Home Musical play Donna Davis: Known as 13, Musical Mainstay Michael Kinzie is More than a Number | Featured Columnist

Donna Davis: Known as 13, Musical Mainstay Michael Kinzie is More than a Number | Featured Columnist

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With his long blowing white hair, his shiny black violin tucked under a cottony beard, and his bow balanced like a wand ready to cast his spell, Michael Kinzie is taller than life.

Like Merlin or Father Time imbued with musicality from another world. Is it a violinist playing the tuba? Or a tuba player who works in moonlight on saxophone and violin? Does he play classical, honky-tonk, country, rock, bluegrass or folk? The answer is yes.

Known locally as the violinist of the beloved Super Grit Cowboy Band and numerically as “13,” the Greenville multi-instrumentalist has lived a life more fascinating than fiction. And no one can tell his story better than him.

Where does the nickname “13” come from? I was almost afraid to ask, and in this case, rightly so.

“When I first joined Super Grit they had a busy schedule and I had to get down to business. I slept on the couch in the Stonewall trailer in Hoodswamp for a week while they got me to work. As I slept on the couch in all my hippie glory Stonewall asked his father what nickname they should give me since everyone in the group had one.

Arlon would have glanced at me and said, “Wwwww we’ll have to give him a number, he’s too ugly to give a name.” They brought up the number 13 and that’s the real story, and it has stuck together like glue for the past 40 years. The other versions are figments of the imagination of people.

“Since I play multiple instruments, people have speculated that 13 must have come from the number of instruments I play. It was flattering and I did nothing to dispel that theory. The other theory was noted XXX. Come to think of it, I haven’t done anything to dispel this theory either.

Kinzie’s foray into music was practically predestined, as he explains “there are professional musicians as far as the eye can see on both sides of my family.” His father was a missionary in India and he started Kinzie on a tenth size violin which he bought in a bazaar in the Himalayas.

“I discovered the violin when I was 5 and it was just a fun thing to do, but when I was 7 I had to practice an hour a day. I hated.”

The family moved to the United States when Kinzie was 7 or 8, eventually settling in Mathias, West Virginia, where his father was pastor of the Brethren Church.

“To make ends meet, he was also the group principal at Mathias High School,” Kinzie said. “If my dad didn’t have anyone to play an instrument, he would take me out of grade school to play the bass drum or cymbals or whatever. When he lost his baritone horn player, I inherited the job.

When her father died, Kinzie’s mother moved the family to Bridgewater, Virginia. There, he was told he could be in the band if he played tuba, Kinzie said. “The violin didn’t come naturally to me, but the tuba did. My mother insisted that I continue to play the violin and sent me to my father’s former violin teacher … I went to classes to appease him, but at that time my interest in the violin was almost zero. I was playing the tuba. I felt like I had finally found my instrument.

Kinzie can’t remember when he decided he wanted to make music for a living. He gradually trained in it.

“When I was 15, Bridgewater College hired me to play the violin in their annual production of The Messiah. I also played drums for a five-piece dance combo. I had a paper itinerary and was a janitor at Turner Ashby High School, not to mention working as a handyman. The minimum wage was then 50 cents an hour. The five dollars I made playing the violin for a concert and the two dollars I made playing the drums were a good amount of money to me at the time.

Two scholarship offers to East Carolina College (now ECU) later, Kinzie had a double major in tuba and violin and landed a job in the orchestra pit for $ 85 per week. He was officially a professional musician.

Before the devil came down to Georgia, he played the violin in Carolina.

“I was playing with my violin when the full moon rose over the horizon and it was blood red. The violin solo came in a burst of inspiration. I called Woody (Woody Thurman, singer of Singletree, the Kinzie band was at the time) and gave him some mental images I had of the devil playing the violin and the legendary violinist Nicoli Paganini. The next morning I got a call from Woody and he started raping at the start of the song.

The song “Love for Strife” was born and became an important part of Singletree’s repertoire, and later that of Super Grit.

