Interview WITH Greg Kihn
Sofa King Cool caught up with Greg Kihn and we talk about touring with his son in the band, his music in pop culture, touring, and what is next for him
Gregory Stanley “Greg” Kihn (born July 10, 1949) is an American rock musician, radio personality, and novelist.
Greg Kihn’s early influence was The Beatles and their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. “Just about every rock and roll musician my age can point to one cultural event that inspired him to take up music in the first place: the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. If you were a shy 14-year-old kid who already had a guitar, it was a life-altering event. … In a single weekend everything had changed. I’d come home from school the previous Friday looking like Dion. I went back to class on Monday morning with my hair dry and brushed forward. That’s how quickly it happened.”
Kihn began his career in his hometown of Baltimore, working in the singer/songwriter mold but switched to straightforward rock & roll when he moved to San Francisco, in 1972. He started writing songs and playing coffee houses while still in high school in the Baltimore area. When Kihn was 17, his mother submitted a tape of one of his original songs to the talent contest of the big local Top 40 radio station WCAO, in which he took first prize and won three things that would change his life: a typewriter, a stack of records, and a Vox electric guitar.
He moved to California in 1972 and worked painting houses, singing in the streets, and working behind the counter at the Berkeley record store, Rather Ripped Records, with future band mate and Earth Quake guitarist Gary Phillips. The following year, he became one of the first artists signed to Matthew King Kaufman‘s now-legendary Beserkley Records. Along with Jonathan Richman, Earth Quake, and The Rubinoos, Kihn helped to carve the label’s sound—melodic pop with a strong 1960s pop sensibility—an alternative to the prog rock of the time.
In 1976, after his debut on the compilation Beserkley Chartbusters, he recorded his first album with his own ensemble, called The Greg Kihn Band, comprising Robbie Dunbar (guitar), Steve Wright (bass), and Larry Lynch(drums). Dunbar, already a member of Earth Quake, was replaced by Dave Carpender in time to record their second album, Greg Kihn Again. Meanwhile, Kihn’s old record store pal, Gary Phillips, who had contributed guitars to Kihn’s first album, returned as a session musician on the band’s Glass House Rock (1980) album and officially joined the band as keyboardist for the follow-up album, Rockihnroll (1981). The lineup of Kihn, Wright, Lynch, Phillips, and Carpender lasted until 1983, when Greg Douglass replaced Dave Carpender.
Through the 1970s, Kihn released an album each year and built a strong cult following through constant touring, becoming Beserkley’s biggest seller. In 1981, Kihn earned his first bona-fide hit on The Billboard Hot 100 with the # 15 single, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em),” from the Rockihnroll album. Kihn continued in a more commercial vein through the 1980s with a series of pun-titled albums: Kihntinued (1982), Kihnspiracy (1983), Kihntageous (1984), and Citizen Kihn (1985).
Kihn scored his biggest hit with “Jeopardy” (1983), which reached # 2 Pop, from the Kihnspiracy album. In 1983, the groundbreaking “Jeopardy” video became an MTV favorite. Many of the videos that followed were sequels with connecting story lines. One of the earliest examples of a “concept” video with its Night of the Living Dead theme, “Jeopardy” received heavy airplay on the fledgling cable music channel and spawned countless imitators. “Jeopardy” was spoofed by “Weird Al” Yankovic as “I Lost on Jeopardy“, on Yankovic’s album “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D (1984); Kihn made a cameo appearance in the music video for that song.
Kihn spent most of the 1980s touring constantly, opening arena-sized shows for groups such as Journey, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones. Kihn often appeared on TV during this period on shows such as Solid Gold, American Bandstand, and Saturday Night Live. On May 10, 1981, Kihn and Willie Nile appeared live on the King Biscuit Flower Hour from the Savoy Theater, New York City.
