They Came, They Saw, They Rocked!!!
PeeWee, Kenny, and Michael. Three names that became the initials that formed a moniker for the 80’s rock trio PKM . North Carolina loved them. Hell, it was made up of the entire rhythm section of NANTUCKET, one of the few Carolina acts to be nationally recognized with a major label record deal. I loved NANTUCKET. I was only 13 years old when I saw them open for KISS in 1979. It was my first concert and drummer Kenny Soule finished the last song of their set, hurdled the drums, and tossed a Frisbee out from under his legs into the audience. It sailed over our heads and ricocheted off of some stoner’s noggin back into my little hands. It’s a souvenir that I cherish to this day. When their third album hit stores in 1980, I had a friend of mine from N.C. send me a copy. This was the record that was going to do it for them. This album introduced us to Mike Uzzell’s replacement on bass, PeeWee Watson, and put them on the road opening for AC/DC during the ‘Back In Black’ tour. This tour, however, would be the end of NANTUCKET as we know it (arguably the end FOREVER in this writer’s eyes) because after the tour, Kenny and PeeWee would leave the band. What would NANTUCKET do? What would Kenny do? What the hell would I do? My life was empty. I thought I’d never hear those slinky, funky, locker room smellin’ stinky-grooves from a drummer ever again!
Enter PKM and my life’s savior in the form of Musical Prozak!
Kenny Soule was born in New Britain, Connecticut where he began studying violin and piano at an early age. When the world was bowled over by the BEATLES’ first appearance in the 60’s on The Ed Sullivan Show, a twelve year old Kenny fell right with them. It was the drummer he couldn’t take his eyes off of, and at that moment, he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Kenny’s father Robert was a music professor, so he made arrangements for Kenny to study under Tele Lesbines, a tympanis for The Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Kenny covered all the basses from studying jazz in his grade and high school bands all the way up to rock and soul while gigging in club bands. He was later accepted to East Carolina University to study Percussion Performance under Harold A. Jones. Kenny was listening to anything he could get his hands on from JAMES BROWN, VANILLA FUDGE, GRAND FUNK, TODD RUNDGREN, YES, JOHN COLTRANE, TOWER OF POWER, and even PARLIAMENT/FUNKADELIC to name only a few. It was no fluke that his habit was supported by his part-time job in a record store. In the summer of 1971, while playing with a Greenville, N.C. band, BRASS PARK, Kenny ran into NANTUCKET SLEIGHRIDE (as they were known in the early days) guitarist Tommy Redd. “I had already known him cuz he worked at a place called the Shrunken Head, selling hippie clothes and bongs.”, Kenny says. “I sat in with them one night during my next year at school on just one song while they were playing at The Attic [in Greenville]. I was asked to play with them one summer, the following year. I ended up staying on for nine years.” NANTUCKET started becoming a huge draw in the area and were being aggressively booked by bassist Mike Uzzell and his agent friends. They were a cover band at the time, playing EDGAR WINTER tunes, FRANK ZAPPA, KOOL AND THE GANG, WINGS, BARRY WHITE, and AVERAGE WHITE BAND. Then in 1973 the disco craze blew in and Tommy’s songwriting urge came on strong to create music that wasn’t the run-of-the-mill disco sound that was watering down radio airwaves. NANTUCKET was entering into the graduating stages of original band status and Tommy wanted to create rock music you could dance to.
