The 1970's...Blues, Sweat and Ashes.

Two months (to the day) after the Kent State shootings, 15 60 75 booked their first gig at The Kove on Water Street in Kent, Ohio. So begins the story of two brothers, and one hell of a group of musicians. Terry Hynde was twenty-four years old, Bob Kidney was twenty-three. Although the band had been playing together since the summer of '69, Water Street is significant... it was the hottest spot in town. Above the thick July air rose an alto sax, a strange rolling beat, and an angry voice. Bob was intensely driven, and the strain of perfection set relationships on fire.

The first photo of 15 60 75, performing at The Kove in 1970. Left to right: Hank Smith, Terry Hynde, Tim Hudson, Bob Kidney and Greg Colbert.
15 60 75, or The Numbers to their fans, were playing four nights a week to crowds of 500 to 900 people at The Kove. Most of the band's original fans first saw 15 60 75 at this club, and were drawn into the mystical energy that is created when several cultures mix together in dance and music. It was the only period when the members of the band supported themselves financially only by playing music. Their circles of friends revolved around the music, and of course, the substances that abound. Kent, Ohio was in itself a mystical place to be in the 60s and 70s. The combination of intense music, colorful people and crazy situations brought an incredibly unique and truely hip time to this small town. The group had not been together long before it started to fragment into sections. The music they played was Chicago style blues, but Terry and Hank were more interested in playing jazz. The tug-of-war between the two styles during the performances resulted in the birth of a new sound which is still prevalent in their music today. Bob encouraged intense rehearsals which lasted from the end of their performances until dawn.

Stolen Cadillac. Recorded 1974. Remixed 1991 by Steve Etherton. 262K RealAudio file.
© Copyright 1972 by Robert J. Kidney, Jr. All rights reserved.

By 1972, the band had gone through a myriad of changes that resulted in three guitar players on stage, and a new drummer named David Robinson. David was proficient in several different percussion instruments from around the world. He set the highest standard for the rhythm section, which has only been realized again by the current drummer (and student of David's), Frank Casamento. Here at Walter's Cafe in Kent, is the largest group of musicians involved in 15 60 75: Left to Right; David Robinson (drums), Gerald Casale (bass), Mike Bubnow (guitar & bass), Bob Kidney (vocals, harmonica, guitar, keybrds), Hank Smith (guitar & keybrds), Terry Hynde (alto sax), and Tim Maglione (tenor sax). Although they played to huge crowds at the Kove and elsewhere, descension among the members grew. Bob wanted to write his own material and add his brother, Jack, to the group. The band did not want to risk the popular scene they had created. 15 60 75 on Water Street was the hottest event in town. Hippies, poets, bikers, artists, townies, musicians, college professors and students filled the club nightly. "Townies" were the residents of Kent, the people who put up with the students every fall and winter. And people danced, all kinds of people danced. Whirling skirts and hair, barefoot and very, very high. It was a carnival of cultures.
On those nights within the dimly lit, hot, smoky walls of the Kove (and also later, in J.B.'s), something was happening. No one could really define it, but it was strangely provocative. The popularity only made Bob more intent on getting it right. He had outgrown the blues. Near the end of 1972, he walked out of a rehearsal, took the name, and joined Jack's band King of Hearts. Gerald Casale went on to form Devo, and Terry started playing in a jazz group called Imajazz. Everyone else went their separate ways.

Right: Bob and Jack begin playing together for the first time. Left to right: Drake Gleason (bass), Jay Brown (drums), Jack Kidney (harp, sax, and percussion), and Bob Kidney (guitar, vocals). Jack was a better harp player than his older brother, so with this stripped down group, Bob started playing lead guitar. Still heavily influenced by blues, the band began performing some original material. Bob was (and still is) a poet. Most of his lyric is poetry set to music. His guitar style changed to fit the role as lead, and Jack's harp began it's evolution into an amazing range that rivals the best. The band became 15 60 75 again, and the unique sound familiar to today's fans emerged.
Summer Fever. Recorded 1978. New tracks added, remixed 1991 by Steve Etherton. 150K RealAudio file.
© Copyright 1974 by Robert J. Kidney, Jr. All rights reserved.

In 1974, Jay Brown was fed up with Bob, and left the group. David Robinson returned. Bob's relentless dedication to perfecting the live performances is noted by Jay saying, "He talked to people like they were dogs." The band got a gig from a friend named John Sinclair, who owned the Primo Show Bar in Ann Arbor where notable people were supposed to show up. But no one important came, as would be the trend of events which plagued their entire career. As it turned out, a portable recording studio owned by John Lennon was on the premises, and they recorded their first original, Stolen Cadillac. Michael Stacey joined the band as the rhythm guitarist. This addition opened up a space for Bob to play scorching solos, which became a trademark for the band. When the Kove burned in 1975, the band had just recorded their first album, Jimmy Bell Is Still In Town. Supporters of the album pulled out of the project because they thought the band's popularity would suffer without the crowds at the Kove. The band finished the artwork production themselves and released it under their own Water Brothers label. They moved next door to J.B.'s Nightclub. Shortly afterward, while they were performing, the Kove burned again. This time the roof of J.B.'s caught fire.

