Woody Kern

Woody Kern was an English psychedelic blues-rock band that released the 1969 album The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk on Pye Records.

Members: Steve Harris (drums), Mike Wheat (bass), John Sanderson (tenor saxophone, flute, violin), Rik Kenton (guitar, keyboards)


Background

Woody Kern formed in 1967 as a Nottingham powertrio comprised of bassist Mike Wheat, drummer Steve Harris, and guitarist–keyboardist and singer Rik Kenton, a then-bespectacled eccentric (often mistaken as “Woody” by audience members).

Kenton (b. October 31, 1945) worked beforehand as a casino croupier and played in The Houndogs, a Nottingham beat combo. Harris toured Europe for two years prior with a soul band.

Wheat took up bass at fourteen and toured the continent in a band with multi-instrumentalist John Sanderson (violin, flute, tenor saxophone) who played in the touring bands of visiting US singers Irma Thomas and Screaming Jay Hawkins. Woody Kern welcomed Sanderson as a fourth member.

Woody Kern played the Union Club on the River Trent and gigged the East Midlands circuit of Working Men’s Clubs. They played at Birmingham’s Marquee Dance Club, where a representative from the Inter City Artists agency signed Woody Kern and pitched them to Pye Records as part of a bundle (along with Brummie psychsters Velvett Fogg) geared for the psychedelic underground.

Pye linked both bands with Jack Dorsey, a veteran producer–arranger who recently oversaw psychedelic pop singles by Tuesday’s Children and West Coast Consortium.


The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk

Woody Kern released The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk in January 1969 on Pye. It features eight group-written originals, including “Uncle John,” “Fair Maiden,” “Vile Lynn,” and the opening track “Biography,” which Pye lifted as a single. They also cover songs by Spirit (“Gramophone Man”), BB King (“That’s Wrong Little Mama”), T Bone Walker (“Mean Old World”), and the standard “The Blues Keep Falling.”

The title comes from an 1836 anti-catholic expose book, also known as The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed. Its supposed author, Maria Monk (1816–1849), alleged that priests sexually abused the nuns in her Montreal convent. Scholars deemed the book a hoax.

A1. “Biography” (4:25)
A2. “The Blues Keep Falling” (6:05) is an R&B song by Jessie Mae Robinson; first released as “Black Night,” a 1951 Aladdin 10″ a-side by Texan R&B pianist Charles Brown & His Band. Recent versions by Bobby Bland, Muddy Waters, and Savoy Brown boosted the song’s popularity in blues-rock circles. An April 1966 version by the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet marked its first re-titled appearance as “The Blues Keep Falling.”
A3. “That’s Wrong Little Mama” (3:01) originated as a 1967 Bluesway b-side by BB King.
A4. “Tell You I’m Gone” (4:12)
A5. “Xoanan Bay” (4:34)
A6. “Uncle John” (6:19)
B1. “Gramophone Man” (4:01) originated on the 1968 debut album by LA rockers Spirit.
B2. “Fair Maiden” (4:46)
B3. “Vile Lynn” (5:45)
B4. “Mean Old World” (2:39) is a 1942 blues song by Texas guitarist T Bone Walker; covered recently by BB King and Otis Rush. Woody Kern’s take coincided with a version by fellow UK blues-rockers Chicken Shack.
B5. “Vegetable” (9:51)

Dorsey recorded Woody Kern live in the studio and added psychedelic effects and field sounds during the mix-down stage (without the band’s knowledge).

Pye planned a lurid cover with a half-naked “nun” (portrayed by a stripper named Lucy) surrounded by the band. (The label procured a racy cover for Velvett Fogg). However, the resulting photos looked too farcical for those involved. They ultimately used a zoomed-in shot of Steve Harris. The album’s back cover features liner notes by BBC DJ John Peel, an early champion who likened “Vile Lynn” to Family and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.

Weeks before the album, Pye issued “Biography” as a single (b/w “Tell You When I’m Gone”). Woody Kern performed the set at London’s Marquee club, where they opened winter dates by Free (12/2/68), Spooky Tooth (1/9/69), and Ten Years After (1/24).>


After Woody Kern

Rik Kenton spent eighteen months with Armada, an unsigned jazz-rock band with future members of Stretch, including singer Elmer Gantry. Kenton then rehearsed for three months with American guitarist Leigh Stephens, the erstwhile Blue Cheer frontman.

Meanwhile, Rik befriended Michael Giles and Peter Sinfield, the lyricist for the McDonald and Giles parent band King Crimson, which shared the same management company (EG) as Roxy Music, who just lost bassist Graham Simpson after one album. Fenton joined for eight months and played on their August 1972 single “Virginia Plain,” a UK No. 4 hit accompanied by a trend-setting appearance on Top of the Pops.

Fenton cut the 1974 Island solo single “Bungalow Love,” backed with “Lay It On You.” He reappeared on EMI with the 1976 single “The Libertine,” backed with “Messin’ Around.” In 1984, he surfaced in the synthpop quartet Savage Progress, which issued four singles and the album Celebration on 10 Records, a division of Virgin.

John Sanderson attended an early (pre-Fenton) rehearsal by Roxy Music, but wasn’t impressed by the nascent band, which soon hired reedist Andy MacKay. Sanderson resurfaced in the unsigned mid-seventies jazz-rock band Swift, which won a Melody Maker competition but never reached a studio. He resigned to local jazz gigs in the Derbyshire area.

Steve Harris surfaced in the Brighton quartet Amazorblades, who played a mix of punk and bluegrass. In 1977, they signed to Chiswick for the single “Common Truth,” backed with “Messaround.” He then joined Pinski Zoo, an avant-garde jazz band that issued multiple eighties albums on assorted labels. Harris died in 2008 at age 59 of liver cancer.

Mike Wheat remained semi-active on the Nottingham blues scene and taught for a YTS agency.


Discography:


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