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La Mirada Resident Uses Music as Therapy After Brush With Death

By Tony Aiello

La Mirada resident Kenny Metcalf who “was at death’s doorstep” just a few short years ago, will headline at the Orange County Fair July 27th and the Los Angeles County Fair September 7th with his tribute band “Elton-The Early Years.”

La Mirada resident Kenny Metcalf (center) with his tribute band Elton-The Early Years, will headline at the Orange County Fair July 27th and the Los Angeles County Fair September 7th.

He is another of one of the many teen musicians in La Mirada from the 1960’s and 70’s that still play music in one form or another today.
Metcalf’s family moved to La Mirada in 1964 from an area in Inglewood that was directly affected by the Watts riots that year a short time later.
“For me growing up in the 70’s in La Mirada; it was party central. We all grew up at the same time and the city didn’t know what to do with all of us. I lived here when you could ride motorcycles at Regional Park before there was a Regional Park. It was a small town, everybody knew everybody, and it was full of kids.”
He decided he wanted to play music when he saw the Beatles on TV and chose the drums. He grew up taking music lessons at the La Mirada Mall and other places, and was in the Los Coyotes Intermediate School Band.
But it was his freshmen year in 1973 at La Mirada High School that would determine his musical path and when the Elton “bug” first hit him.
“A guy walks into the drama room, his name was Marty Adams, who was a junior, and he started playing Benny and the Jets which was number one on the charts at that time. Then all the girls in the room gathered around him.  I turned to a friend and told him I’ve never had that effect on a girl playing drums.
So, since my Mom had just bought a piano, I went home and taught myself to play.After 10 years, I gave up playing drums and  started jamming with other guys I had met in La Mirada.”
Metcalf is part of a long list of local La Mirada teen musicians that performed back then including: Mark Servi, Mike Ferlita, Joe Caruso, Don Brennan, Anthony Cortez, Joe Allesandro, Steve Gage, Mark Cortez and others.
Brennan is performing at this year’s La Mirada Blog Fest August 18th at Regional Park.
In 1977, Kenny assembled a band called Amulet and entered the band in the first talent contest at the newly opened La Mirada Civic Auditorium and has a funny story to tell, “Our band got mispronounced at the show, they called it The Kenny Metcalf Band, and the other guys got real mad at me at the time.”
In that same talent show there was a band called Robert Sweet and the Firestorm Band. This band went on to become Stryper, the well-known heavy metal Christian band. Kenny toured as the original keyboardist for them in 1985-86. Before they embarked on their world tour, he says he left the group to raise his kids.
Amulet, which featured Metcalf, Servi, Ferlita, and Allesandro played again at the La Mirada Theatre in 1978 in front of a packed house of 1200 people and they were featured in an article in the La Mirada Lamplighter newspaper.
Metcalf married his wife Evelyn in 1980 and they have resided in La Mirada for the past seven years after raising two children Desiree and Sharlene. Evelyn was his junior high school sweetheart.
In the subsequent years, while raising his family, he honed his craft in the recording studio with Ferlita-who was now a chiropractor but still dabbled in music-which led to gigs engineering music. He worked with Leon Patillo (singer for Santana) and he recorded the voice tracks at his home studio for contemporary Christian singer Bryan Duncan’s last album.
Around 2005, he contracted the rare, hard to control disease Pemphigus Vulgaris which is an autoimmune disease that he says, “took him to death’s door.”
The disease produces blisters and lesions, “It was in my mouth, in my throat, inside and out of me. I was literally bleeding to death.” Although he is recovering now, the disease is still very difficult to control.
The doctors call him a miracle because they have not found a cure for the disease and they can’t explain his turnaround from it.
Around 2008, unable to work anymore because of the disease, he was inspired by others to start the Elton John tribute band. People told him he sounded like Elton so he decided to go for it. This was right around the same time that tribute bands were really taking off and beginning to play at major venues.
“It’s an outlet. Music has always been therapeutic in my life. I was bed-ridden for three years, and now that I am doing this, it’s just a blast.”
They spent around 12-14 months putting the show together and debuted at a Hermosa Beach festival three summers ago.
“The Early Years” are Kenny as 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 and Michael Thompson is the drummer as Nigel Olsson.
His daughter Sharlene, who also is a backup singer, manages and owns the group, “She runs the band. She guards my back and takes care of me.”
“I picked the early years of Elton because that’s style of music that influenced me the most. It also set us aside from the other Elton tribute bands. They cover Elton of today-and today his voice has a lot lower tone,” he said.
Kenny has spent a lot of time and has “done a lot of work” perfecting Elton’s voice, his costumes and mannerisms meticulously, and the band all take part to the tee, complete with bell-bottoms, platforms, glitter and sequins.
“Getting to play at these venues, and seeing all the people and the smiles on their faces, it just blows my mind,” he said.
“I’m 54 years old, and to be playing music and making people happy, what a treat it is.”
You can catch “Elton-The Early Years” July 27th at the Orange County Fair and September 7th at the LA County Fair. Visit their website at: www.eltontheearlyyears.com

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One Response to La Mirada Resident Uses Music as Therapy After Brush With Death

  1. Pingback: Shooting on Bora Drive in La Mirada sparks hunt for two teenage suspects | Los Cerritos Newspaper Group/Hews Media Group

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