By ’76, NANTUCKET had conquered the Southeast and had amassed a huge truck with lights, PA, and plenty of stage gear to keep a four man road crew busy with load-ins and load-outs. Then in the latter part of that year they played a two week stand at The Ki Ki Lounge in West Palm Beach where the labels came out in droves to see them. After the smoke from the bidding wars had cleared, NANTUCKET walked away in the summer of 1977 with a signed contract from Epic Records. It was off to the West Coast to record their first album, the self-titled masterpiece that any Carolinian worth his/her salt had in their collection. They toured the U.S. opening for KISS, CHEAP TRICK, JOURNEY, MOLLY HATCHET, BOB SEGER, STYX, BOSTON, and one of Kenny’s (and mine) favorite bands of all time, MOTHER’S FINEST. Selling 160,000 copies of the first album and touring for six months straight, the band came home, but did not rest. It was off to Florida to record album number two, the cheeky titled, “Your Face Or Mine”. This album sold less and the band found themselves touring less in support. The record label was losing interest quickly and NANTUCKET had to do something quick. Band leader Mike Uzzell decided to step down from his duties and move onto full-time management of the band, so the race was on to find a capable bass player. Enter PeeWee Watson and a trip back to the studio in the latter part of 1979 to record album number three. This was a crucial record. Without some kind of success, the band would be sunk. Tommy’s original tunes scored big on their third release, “Long Way To The Top” (their tribute to the recently departed Bon Scott from AC/DC.) and landed them on tour with the boys from down under for the whole summer of 1980.
This plan was based on chemistry and the lethal addition to the potion was waiting for them in the form of Michael Gardner, a N.C. native who they’d known for some time and might have even remembered from a very crucial jam session they had been involved in together. “I was playing with a band called WIDE OPEN” reminisces Mike Gardner. “We formed in N.C. and did the normal club touring just like all the bands at the time. We moved out to L.A. to be a backup band, and believe it or not, our first recordings were produced by none other than Sean Morton Downey, Jr.!” (Yes, THE Morton Downey, Jr. of schlock T.V. fame.) “I met a girl who was once a Playboy Centerfold, we eventually were married, so I was real happy with everything at the time. But, as you know, Sean Morton Downey turned out to be a jerk, and the rest of the guys got real homesick, so we all decided to move back to N.C. That’s when PeeWee and I first got together. He was playing bass for a band called HIGH & MIGHTY in the latter part of 1977, right around when NANTUCKET got signed.” When Michael got settled back into the southern style of living, the manager for PeeWee’s band saw an opportunity to use Mike as part of a ‘Supergroup’ he was going to form with the members of WIDE OPEN and HIGH & MIGHTY. So, Mike signed on for a year, toured Europe and Saudi Arabia with PeeWee and company, but found himself very unhappy with the music, albeit still respectful of everyone’s talent. Mike left the band, moved back out to California and became a professional songwriter. PeeWee, of course, used this downtime to score the bass spot in NANTUCKET. During this time the sessions for recording “Long Way To The Top” were in full gear. Mike continued to write music that he felt needed an audience, but wasn’t comfortable recording with unknown studio musicians in high priced L.A. studios. For Mike, it was cheaper to fly back to N.C. and do the job with people he felt comfortable with, i.e., PeeWee and Kenny. “I called Kenny and PeeWee right before they were getting ready to go on tour with AC/DC. We got some studio time and spent two days rehearsing my tunes. I’ll tell you, there was some serious chemistry going on in that room. In two days, it was perfect, there was no sense in waiting any longer, we booked the studio and recorded what would become the core PKM songlist about a week later. It was that simple. We each took a copy of it with us. They went on tour, and I went back to L.A. All of us knew it was just too good to sit on though.” Kenny and PeeWee took off to do the tour with AC/DC as members of NANTUCKET, but stayed in close contact with Mike, who at that time was working with Kenny Rogers as an effects technician. “While I was living on the road with Rogers, I was just thinking about those demos”, Mike says. “When they [NANTUCKET] played the Long Beach Arena [in California] on that tour, Kenny called me and him and PeeWee hung out at my house. That’s when we decided, once and for all, that when NANTUCKET finished the tour, we were going to give this band a shot.” Forge ahead now, a few months to NANTUCKET losing their record deal with Epic and Michael succumbing to a serious accident that injured his leg and had him being replaced on the Kenny Rogers tour. “I just had the tourbus drop me off in N.C. since I had to leave the tour. I called Kenny and PeeWee and we started rehearsing. It was time to do this, we couldn’t wait any longer. We just flew out of the chute with no cover tunes or anything like that, we wanted to do our stuff.” PKM is what they decided to call the project and the world was soon introduced to the power those three letters held in the ‘musical English language’. “Our demos started getting airplay immediately”, Mike says. Kenny remembers, “The initial buzz was created by Daniel Brunty, WQDR’s guy from the big FM rock-n-roll days in Raleigh. He spun PKM’s demos as we stood there in the studio, our collective jaws dropping as we watched the phone lines light up before the song was even over. I believe the first tune [to ever get played] was "Long Night"." Their first gig together was at The Purple Horse in Raleigh in April of '81. "We basically smoked the N.C. clubs for the rest of that year", says Kenny. "In March of '82 we played the Dorton Arena in Raleigh and sold it out, 8,200 people! We thought we were ZEPPELIN!" Some major tours ensued opening for OZZY and BLUE OYSTER CULT, but time was slipping away. By the time they released their self financed album, "Rock Erotica" in 1985, the buzz was gone. Although they still played the Southeastern club circuit with 'arena-like' attendance, they disbanded in early 1988. "I gotta say", Kenny begins, "those guys are two of my very cherished friends. We chat regularly, get together and record, and we just hang out. It's a very precious thing between us. We still have that "thing" that we discovered in the Spring of 1980." Mike adds, "We were able to do our thing. It was 90 minutes a night of true aerobics, for an audience that came to see an event. We were in the right place at the wrong time. When New Wave [music] moved in, it killed rock and roll as we knew it. PKM was just too ahead or behind our time, depending on how you look at it. In 1985 we were out of time, no major label interest was there for our style of music. We ended up making the record ourselves just so we could complete the circle we had started. It was for us and the fans that supported us." As anti-climactic as the timing was, PKM's "Rock Erotica" album is a slice of unbelievably good music. Take it from someone who loves and appreciates almost all styles of music. PKM was a 'flavor to taste' rock and roll powerhouse with a twist of southern hospitality and a nasty dose of 'P-Funk' mixed with a lot of good, honest, heart and soul!
So, the question is asked, “Where The Hell Are They” today? Well, this one was a tough venture. PKM and NANTUCKET were two bands that I thought would be perfect for this section when I first started it all, the only problem was, unless you know someone who knows someone else who may have partied with one of the band members’ groupies….well, you get the picture. There was nothing!!! You pull up internet searches on all the band members, the name of their previous bands, etc. and you get NOTHING. However, a search for the name ‘Kenny Soule’ uncovered an old classified ad from Spectator Magazine for Kenny’s private drum lessons in the early 90’s. BINGO!!! It had an email address. But, was it still good? Two days later, Kenny contacted me back. Bam2 Scores!!! As most of you know, Kenny went on to teach drums in the Raleigh area after PKM disbanded. He and Mike stayed in close contact while Mike was building his home studio. Together, some of their first projects included producing music with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, BRUCE FRYE, and even an earlier version of CRY OF LOVE with PeeWee as the lead singer! (Yes, the tapes still exist and they’re closely guarded with all the P.K.M. material in a vault at Gardner Studios.) Mike, his brother Phillip, and Kenny formed a band called GARDNERS OF SOULE that wrote and recorded some material. Kenny’s relationship with local musician-turned-mega producer, John Custer, eventually led to the formation of DAG (A band I count in my top 25 favorites of ALL TIME!) which enjoyed major label success for albums on Columbia Records, “Righteous” and “Apartment #635”.
