I only recently heard about the sad passing in January this year of Ohio’s Kevin Junior (real name Kevin Bain Gerber). According to Billboard magazine, singer-songwriter Kevin Junior—who spent his most prolific and fruitful years in Chicago—died at age 46. The story says “the cause of death is not clear,” but as Gossip Wolf reported in 2011, he’d suffered from the life threatening heart disease endocarditis, which required open-heart surgery. He moved back to his native Akron, Ohio, a couple years ago, putting together a new version of his band Chamber Strings. Junior’s troubles over the years with heroin were well-documented, and this addiction impeded his music from ever reaching the audience it deserved. As Ray Borchers wrote in the Chicago reader, “ Junior’s sartorial sensibility and roosterlike hairdo telegraphed the kinship he felt with Johnny Thunders, and he eventually worked closely with Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks. He first led a trashy glam band called Mystery Girls, which morphed into the Rosehips; then he blossomed as a pop auteur with Chamber Strings in the mid-90s. The group made two terrific albums of delicate, soul-streaked orchestral pop, but not long after the 2002 release of the second, