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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Northern Kentucky Music Hall of Fame Concert TONIGHT in Tower Park

By Mickey Foellger 

The 2019 Northern Kentucky Music Legends Hall of Fame induction ceremony and concert will once again be held in Tower Park on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 6:00pm (6/6 at 6).

Inducted will be the band Woodwind Steel, bluegrass legend Gary Strong, veteran honky-tonk rock band leader, guitarist, pianist & vocalist Rick Kinman, and Elvis impersonator, Steve Chuke.

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If the NKMHOF extends far enough South to include the great Rosemary Clooney from Maysville (and Augusta ), Ky, then it extends far enough South to include some Bluegrass and Country music. Kenny Price from Florence and Hee Haw and “Hayride” was inducted the first year (2012) and Bobby Mackey the next and Taylor Farley a few years later.  One of this year’s inductees, GARY STRONG, lives in Corinth and was raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Breathitt County in Eastern Kentucky, in the heart of Bluegrass Music country.  His daddy, George Strong was a banjo pickin’ musician with the Spring Valley Bluegrass Band, and later played regularly at Walt’s Barn in Alexandria after he moved the family to Newport to find a “real job” in Greater Cincinnati.

Gary started playing guitar before he was 8, and added banjo and mandolin by age 13, and even electric guitar and some “rock riffs” at 16 while at Newport High School and hanging out and buying 45’s at C&D Record Bar. He joined a band with Taylor Farley as a teenager and they were Farley & Strong for years, playing music festivals, when a promoter at a street festival event for Brighton Center at 8th & Central Streets suggested that they change their name to the Licking Valley Boys, and they performed under that moniker for many years during the 70’s and 80’s, releasing two albums.

In 1976, Gary Strong got into radio from the other angle and became a DJ, starting at WAIF in Cincinnati and getting his FCC license, and then he went to WSAI when they converted from a Top 40 Rock station to Country in 1978, and worked there for 6 years.  He also put together another bluegrass band with some old friends, Rick Beach (mandolin), Ronnie Cole (bass) and Ralph King (banjo), who traveled the country with the Kentucky Gentlemen.  Strong, who lives in Grant County, still has an ensemble playing at music festivals around the Midwest, like Woolfest in Falmouth in the fall and the Stringbean Festival in London, Ky., as Gary Strong and Hard Times.

Gary has been a presence on the radio for 40 years, doing several years at WCYO (The Coyote) in Richmond, Kentucky, and joining WOBO (88.7) in Batavia, Ohio in the 1980’s, where he has been the “head honcho” since 2012.

WOODWIND STEEL started as a trio in 1982 at the Gatehouse Tavern in Fort Mitchell, when Pat Gregory and Tim Link (Pat & Tim duo) merged with Mark Asch, who was playing with pianist Cliff Adams and guitarist Ray Yancy.  Mark Asch and Ray Yancy were previously part of a very talented band called Highwind, that was formed to record an album at the brand new super recording studio in Erlanger, Forum Studios,  where the Fifth Dimension recorded and Exile recorded their world-wide #1 hit record, Kiss You All Over.  Woodwind Steel was one of the preeminent pre-hard rock bands in Greater Cincinnati, that is, they were never loud and they emphasized vocal harmonies. They were a club band, and therefore, there was always some place to go in town to “hear a good band”.  

Woodwind Steel played at the Gatehouse in 1982, and then became the “house band” (5 nights/week) at the Tumbleweed in Ft. Wright until 1989. Pat Gregory, Tim Link and Mark Asch are all guitarists/vocalists, with Mark focusing on pedal steel.  Eventually, Tim left and was replaced by Geoff Herron, and then Cliff Mayhugh joined on bass guitar. Their longest run as a house band was from 1989 until 1997 at the Commonwealth Hilton in Florence, and then they “retired”.

The group reunited after 9/11/01, and added a singing drummer, Mark Dudderar, and thus added 4-part harmonies, and started playing shows at the Syndicate in Newport and Belterra Casino in Indiana and continued that until 2013.

RICK KINMAN is an accomplished guitarist, and a keyboardist and vocalist, and is also from Grant County, living in Williamstown. He was born in Frankfort, and his family moved North, first to Owenton, and then to Independence, where he attended Simon Kenton High School, and started to play music. Both of Rick’s parents were musicians, as his dad played fiddle and his mom, the piano, and Rick’s maternal grandfather, Jack Hutton was the bassist at the Lookout House in Park Hills for many years.

Rick was playing at the High Point Hut in Independence at the age of 14 with Hank Garmin, and started his own band, the Fugitives, in 1963 with his brother, Bill on bass and Bob Wuest on drums. They eventually added horns, with the talented Mike Campbell on sax and Bruce Ramsey on trumpet.  In the 1970’s, his “horn band” was Rainbow, and they played regularly at The Round-up in Erlanger and Reflections and the Inner Circle in the Clifton area of Cincinnati. While playing at the Inner Circle, Rick was recruited and joined a show band from Columbus called The Neutrons.

Kinman did a jazz gig for awhile at the Viking Lounge in Cincy with Richard “Groove” Holmes, and had stints with Kenny Price and with Ebby Hoard & Southern Comfort in 1973. Show bands and motel lounge acts were big in the 70’s and 80’s, and Cincinnati’s Don Sheets talent agency booked acts up and down I-75 from Canada to Tampa, and Rick’s band called Ecstasy was working steady in that “industry”.

In 1979, Rick was playing at the Playboy Club in downtown Cincy with the band Fantasy, with Les Palmer on bass guitar and Dave Morris on keys until they moved back across the River to Dr. Potts’ in the Holiday Inn in Covington for several years.

STEVE CHUKE is an Elvis impersonator, and basically has been since September 9, 1956 when the real Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on black & white TV. Steve was 10. Steve played the “Fonzie/Elvis” role as a young man with slicked-back black hair, leather jacket, jeans and white T-shirts, with a little bit of rebel, and sang along with Elvis hits on the radio. Steve lives and breathes Elvis, with Elvis paraphernalia and music dominating his jewelry store.

Long before karaoke, Steve Chuke sang Elvis tunes loud and proud, and his friends would encourage him to jump up on stage and sit in with local rock bands playing various clubs in Northern Kentucky, including the New Lime. He then joined pianist Ed Wilbers and bassist Dave Van Horn and Gale Watson in a spinoff group called Handle with Care.

Steve has operated several jewelry stores in Campbell County, and back in 1988, Leroy Ellington (currently a band leader) was working at WCVG-AM in Cincinnati, and stopped in looking for an Elvis voice to do on-air commercials/jingles for their All-Elvis radio station. It was Steve’s “big break”. Then, Peter Jennings from ABC News just happened to be in Cincy and shot a segment of Steve doing on-air Elvis commercials, and life changed. He was invited to do Elvis shows in Memphis (the King’s hometown), Boston, Atlanta, Florida, and even Las Vegas, and he took them up on it and traveled a bit. Steve also sings some Jackie Wilson, Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney, and he will do his annual show at Old Coney on August 3, and will do a set here on June 6.

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