|Born to an untroubled middle-class childhood and a dozen years of public schools, I exhibited no special skills for anything except, perhaps, art. In the musical Kula household, I failed to distinguish myself, in turn, on piano, accordian, or clarinet; at age 13, though, a few weeks before a school talent show, I decided to learn to play guitar. My father taught me the three or four chords I needed to pass the audition, and I was hooked.|
|A year in a college art program convinced me I was no artist; I dropped out, and, with a childhood friend and musical partner, I went to work on getting a record contract.|
A novelty song called "Hey Etta" got us in the door at Mercury Records. Their Artist and Repertoire man wanted the song definitely, wanted me provisionally (if I could liven up my vocals), and wanted my friend not at all. I turned the deal down.
My friend went on to found the group Anthem and make one LP; my solo musical career peaked in 1973 when I opened for Kenny Rankin (who wrote "Peaceful" for Helen Reddy) in Laramie, Wyoming.
|The onset of disco reduced the number of places live music was played. At the same time, my stage fright was growing. In my first year of being a computer programmer I made more money than I had made in ten years of playing music for people. Eventually I came to accept what was obvious to everybody else: for someone of my abilities, music was a hobby, not a career.|
|In the spring of 2000, a friend of mine named Roger McGuinn told me I ought to put some of my old recordings on MP3.com, where he was already selling CDs as an offshoot of his Folk Den project. He promised me I'd have fun. I took several old recordings, made a few new ones, and in about four weeks I had a CD for sale and my own page on MP3.com (a different site than the one with that name today). |
In the summer of 2000, Roger honored me by letting me join him onstage in Chicago and Milwaukee for a couple of tunes, introducing me as his "fellow MP3.com recording artist." For several days afterward I couldn't stop grinning: I'd never again have to explain who Kenny Rankin is.
|Troubled that I wasn't making much use of my lovely guitars, I figured that what would push me to play was having a regular musical partner again. I was lucky enough to find one in Colin Ward, then skipper of the sailing yacht Mandalay and a master Strat strangler.|
Calling ourselves the Blue Island Beer Club, which name is suggestive of several of our personal interests, we wasted no time in making several albums together. Our latest is called "Dream On Down to the Keys", something I often do.
Colin has moved on to bigger things (the Rosewood Creek Band, for one), and I'm half of the I.R. Beach Boys with Art Mattiello, yet another guitar player who's way better than I am.