Drake Gleason Terry Hynde Jack Kidney
Deaf In The Mind. Recorded 1978. Processed for release in 1991 by Steve Etherton. From the 15 60 75 Twenty CD. RealAudio file.
© Copyright 1974 by Robert J. Kidney, Jr. All rights reserved.

The next morning the Numbers traveled up Main Street to a club called the Robin Hood. The band built a stage and played the same night on wet paint. The crowds began to come back. The guys took a much needed vacation, and when they returned, the Robin Hood had been closed by the Health Department. Drug induced paranoia from certain circles sent rumors flying that the Kove was the act of arson guaranteed to ruin the band. 15 60 75 struggled at a club in Kent called Pancho Vias, playing four nights a week and only making $60.00 each. For the first time, Bob considered dissolving the group. Peter Laughner and Murry Soll came to hear the band at Pancho's and convinced him to tough it out "at least another month". The advice paid off. The Kove was torn down and J.B.'s re-opened. 15 60 75 played downstairs and eventually became the "house band" upstairs. Bassist Drake Gleason left and was replaced by Bart Johnson. Still playing to big crowds, they plowed into the era of New Wave and Punk. Bob's guitar style got wackier. He was playing the Gibson 175 hollow-body so hard that he broke the necks on two guitars.

Right: Cover art for "Jimmy Bell Is Still In Town". The photographs for the album were taken at the bar in the burned out Kove. Bob wanted to call the album Burned Out Alive, but the other members didn't like the title. Photo by Lance Karkruff. Left to right: Drake Gleason, David Robinson, Mike Stacey, Bob Kidney, Jack Kidney, Tim Maglione and Terry Hynde.
Thief. From the "Jimmy Bell..." album.
© Copyright 1970 by Robert J. Kidney, Jr. All rights reserved.

Jimmy Bell was considered a hit by the fans, but radio stations and record companies did not know what to do with the album. On July 7th, 1977, the band traveled to New York City to promote Jimmy Bell and performed at a trendy club in the Bowery called Traxx. They recieved great reviews. This is where the rumour of the rumour started. Friends of 15 60 75 who were living in New York and had seen the Traxx show were stunned at the appearance of the Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live. Apparently, one of the New York papers had written a review of the Traxx show calling them a "blues band" and "...who are these brothers from Ohio and what is their mission here in Manhattan?" One of the Blues Brothers was named "Jake" and one of the Blues Brothers carried a briefcase on stage. JACK (Kidney) always had a small suitcase he carried his harmonicas in. It is ironic. Also, Traxx, at that time, was a notorious hangout for New York entertainment and television types. Two of the co-stars from the "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Show" were there for one of the performances. The article has never been found.
The band returned to New York to play at Great Gildersleeves on Bowery Street, and also a club called Studio 10, a "smoke easy" operated by the remaining members of the Yippies. During a sound check at Studio 10, Bob stepped outside for a cigarette and saw that the street ran into the front door of CBGB's. At the time, this was the most famous club in New York,so he decided to check it out. He walked in the front door, but the bar was empty, not even a bartender. It was extremely rank and cramped. The bar ran all along the wall to the stage. After looking at the stage, he turned to leave and someone was standing at the bar in the dark. As he approached the person, he saw that it was Allen Ginsburg. After a short conversation, Bob realized how strange that situation really was. Not long after that, Ginsberg published a poem called "Punk Rock, You Are My Cry Baby".
The new music trends of the impending 1980s did not interest Bob at all. The band had enough material with the older blues and their own songs to really mix up the sets, and conforming to the popular stuff on the radio never entered his mind. Much to their frustration, non-conformity did not help them get noticed. After all the exhausting years Kidney put into creating a unique sound, and even a unique performance style, they had now become too strange to be defined by the music industry. Suddenly, Northeast Ohio was a hot spot for new talent. Akron, specifically, was called "the New Liverpool" in Rolling Stone Magazine. Talent seekers Karen Berg and Jerry Wexler signed Devo while performing at J.B.'s; Terry's sister Chrissie found fame with the Pretenders; ex-guitarist Chris Butler was signed as Tin Huey, and later, in The Waitresses. The Numbers were overlooked every time. Bob recalls, "I remember the night Tin Huey was signed to a recording contract, they were playing in the club downstairs (at J.B.'s). They were wearing clown masks and had a plastic goose that lit up on stage. I thought to myself, if this is what it takes, forget it."

Continue with The 80s...

The photograph above by Lance Karkruff was intended to be used for an album called "Nobody's Jaun". Left to right: Jack Kidney, Mike Stacey, Tim Maglione, Bob Kidney (walking through), Terry Hynde, David Robinson and Chris Butler.

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