating in unison with the wonderful
Percy Humphries Band. Jan couldn’t handle the press and fainted. Fortunately, she didn’t fall to the floor. She
couldn’t – the people were so jam packed together there was no place to fall! She soon recovered and partied
the night away.
Bill and Jan recall the very first EARLYJAS Festival held at the Tangiers Restaurant in 1990. Shortly thereafter,
Jan and Bill began devoting more and more of their time on behalf of the club. The two of them have been in
leadership positions within the club since their earliest years as members.
Bill had studied trumpet as a child but eventually his work pressures got in the way of practicing and he had to
give it up. Some years went by and then he re-entered the jazz world – first as a listener and then as a player.
Shortly after he connected with EARLYJAS he was recruited by Al Kinney to start playing with a rehearsal
group in North Royalton. That group matured into the Dixieland Royales and gradually Bill got his lip back in
shape. He now is a regular at the EARLYJAS jam sessions.
Bill also plays with a community band called the New Horizon Band. It is headed by a music professor
originally from the University of Rochester. The purpose of the group is to encourage older people who either
have never played an instrument or gave it up years ago. There are about 40 people in the band. They meet
once a week in Cuyahoga Falls and play a variety of music.
Jan, on the other hand, is not a musician. However, she is a musician’s dream. She is an all out, died in the wool,
100% jazz fan! She loves the music, follows bands, and contributes mightily to the welfare of the club. She has
been a Trustee, served on the Festival Committee, and continues to serve on the Newsletter Committee.
Perhaps her most important contribution is her 10 years’ service as EARLYJAS Secretary. Wow!!
Bill has served important roles within the club as well. In addition to being a Trustee, and serving on the
Newsletter and Festival Committees, he served two terms as club President.
There is no doubt that the EARLYJAS club has benefited immensely from the contributions of the Irvins. Kudos,
kudos, and more kudos to them!!
Both Jan and Bill have lived in the Akron area for many years. Jan worked for 27 years as a nurse specializing in
nursing home care. Bill, a Kent State grad, made a career in advertising and marketing management.
When asked about the future of traditional jazz, Bill and Jan expressed some concerns about the viability of the
music. They said that not enough young people are interested in the music. To ensure a good future for the
music, somehow we need to get more young people involved in enjoying and supporting the music. We know
that our membership wants a club to support the music but it would be better if we could get more people to
participate actively in running the club. Although the actual number of club members is increasing, it seems that
the numbers of people who actively participate in running the club are decreasing. Of course, age is a factor –
that’s why we need more young people! Also, it is clear that most of the people who support the annual
EARLYJAS Festival are not club members.
Still, Jan and Bill are quick to say that their membership in the club has been very rewarding and they want to
encourage new members to consider the many fine benefits of club membership. The most important, they feel,
is the opportunity to meet and enjoy new and old friends who share a love for music.
The next time you attend one of our club events, please say hello to Jan and Bill and thank them for all they’ve
done for the club. Once again: Kudos, Kudos, Kudos!
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Most EARLYJAS members know Al Kinney as a superb cornet
player who sounds more like Louie singing and playing than Louie
did. Some members have had the pleasure of hearing Al on other
instruments, notably string bass, Albert system clarinet and baritone
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Al’s first instrument was the
harmonica!! When Al was seven years old, his dad got him a mouth
harp and showed him a few ‘ins and outs’. It wasn’t long before Al
was playing better than his dad! In Al’s more than 50 years as a
professional musician he has gigged on all those instruments as well
as guitar (with foot bass), tenor sax, and piano.