- Images of the Week
Music of Elton John Keeps Kenny Metcalf Alive and Well
By Terry Miller
Two weeks ago at the NAMM show (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim there was a plethora of musical talent. The range was gargantuan. One, however, which piqued Beacon Media’s interest was the Elton John tribute band starring Kenny Metcalf as Elton.
The guy IS Elton John…in a sequin outfit sporting a Dodgers baseball bat and logo on his sequinned jumpsuit. It’s astonishing… he appeared to have the energy, flamboyance and remarkable talent of the early Elton John as he hurried to the grand piano. He waves to his adoring fans as the opening number prepares him for his first song as Elton John.
Elton -The Early Years is a show that is not like any of the other tribute show… This tribute band really has captured the early sounds og Elton John as he was rising to superstardom.
Four years ago, a long time friend encouraged Kenny Metcalf to do an Elton John tribute, since tributes have been building steam and playing respectable venues and not the long bar scene shows for little or no pay.
Metcalf thought long and hard about it because he was no longer physically able to hold down a regular job due to a rare auto-immune disease that almost took his life when he turned 46. Pemphigus Vulgarus is that atypical disease, and according to doctors, Kenny is a miracle since they have as of yet found no cure for the disease or explanation of his quick about-face from death’s door.
Perhaps it’s the spirit of the music Kenny performs that’s keeping him alive and giving hope to his friends and family not to mention his lyal following. Metcalf, is not out of the medical woods yet, but knowing that the only thing he could possibly do is play music- Elton John’s music, expecially – it really is therapy.
He decided to give it a try and started to study Elton’s voice of his 1970 body of work. He recorded Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and found he was so close to Elton’s voice and tone, he decided to give it a shot.
He spent the next 13 months creating lavish reproductions of Elton’s costumes, blinging everything himself, from clothes to microphones – Metcalf worked with long time friend Jeff Coulson in designing a baby grand piano shell that was lightweight and would hold his 88 key digital keyboard. “You can’t be Elton if you are playing a keyboard on stage”, it has to look like a real piano said Metcalf.
Coulson made the replica shell to piano specs, only weighing in at about 150lbs. but with all the beauty and realism of a real baby grand. Jeff went into business after making Kenny’s baby grand and called his company “Grand Illusions Piano Shells”. They are a huge hit andnow selling as fast as he can make them.
Every detail of Elton – The Early Years- tribute show has been painstakingly recreated even down to all the band wearing costumes to recreate that image of the 70’s of an Elton John Show. They have also gone so far as to recreate each song to sound as if you were listening to the vinyl. It’s like watching Elton at the Troubadour in smaller halls, but also like seeing him in stadium concerts when they play festivals and fairs.
When they launched the show, at Hermosa Pier festival , 4,000 people experienced the legend. Since then they have headlined O.C. Fair twice . Club Nokia with The Fab Four Beatle tribute as well as casino’s and Universities .
“We all get along like a family”, said Metcalf..” we love to perform for people and with each other.”
Metcalf says he’s not listened to other music in 4 years because ” I don’t want to forget how to sound like Elton (it’s continual work).. I don’t want Kenny Metcalf’s voice slipping out.. I want it to be Elton’s voice they hear.”
Kenny Metcalf is Elton John. Mark Servi is lead guitarist as Davey Johnstone. Isaac Johnson is second lead guitarist as Caleb Quaye. Bobby HQ Storm is the bass player as Dee Murray. Michael Thompson is our drummer as Nigel Olsson. Sharlene Griffith (owner/manager) and backing singer. Stefanie Hult & Shauna Porter are the other backing singers.
In the 80’s Kenny Metcalf toured as the original “LIVE” tour keyboardist for Stryper, a heavy metal Christian rock band. He toured from 1985-86. He left the group to stay home and raise his kids and strengthen his relationship with his wife Evelyn.
Later through the years he was a studio musician, studio engineer, as well as singer song writer, and even A&R for Javamusic.com in the year 2000.
Metcalf engineered recordings for such artists as Leon Patillo (singer for Santana), Darrell Mansfield (blues harmonica hall of famer), Contemporary Christian singer Bryan Duncan, and Chi Coltrane, and many others.