In 1985, Kihn broke with Beserkley Records and signed with EMI. Matthew Kaufman continued to produce Kihn’s albums. “Lucky” (1985) reached a modest # 30 on the Hot 100 and spawned a splashy video sequel to the popular “Jeopardy” video.
In 1986, Joe Satriani replaced Greg Douglass on lead guitar, Tyler Eng replaced Larry Lynch on drums, and Pat Mosca replaced Gary Phillips on keyboards. This is the lineup that went into the studio to record the album Love and Rock & Roll (1986).
Kihn returned to Baltimore to record a pair of solo acoustic albums at the studios of his longtime friend Jack Heyrman for Clean Cuts Records, Mutiny (1994) and Horror Show (1996).
Kihn began his radio career in 1996, when he went on the air from 7:00pm to midnight for San Jose Classic Rock station KUFX FM 98.5, “The Fox”. A year later, he was offered the morning show job when the syndicated Don Imus Show was dropped from the station; Kihn remained the morning show host until 2012. KUFX, which started out as a little mom-and-pop FM station in San Jose, went through a series of ownership changes and is now a San Francisco super station, boasting two signals—98.5 in San Jose and 102.1 in San Francisco. Kihn’s top-rated KUFX morning show was heard by millions of people every week from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz, the fourth largest market in the United States. After 16 years, Kihn was fired from KUFX following his September 12, 2012 broadcast. He was replaced by Annalisa, who moved over from crosstown KFOG.
Kihn’s literary career began in 1996 with the release of his first novel, Horror Show, published by Tor/Forge Books. Horror Show was nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. It was followed by Shade of Pale (1997), Big Rock Beat (1998), and Mojo Hand (1999). Kihn also published many short stories during this period, some appearing in the Hot Blood series of erotic horror fiction. Kihn was contributing editor to Carved in Rock, a compilation of short fiction by musicians including Pete Townshend, Joan Jett, Ray Davies, and Kinky Friedman.
Kihn has also written two screenplays and is currently negotiating with several production companies and Hollywood directors for both a TV series and a feature film.
The Greg Kihn Band continues to play with a lineup comprising Kihn’s son Ry Kihn on lead guitar, Dave Danza (from Eddie Money) on drums, Dave Medd (from the Tubes) on keyboards, and Robert Berry (from Hush) on bass.
Every year, KFOX hosts a big concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, called the “Kihncert”, featuring the Greg Kihn band playing alongside many of the greatest classic rock bands ever. The Kihncert has always featured Kihn as the show opener and sometime emcee, along with other KFOX-FM air personalities. Through the years, the Kihncert has featured live concert appearances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Starship, Eddie Money, Boston, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company, The Who, Steve Miller Band, George Thorogood, John Waite, Pat Travers, Night Ranger, Mickey Thomas’ Starship, Styx, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special, Blue Öyster Cult, Yes, and Kansas.
In addition to the Kihncert, Greg Kihn performs private, public, charity and KFOX FM-sponsored and/or promoted events, such as San Jose’s popular ‘Concert in the Park’ series, the BR Cohn Charity Fall Music Festival, and Operation: Care and Comfort’s Troopfest. Additionally, he performed on May 19, 2012 at the Catalyst Club and has frequently sung the National Anthem for his favorite baseball team, the Giants, at AT&T Park in San Francisco and his favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks.
Kihn was inducted into the San Jose Rock Hall of Fame in 2007.
In September 2013, Kihn conducted an interview with Music Life Radio detailing his life, including music, radio, and writing careers.
Kihn has written four horror fiction novels, beginning with Horror Show (1996), which nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel, followed by Shade of Pale (1997). Big Rock Beat and Mojo Hand were subsequently released as sequels to Horror Show.
Kihn also released Carved in Rock: Short Stories by Musicians, a collection of short stories written by himself and other well known rock musicians including Pete Townshend, Graham Parker, Joan Jett, and Ray Davies.
In 2013, Kihn released Rubber Soul, a murder mystery novel featuring the Beatles.