By Mary Ann Bourbeau
ASBURY PARK – Kinderhook was often referred to as the greatest unsigned Jersey band of the 1970s because, despite their popularity, that long-awaited record deal always managed to elude them.
Now after more than 45 years, the country rock band is finally releasing their first studio album, with a record release party at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park Feb. 17. “Back in the day, there was no other way to distribute your music,” said bass player Andy Fediw. “Getting played on the radio hinged on having a product. Now that things are digital, everything has changed.”
The new CD, simply titled “Kinderhook,” contains a few covers, including the Louvin Brothers’ “Cash on the Barrelhead” and the rollicking Commander Cody song, “Too Much Fun.” But most of the songs are originals. The band’s former pedal steel player, Stan Taylor, wrote “Good Guys Wear Black.” “Unfriended” was penned by lead singer Jerry Kopychuk. ‘Unfriended’ is just what it sounds like,” said Fediw. “It’s a spoof about saying something goofy on Facebook and having someone bump you. Gary (Oleyar) put in these insane background vocals and it really set it apart. It’s hilarious!” Oleyar, who is in Jim Messina’s band, produced the CD with Fediw in his state-of-the-art recording studio.
Original members Fediw, Kopychuk and drummer Craig Barry join newcomers Jack Kurlansik on lead guitar, Cowtown’s Jimmy Ryan on pedal steel and Oleyar on violin and guitar. Former member Joe Breitenbach made a guest appearance on the CD’s song “Let’s Go.” Original member John Korba played piano on “It’s Not the Same” and will sit in with the band at the CD release party. Yuri Turchyn, the original fiddle player, is the only former member not currently involved.
“It’s a blast getting so many original members back together for our CD,” said Fediw. “Jack, Gary and Jimmy fit right in. We’re still the same knuckleheads we were back then, and we’re having fun.” The group originated when several Rutgers University students met in the early 1970s. They started out playing for tips at a local taco joint, but as country rock gained in popularity, so did the band, originally named Kinderhook Creek.
Their loyal fans followed them to colleges, clubs and theaters throughout the metropolitan area as well as the New England Folk Festival and the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, where they performed in front of a crowd of 25,000. They opened for Poco, Alabama, John Prine, Conway Twitty, Joan Jett and Commander Cody.
“We got to play with our idols,” said Fediw. “We were always in awe of how we got there. We never took it for granted.” But by the early 80s, the local music scene was changing. Fediw said police began to set up roadblocks for drunk drivers coming out of the bars. That, combined with the drinking age being raised to 21, forced many music clubs out of business. “The whole scene dried up,” he said. “We couldn’t sustain ourselves financially.”
The band broke up in 1982. They reunited in 1999 for a cancer benefit and the response was over whelming. Fans connected on Facebook and when Kinderhook received an offer to open for the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 2010, their followers came from as far as Florida to attend the show. That sparked a renaissance that now has Kinderhook playing gigs around the state once again, and fans are happily reliving memories from their younger days.
“It’s humbling – it really is – that there are people who still come to every show,” said Fediw. “People are dancing with reckless abandon like they’re 20 years old again. They deal with the aches and pains in the morning.” The record release party promises a few surprises and special guests, as well as an early start time, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and a 7:30 showtime. But rest assured there will be a dance floor.
“McLoone’s is the perfect place for this show because it’s a dinner club,” said Fediw. “Our crowd likes to be able to sit down. They can’t stand for hours in a club, and they like starting earlier in the night.” Tickets for Kinderhook’s official record release party are $15 and are available at timmcloonessupperclub.com.
Arts and entertainment reporter Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at mbourbeau@tworiver times.com.
This article was first published in the Feb. 7-Feb. 13, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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