If you have been out to the Iron Horse Pub to see a show some time in the past five years, you may very well have heard the sound tech expertise of Kenny Gregory. But he is much more than that. He is also a husband, a father, a DJ, and a musician in several acts in the area.
Born in Orange, California as the grandson of an offshore driller, his family moved around a lot between California and Texas, and finally took root in Wichita Falls when he was five years old, and he has spent the biggest part of his life here. His early recollections of his musical family include his uncles Cody and Larry who played guitar and were very skilled at the Chet Atkins style of thumb picking. His uncle Larry was in an accident and lost his right arm. At a family gathering when Kenny was about eight years old he remembers his uncle Cody sitting behind uncle Larry, Cody playing the right-hand parts of songs while Larry played the left. And uncle Larry would put a pick in the claw of his prosthetic arm and strum chords. It inspired him so much that it was then that he knew that he wanted to learn how to play.
When Kenny was young he wasn’t exposed to a lot of different styles of music, but, like his uncles, he favored the Chet Atkins style of playing. He said he would sit in his room and play along with his records.
When he was about 22 years old he remembers one of the first bands he played in with Paul Carr and Barry Sloan. Paul was a great mentor to him. He says that one of the songs they played was ‘The Long Run’ by The Eagles, and he worked hard on playing the offbeat rhythms and singing at the same time, and got it down to make it work in a 3-piece group. When they finished playing it live for the first time Paul looked over at him and said, “You suck,” which was Paul’s way of saying ‘great job, but don’t get too heady’. But he says that has always kept him humble. It made him realize that when you’re playing in a band you have to work alongside others, think outside the box and that it wasn’t the Kenny Gregory show like sitting in his bedroom playing along with records. He says that giving each other a hard time was a way of encouraging each other and wanting each other to succeed, and it was a learning experience that all young players should go through.
He moved to Ohio for a while, and when he was there he says he didn’t know anybody in the music scene. And he also noticed there was a ton of small bistros that had live acoustic type acts. So, he went into a studio and recorded a bunch of backing tracks, sans the lead and vocal parts, and worked the rooms as a one man band. He eventually joined up with another guy that had a small guitar shop, and they played around there as The Bistro Brothers as a two-man act.
Kenny’s day job for the past five years has been working in the Wichita County Tax Office. One time when one of the ladies in the office was planning her wedding, she asked Kenny if he would DJ some music at her reception. He had never done that before, but said yes. He said it was so much fun that he was instantly hooked on the DJ work. He now has his own DJ show, Ken E.G., and does all kinds of events. He said that it has been a great learning experience considering his limited exposure to many different styles of music in his early years. A bride may request a certain group or song, and he enjoys doing the research on the different genres and artists. He has also incorporated the assistance of his daughter who is in high school and planning on attending college. He says that teaching her how to DJ is a great way of giving her a way of working a couple of nights a week while in school and still have time to study, as opposed to working at some fast food joint seven nights a week, and make about the same amount of money. And, he says, she is very helpful when a teenager comes up and requests a song from a current artist that he’s never heard of, and she points him in the right direction.
Kenny tells me that the DJ business is expanding, as his wife wants to be involved. As a novice photographer, she is investing in a photo booth to add to the DJ shows’ events, with backdrops and props. It’s just another aspect of the party experience where people can act silly and have a great time.
As a musician, some of the more well-known acts Kenny has played with over the years include Newt Laird & The Cadillac Cowboys, Change Of Heart (now known as The Ranch Rockers), Sage, Laredo, Reckless, and Simply Honky Tonk. He says that he was in the house band at Little Brothers Club for a few years with Shasta and Ben Shaw. He loved playing with Ben because he is such a great player, and would interject a bit of his own style in the songs he played. Thursdays were his favorite nights to play there because it was a slow night, and toward the end Ben would pull out some blues tunes and play copycat, where Ben would play a lick and Kenny would try to copy it. He says it was a great way to learn how to play new licks.
He admits to being a musical sponge for the past 30 years, and still is. As the sound tech at the Iron Horse Pub for the last five years, he really enjoys seeing all the local as well as the out of town acts that come through, and picks up things from musicians that play genres that are not necessarily his strong suit, like some of the metal bands that play there. He desires to be a well-rounded player, not just that guy that plays country. Having spent time in California, Phoenix, and Ohio he says that the musicianship here in Wichita Falls is amazing considering the size of our city, and that there is real talent here.
In addition to his day job, the sound tech gig at the pub, and his DJ business, he also currently plays in several other bands, including the most recent one that sports his name Kenny Gregory, and a group he has played with for the last five years, Simply Honky Tonk, as well as The Ranch Rockers, and two church praise groups.
His next goal is to put together a rockabilly act like the Brian Setzer Orchestra with a horn section behind a 3-piece group and do something like a six-week run of a show around Christmas time doing Christmas music. But, he admits, he has to learn his parts before he searches for other musicians to recruit.
Kenny is a big part of the local scene here in Wichita Falls whether you watch him play in one of his bands, or watch a band he runs sound for at the Iron Horse Pub, or need a DJ for your next event, or you just need to pay your taxes. You can find him on Facebook at DJ Ken E.G.