UPDATE: Kevin's service will be held on Saturday January 23rd at Gordon-Flury Memorial Home, 1260 Collier Rd Akron, OH 44320 from 5-8PM. Those who wish to do so are welcome to attend or send flowers. A reception will be held after the service at Annabell's Lounge, 784 W Market St, Akron, OH 44303.
As the Chicago rock community reels from the passing of veteran rocker and all-around familiar face, Kevin Junior (most notably of The Rosehips and Chamber Strings), those of us who knew him are revisiting those precious memories we have of one of the sweetest souls you could ever hope to meet.
Copping the "elegant junkie" aesthetic of Johnny Thunders, Kevin Junior embodied all the elements of a rock star. He had the looks, the moves, and, most importantly of all, the ability to write melodies that burned themselves into your psyche.
After one of his early bands The Rosehips saw their Soul Veronique album hit #1 in Finland, Junior ventured to the UK where he joined forces with Epic Soundtracks, playing on the former Swell Maps pianist/drummer's last studio album (Change My Life) before his death in 1997.
Junior returned to Chicago with the intent of forming his own band, which resulted in the formation of The Chamber Strings. Their two albums, (1997's Gospel Morning and 2001's Month of Sundays) are potent punches of Stones and Faces swagger, but with a lyrical and aesthetic sensitivity that set them apart from obvious counterparts the Black Crowes.
Junior's increasing heroin addiction led to bouts of unpredictability that eventually ended the band,
As curator for a music festival back in 2008, I had the opportunity to hand-pick a few artists and Kevin Junior was one of the first acts I called. As the day of the show arrived, I was busy with show preparation when Kevin called me a few hours before showtime frantically trying to find a ride to the gig, a friend of mine (who just happened to be a big Kevin Junior fan) was more than happy to go fetch the singer.
Kevin showed up mere minutes before he was due to hit the stage with nothing but a guitar and a harmonica and, for 45 minutes, effortlessly grabbed the attention of everyone in attendance as his delicate yet powerful songs reminded us all just how talented a man he was.
At the end of the night, when it came time to settle up with the bands, I was struck by how thankful and appreciative he was to receive the seemingly small amount that we were able to pay him. Sure, it was more than we had agreed upon but nowhere near as much as he was worth.
Kevin recently moved back to Ohio in order to seek treatment for a heart condition, but had traveled to Spain in 2015 for new recording sessions. His first offering was last month's holiday-themed "You're Coming Home This Christmas", which he posted to his Soundcloud page (see above).
As I stare at the computer screen knowing that this article doesn't come within a mile of doing him justice - I mean, the guy's life was a tragedy and a miracle at the same time - I also know that those of us who knew him also knew that such a day as this was coming very soon.
Because of that, a lot of us took a certain solace in seeing him out at other band's shows. "Ah, he's still alive," we'd say to one another. "Slurring incoherently, but still alive." There were times I gazed into those far away eyes and watched the lights going off, like the lamps being turned off when a family calls it a night.
I'd see him the next day at a record store or rehearsal space and the lights would be back on.
Upon receiving yesterday tragic news, the idea that a light that bright and beautiful has gone out for good would be unbearably sad if not for the fact that wherever he is now, that light can now shine it's fucking ass off, undimmed by earthly bonds or circumstance.
Rest in peace, Kevin, and thank you for the gift you shared with us.