Kenny Peter Bird.
Born: 16 May 1951.
Deceased: 16 October 2013 – Age 62.
Very Sad news… This past Saturday, saw Julie, Vixen and I at the
great late Kenny Birds funeral / memorial service in Pinelands.
Even though a hugely sad moment, (The crying in the Church was
evidence of that, the little Congregational Church in Pinelands was
truly a celebration of Kennys marvellous life. It was packed to
the rafters with extra seating opened in an adjoining room to
accommodate the over 250 friends there.
Kenny Peter Bird was band leader, lead guitar, vocalist and
harmonica player with his long-standing band, Back to Back.
The cancer had been diagnosed some years ago. He had several
treatments to his liver. He was coping extraordinarily well with
the therapy and was well enough to continue playing and running his
one-man business, “Fix anything” maintenance business. Just 3
weeks ago, he played with the band in a corporate gig for the last
time. Sadly, he fell quite ill after that and passed away on 16th
October in Groote Schuur hospital, Cape Town.
With our late son, Bruce being best mates with the bands Bassist,
Clive Newtons son Richard, we got to know the Newtons at a Vista
Nova High school afternoon “tea” party.
We settled down under the trees, poured myself a beer, kinda
expecting a dreary afternoon chatting inept murmurings to other
parents when, to my magnificent surprise, Carlos Santana started
plectruming my ear drums! After a few songs, I enquired, “Who is
doing the music? It is excellent”
It was the bassman from Back to Back, Clive Newton. We were
introduced and it was right there a fabulous friendship was sprung.
After that, we were invited to hear the band and a few “tea”
parties where we really got to meet the band members properly – and
Kenny Bird, of course.
Kenny and I clicked immediately. This in itself is not surprising
as Kenny was just that sort of guy. A loveable soul who never said
a bad word about anyone and radiated love wherever he went.
But put him on a stage and his much beloved Ibanez custom electric
in his wonderfully talented hands and he would turn it into an
instrument that could make angels weep. Suddenly doing exactly
what he was born to do all his life.
In the hey-day of the Band, the lineup was…
Lead vocals: Madeleine Ginn & Bruce Clayton.
Lead guitar: Kenny Bird (vocals and Harmonica).
Drums: Angelo Simone.
Keyboard: Peter Alcock.
Bass guitar: Clive Newton.
Sax: Jock Glen Gordon.
Many wonderful happy evenings we had at places like Paulaner
Brauhouse (V&A Waterfront), the Italian Club (Rugby), and
Kirstenbosch Gardens. Almost every time Julie, my wife and I got
on the dance floor, Kenny would get his band to play “Fire” by the
Pointer Sisters. This song was almost dedicated to us as it had
the words “Romeo and Juliette” in the chorus which the band would
sing out loud. They all had a very special sense of humour.
Then later, one evening, when Kenny and I were in my lounge,
sharing some music and a beverage or two, he gave me a plastic
blow-up copy of a Fender Stratocaster and told me “No need to carry
on doing your “Air-guitar” on the dance floor, here is a real one!”
To this day, this “Air-guitar is proudly hung on a wall next to my
One of those unique moments with Kenny was again in our lounge.
It was a week we had Dan Patlanski staying over while gigging in
Cape Town. Dan is another exceptional talent on blues guitar)
It was one of those miraculous evenings when everything just seems
to fall into place and a jam session is created… with the
assistance of a couple of the all important bottles of whisky.
A drummer buddy, Brent Garvie also popped in and when discovering
the heavy talent in the lounge, got his Djembe drum from his car.
So there were the 4 of us, Kenny and Dan strumming and picking
their silky melodies on acoustics, Brent on the drum, laying down
a solid rhythm and me blowing a rather bad harmonica. It was an
exceptional evening, which went onto deep into the night… While
the ache of the hangover cleared up, the memory is as rooted and as
strong as the fun and music made that night.
Kenny Bird is a true nice guy. A gentleman in every sense of the
word. His generosity of spirit, sense of fair play, invariable
courtesy, special humility and sheer humanity were universally
praised and appreciated, especially by his muso peers and people he
encountered in his daily round.
Towards the end, Kenny possessed degrees of steely nerve and
boundless raw courage. This was combined with exceptional staying
power which gave him superior mental fortitude, patience and
perseverance, enormous levels of positive concentration and an
unflagging competitive spirit.
Needless to say, he was instilled with the virtues of honesty and
integrity, self-discipline, respect for others and the sense of
responsibility which characterized his approach to life.
Kennys other strengths included being both a team player and a team
leader of the highest order, providing inspirational qualities (he
always considered his band members as best friends) and always did
the practical contributions by putting in the effort (he often
wielded tools to ensure all the equipment was set-up correctly) and
which invariably improved morale and brought the best out of the
His superlative talent was hugely praised. We saw and heard some
of the greatest and amazing displays of skill ever heard. Kenny did
it all with style, grace, nobility and a sense of honour seldom
seen on a stage these days.
Kenny Peter Bird leaves his loving wife Annamarie, son Nicholas,
daughter Jeanine, and grand-son Kaden.
Rest in peace Kenny. You will be never forgotten.
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Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
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