Foxx recalls glory days with Blue Öyster Cult, Geraldo, Warrant

2022-05-14 21:57:39 By : Ms. evelyn yu

Allen McKenzie and Dave Jackson both strain to recall exactly when their rock band Foxx last performed with late guitarist Kenny Boyd.

So many shows, so many memories, so long ago. Dates and years blur. Tours and venues fade into the past.

Dreams of making it big as a pop metal and glam rock band in the 1980s triggers laughter and colorful anecdotes about big hair, flamethrowers on stage, traveling from show to show in a rusty van, performing with Warrant's Jani Lane, Geraldo Rivera crashing a rock show with police during an undercover drug bust, and stealing beer from Blue Öyster Cult.

Good times get scrambled because Foxx once played 211 shows in nine months and 43 straight. 

Boyd had a prime seat on the rock 'n' roll joyride. The gregarious, fun-loving jokester and wizard of a guitarist often kept the party rolling during Foxx's heyday.

That's how McKenzie and Jackson remember the Massillon resident who died following a lengthy illness earlier this year at age 59.

And it's why the founding members of Foxx will hold what they expect to be their final concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Club Energy, 289 Darrow Road, Akron. Admission is $5 to cover expenses of the show, Jackson said.

Continuing without Boyd in the fold, even on a sporadic basis, is difficult for Jackson and McKenzie to imagine.

Band members, both past and present, have lived in either the Akron or Canton area. Foxx used to play at Canton clubs so often that the band considered it their rock 'n' roll home field. Hangouts like J.R.'s and Buddie's Place.

Honoring Boyd is what Saturday's show is all about. Formally, it's being called, "Kenny Boyd Memorial Jam Night."

Joining McKenzie and Jackson on stage will be drummers Frank Garisto and Mark Telerico. Shon Holtzapple is the guest guitarist. 

"The whole night is going to be dedicated to people who are going to be sharing stories about him, and a lot of guys who played with him in the past other than us will get up and perform," said McKenzie, Foxx's bass player and a vocalist.

Foxx's story begins at a rubber refinery in Akron.

Jackson and McKenzie both worked in shipping and receiving. Soon they became friends through a shared passion for making music. Before long, they quit their factory jobs to pursue the rock and roll life full-time.

Shows were six nights a week in Northeast Ohio, and "you lived on ramen noodles and you lived on a $5-a-day food budget," said McKenzie, who lives in Bethlehem Township in Stark County. "But our goal was the record deal."

A few band members left along the way. Searching for a masterful guitarist who also could sing, Jackson, 58, who lives in the Canal Fulton area, and McKenzie found their man in Boyd. Sealing the deal was Boyd's amicable, entertaining nature.

Drummers have included Garisto, Keith Taylor and Timmy Zuver. Todd Shelly played drums in later years. JT Ties was an early guitarist. 

Foxx was influenced by numerous bands, including Kiss, Queen, Dokken, Twisted Sister, Cinderella, Metallica, the Ramones and Misfits. Together it coalesced into a hard-driving, catchy sound ideal for the hair band scene of the '80s.

The song, "PTL," a thrash metal kiss-off to televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, gained national radio traction in the late 1980s when it was played on Z Rock, a syndicated heavy metal radio station.

"That song blew up," said Jackson, Foxx's rhythm guitarist and a vocalist. "That song was played all over the world within a week of recording it.

"We started getting fan mail like from all over the world and stuff," he added. "It was odd to see letters coming from Germany saying we love you guys — it was like lightning in a bottle."

Jackson, however, admits that was the commercial zenith. The big breakthrough never happened. No fancy dinners with record company executives. No MTV videos. No touring with Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and other rock titans of the day.

Foxx toiled on the club circuit, while songs like "Party Naked" and "Sex Patrol" appeared on a locally-produced cassette sold to fans at club shows. Foxx also was played on WRQK 106.9 in Canton.

Fans included Brian Lisik, who lived within walking distance of an Akron night club where Foxx often performed.

"Foxx was almost overwhelmingly perfect," he wrote in an email. "They were the first band I knew to make a record and get some interest from labels out West; they made cool comic strip flyers featuring the band as superheroes; on stage they were tighter than two coats of paint."

While complimenting Jackson and McKenzie, Lisik a musician himself, said Boyd was the rock star. Some nights he exuded the energy of a "miniature Ted Nugent."

And "he was a devastatingly good guitar player," the 53-year-old Perry Township resident said. "We are all gonna miss him."

McKenzie, 62, admitted to having pondered the question — Why not us?

Why couldn't Foxx be the next Faster Pussycat, Steelheart, Slaughter, Trixter, White Lion or Nelson?

"I scratch my head to this day wondering why Foxx couldn't catch a break," he said. "Because I thought our songs were good, our stage presence was good. I thought we had great musicians in the band — it just didn't happen for us."

Along the way, however, there were fun, crazy moments.

Like the time Jackson and Foxx were performing in a Key West club when famed television reporter Geraldo Rivera stormed inside with police in an undercover cocaine bust in 1986.

"We came home (after the tour), and I was sitting in my bedroom," Jackson recalled. "I turned on the TV, and there was my face, just a big picture of my face. I thought I was having an acid flashback."

"... Then the camera pulls out, and it's a Geraldo Rivera undercover drug war story," he said, laughing. "The lights came on, and all these cops came pouring in the place followed by Geraldo Rivera ... and they cleaned the place out, and then we played our show, and only the band and three people were left — everyone else went to jail."

