John Kennedy’s music is his hobby, his full-time job, his family history. It’s the wallpaper in his home. The musician formed Kennedy’s Kitchen 10 years ago in South Bend, Ind. Band practice takes place — you guessed it — in the kitchen of Kennedy’s 1957 ranch-style home.
John Kennedy’s music is his hobby, his full-time job, his family history. It’s the wallpaper in his home.
The musician formed Kennedy’s Kitchen 10 years ago in South Bend, Ind. Band practice takes place — you guessed it — in the kitchen of Kennedy’s 1957 ranch-style home.
“We formed in the old-fashioned Irish sort of way. We simply were playing music together and having fun. We get together every week and play together and have dinner in my kitchen,” said Kennedy, whose band will perform their brand of “homemade Irish music” this weekend at Erin Feis on the Peoria riverfront.
The band records in the kitchen, putting blankets and mattresses down on the floor to improve acoustics. Not long ago, they decided to make the decor more musician friendly.
“There was this old wallpaper — a Southwest style, various shades of pink and blue — I planned on taking down,” Kennedy said. “A friend suggested we start writing the lyrics of songs on them. Just this week, two new songs went up.”
The home is where Kennedy grew up, under the care of an Irish mother. Both of Kennedy’s parents are of Irish descent and spent their childhood in an Irish immigrant area of Newark, N.J., before moving to South Bend. His family history has made its way into many a Kennedy’s Kitchen song. Before his grandmother died three years ago at age 102, Kennedy taped 40 hours of stories she was willing to share — everything from tales of living in a remote part of Donegal, Ireland, to why the Irish never kill a cricket.
“When they were growing up, death was a very common experience; everyone had a lot of kids and there were no antibiotics,” Kennedy said. “When the crickets in a hearth of a home ceased to sing, then someone in that house was about to die. Hence, you don’t kill a cricket, as killing a cricket is courting the death of someone close to you.”
Kennedy will also share some of his family stories during a cultural workshop this weekend.
Not all members of the band, which also includes Rob Weber, Chris O’Brien, Bob Harke and Nolan Ladewski, are Irish. But that doesn’t matter, Kennedy said. Each member has the common experience of having a grandparent or parent that wasn’t born in the U.S., and that’s the thread that connects them. And they all share a love of this complex genre of music. The band’s instrumentation includes a fiddle, whistles, guitar, electric bass, Irish drum, bodhran, mandolin, tenor banjo.
“Coming into the music culturally has been very easy for them,” Kennedy said. “Irish music says to everybody, ‘Come on in and sit down.’”
Danielle Hatch can be reached at (309) 686-3262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.