Kenny still managed to find time between touring with DAG for his other projects, the jazz-fusion trio MY THREE SONS and AUTOMATIC SLIM. DAG took off in 1993 with tours throughout the U.S. and Europe, only to disband in 1998 due to a strange shift in musical preferences (read: Rap/Hip-Hop!) Kenny trekked out to L.A. to play with the Rock/Blues band WALTER TROUT AND THE RADICALS. A few NANTUCKET reunions and some studio work with singer Caitlin Cary and EMBERS singer Craig Woolard brought Kenny back to N.C. for brief moments until he hooked up with NYC blues King, POPA CHUBBY. Although Kenny still lives in the Raleigh area he spends time in New York playing gigs with POPA CHUBBY (who is also scheduled to play in Europe soon!). Kenny likes to spend time with his “awesome girlfriend” and play as much as possible, whenever possible. “I love my job, let me tell you”, Kenny laughs. After one very successful PKM reunion in 2001, Kenny says, “I hope we can do another one real soon. We talked about doing one this year during the holidays. I know we will do one eventually, it’s just too good of a band to not do it.” Well, Kenny, you can bet your damn drumsticks that I’ll be there with my posse of music loving cronies! You can check out everything Kenny is doing with POPA CHUBBY by logging onto their website, www.popachubby.com
Although I didn’t get to speak with PeeWee personally, Michael tipped me off to the fact that he still lives in Raleigh and is writing and recording some “killer material”. PeeWee is also a manager at Harry’s Guitar Center in Raleigh and continues to have frequent contact with his brothers in arms from PKM
Michael Gardner became a producer and recording engineer in the N.C. area, a job he still enjoys to this day. Gardner Studios, his business in Raleigh, is a fully equipped, state-of-the-art recording facility that has hourly and daily rates for ANY type and ANY style of music. Michael fondly remembers his PKM days with a laugh and a chuckle and mutters the first curse word I’ve ever heard slip out of his soft spoken mouth, “We were fuckin’ great, man!”. I laugh because I couldn’t have said it any better myself. PKM were fuckin’ great! I ask him about when he plans on opening that vault and repressing the old PKM album and demos. He fires back, “Well, I don’t think anyone is really interested in that stuff anymore. Maybe only to have after a reunion gig as some sort of nostalgia or something, but it’s just a forgotten area, I think.” Since I’m not used to not getting my own way, (I am pretty spoiled by having such a persuasive personality, you know!) I tell Mike, “If I can get people to raise enough hell for you to do it, will you do it?”. Mike laughs, but then sees that I’m dead serious. “Craig, if you can get people’s interest up”, he says, “Then it’s a no-brainer, I’ll do it!” You heard it, folks! I got him to say ‘the ball’s in our court’. So, please dear readers and supporters of the great music that was born and bred in our area, here’s the deal…I want to challenge, invite, yell for mercy, whatever it takes, all of you to tell your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else, to email Mike Gardner and call his studio and request copies of the masterpiece album that started the whole craze, PKM’s – “Rock Erotica” (the remasters) and any of the unreleased stuff he’s holding out on us. Go to every website you know of and link his information with this challenge and request. I want to blow the circuits on his voicemail and crash his email address with as much LOVE and admiration as it takes to pay tribute to one of the greatest bands to ever come out of the Carolinas. Scream at the top of your lungs into his answering machine and tell him how many copies you want. Buy a couple of extras for Christmas presents. Don’t you dare call yourself a musician or a supporter of this scene unless you can take 5 minutes of your time to work with me and do everything we can to get this music to see the light of day again. The challenge is on, gang, are you with me??? Pick up the phone and call him now, and then email him right afterward. Help me try to give back the love that these guys showed us when they were together and to preserve this great music as it gets into the hands of those of us who didn’t have a chance to purchase it when it was out in limited supply!!!
My dearest thanks to PeeWee, Kenny, and Michael for making this piece possible. I’d also like to thank Mike for sharing some of the PKM archives for me to use. A huge thanks is due to the webmaster of the greatest NANTUCKET site I’ve ever seen. Kenny turned me onto it and the webmaster was kind enough to lend us some pictures for our review. Go check the site out, it’s great, 2112online.com/nantucket. That’s all for this time around, get your asses on the phone and to the computer to take care of this PKM project with Mike Gardner, I want to see this really happen, gang, so don’t let me or the music down. Thanks again for joining me for a flashback in time. Remember to email me with any ideas you have for future segments. Right now I’m still working on tracking down some more goodies for you, but please do take a pro-active role here and send me your ideas. Until next time, take care, and I’ll see back here four measures before the bridge!