High-profile gigs included opening for Blue Öyster Cult, a 1970s band known for hits still played on classic rock radio today — "Godzilla," "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Burnin' for You."

"When you play with a famous band, you get treated well," Jackson said of craft service. "But we ran out of beer; it was a concert, and you just couldn't go out and get beer ... but Al left and went out and got beer — he walked right into Blue Öyster Cult's dressing room and took theirs.

"We drank it all up, and no one was the wiser," he remembered. "I'm sure they just said, 'We're out of beer.'"

Another moment was reminiscent of a scene from "This is Spinal Tap," a cult-classic satire chronicling the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictitious British rock group.

"I caught on fire one time," Jackson said. "We used those flamethrowers all the time. We never had an incident, no problems whatsoever They were very safe."

Except for the time someone walked on stage to introduce the band, inadvertently stepping on the switch to shoot out flames.

"My hair went up," Jackson said. "I lost some eyebrows and hair."

"I smelled like burnt hair," he recalled humorously.

Jackson said Foxx was among the most popular and known metal bands in the region. A setlist filled with original music stood out among counterparts. Covers included tunes from Kiss, Guns N' Roses, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Van Halen.

But they certainly hadn't reached the status of Akron's Jani Lane, lead singer for Warrant, a Hollywood-based glam metal band known for the hit songs "Down Boys," "Heaven," "Cherry Pie" and "I Saw Red."

Lane used to hang out at the former Akron Agora. 

"Our sound man at the Akron Agora was one of Jani's good buddies," Jackson recounted. "He said, 'Have you heard of Warrant?' If not, you are gonna.'"

"He played drums with us," Jackson said. "I think he only sang with us once at the Agora, and he and I did a duet. I think we did 'Cherry Pie' and 'Down Boys.'"

Asked about those wild days, McKenzie chuckled before answering: "I plead the fifth."

Comedy was another signature of the band, with Boyd often at the center of the shtick. Highlights included an Elvis impersonation and a bit called, "Fun Facts with Uncle Ken."

"Kenny is just nuts every night," Jackson told Canton Repository entertainment writer Dan Kane in a 1989 article about the band's local following. "He makes every show different. "

Wild outfits and teased hair aside, Foxx had legitimate musical chops, the founding members said.

"I think our music set us aside from the other bands," Jackson said. "Foxx had more teeth. Our music was a little rougher and more aggressive. It was every bit as pop, but it was just more upfront guitars.

"We come more from a punk rock aesthetic," he added. "We rarely did a ballad ... our music was just a little heavier than most bands. I would put us in the Skid Row category."

"But there was no escaping the hair thing because we had so much stinking hair," Jackson said as he roared with laughter. "I had more hair than most entire bands had."

As with most of their hair metal brethren, Foxx was served a sonic eviction notice at the hands of Nirvana and the Seattle grunge rock phenomenon of the early '90s. A wave of mainstream alternative rock followed — Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots.

Seemingly overnight, what once had been hip was now radioactive. Pop metal bands fell out of favor with mainstream radio and MTV.

Admitted McKenzie: "For every band and for us, it was pretty much over."

But Jackson is at peace with the past.

"A lot of the record companies turned us down," he said. "And the grunge thing happened ... and that was it.

"Oh, well," Jackson added. "When I look in the mirror, I feel good (about what the band accomplished)."

"I really didn't want to be a rock star anyway per se," he said. "I was really in there to be a songwriter."

Even without a rock 'n' roll pot of gold, McKenzie and Jackson recount those times warmly, remembering Boyd as a brother. 

"It's really bittersweet," Jackson said of Saturday's concert. "Everyone has a story about Kenny because he was just a huge, larger-than-life, kooky guy — he'd do anything to make you laugh."

"Kenny on guitar, he was the top of the heap, man," Jackson added. "Playing without him is going to be really odd.

"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of crying, and tons of laughter," he said. "I hope way more laughter than crying."

Boyd was well known among musicians in Northeast Ohio, Jackson said.

"Everyone knew Kenny, everyone loved Kenny," he said. "To play a gig without him is going to be weird and rough, but we'll get to hear a lot of cool stories about him and reminisce ... so I'm hoping that makes the whole thing fun."

Jackson and McKenzie have moved on with their lives.

Jackson is a voice actor, recording audio books, cartoons and video games. He's still involved in music as well.

McKenzie has enjoyed a pop metal second act. He plays bass for FireHouse, which scored two major radio hits in 1990, "Don't Treat Me Bad" and "Love of a Lifetime."

Later this month, he will tour with the band again.

FireHouse also will be among those performing in August during the three-day "Monsters on the Mountain" music festival in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

"The funny thing now is all those bands that got brushed away (in the early '90s) are back in a big way," McKenzie said. "FireHouse is playing pretty big places and filling them up."

Asked why he still cares about Foxx, McKenzie didn't hesitate.

"I just like to play," he said matter-of-factly.

Laughter soon followed, as did more memories of his first band.

"I can tell you it was a struggle," McKenzie said. "All four members would be crammed into a hotel room when we stayed on the road, driving a rusty van and old equipment truck. Yeah, it was rough, but we had a blast; we had a lot of fun."

Touring with FireHouse affords him better accommodations.

"It's different now," McKenzie said. "I get my own room, usually a very nice one. And I fly first class."

Speaking through more laughter, he remembered another perk.

"I don't have to lift my own equipment now."

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