Kinzie describes his performance. The song would begin with recitation and slow spooky chords. “Smoke on the ground lit by a yellow light poured out of the scene. When I said the word “fire,” two pillars of fire shot up 15 feet beside me. I was wearing a black cape with a red lining.

Their route manager, Captain Larry Spence, set up the pyrotechnics. He then formed his own production company which produced halftime Super Bowl shows.

“When Charlie Daniels dated Devil went to Georgia, I was inundated with calls telling me that Charlie Daniels ripped off my song and I had to sue him because the songs sounded so alike. hadn’t realized that Charlie had seen us play ‘Love for Strife’ when we were preparing the Marshall Tucker Band at Duke University. Years later, Super Grit briefly toured with Charlie Daniels. I played an old man. piano that was beaten in hell.

“Charlie Daniels got wind of it and hired the piano technician to tune their piano to fix everything on my piano. I wondered why he was doing such a thing. Charlie Daniels didn’t know me from Adam. Or so I thought. Decades later, I found out that he had actually seen us play “Love for Strife”. I think he was just saying “Thank you” for the idea and “Thank you” for not continuing. This is my story and I stick to it. “

In the Wright Auditorium, 1979, Bob Haus (the conductor of the ECU Symphony) in a tuxedo and Michael Kinzie, with as much hair as he is musically talented, stood together in front of an enthusiastic audience, presenting The Hood Swamp Symphony Ball.

“Sometimes it’s hard to pin down the genesis of a particular work, but I remember this one,” Kinzie said. “After I got back from Vietnam, there were two things I really wanted: not to live with 50 other guys and to have a 50 gallon aquarium. I have an apartment on First Street and found a used aquarium to put there. I found them to be incredibly calming and loved the serenity of watching the fish swim while I played my favorite music on the stereo.

“That evening I was watching the fish swim while listening to Poco and enjoying my favorite herbal remedy when my mind began to contemplate the schizophrenic nature of my career back then. I was the only person I knew who had a foothold in classical and country music. I thought how crazy it would be to combine the two by arranging material for an orchestra to accompany the group. To my knowledge, this had never been done.

Kinzie was convinced that he could write the sheet music, and after pitching the idea for Bob Haus, the project was launched. Kinzie was playing with Singletree when he first came up with the idea.

“After joining Super Grit I felt like I had the group to be successful,” he said. After the first rehearsal, he figured they were going to have to cancel the concert.

“We couldn’t keep the band and the orchestra together. The group took its rhythm on the drummer and the orchestra took its rhythm on the conductor. For the second rehearsal, he placed monitors at the back and sides of the orchestra.

After a number of obstacles, the evening of the concert has finally arrived. “The crowd has gone completely mad. The roar was deafening and seemed to go on forever, ”Kinzie said.

The group has performed several times with the North Carolina Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Greensboro Symphony and a number of others, sold out.

“In the end, that led to me orchestrating two shows for Mike Cross which he performed across the United States and for Mike Reid who wrote“ Stranger in my House ”for Ronnie Milsap. At one point, three musical entities were playing my scores. I was making more money as an arranger than as a performer.

Kinzie played five years in Singletree before joining Super Grit. He worked in a band called The Magic Pipers of Raleigh for about 10 years, playing the saxophone. He has performed with Irish singer Jennifer Licko for several years, and with a Hank Williams Jr. tribute band. Kinzie also performs with the Pitt Community College Symphony and performs in a duet with Victor Hudson.

If you haven’t yet discovered at least 13 things you didn’t know about Michael Kinzie, read his full interview, with more colorful stories, including an encounter with ZZ Top and how a violin helped him survive the Vietnam War. Click the link with this story on reflector.com to read it.

Look for Kinzie and Victor Hudson performing at Backwater Jack’s in Washington. For a retrospective, a recording of the 1979 Hood Swamp Symphony Ball with the ECU Symphony Orchestra is available on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w22cZMq5nyc&t=179s.

Donna Davis works for the Pitt County Government, supporting the technology. She has made her home in eastern North Carolina most of her life. She enjoys playing with local musicians and writing. Contact her at [email protected]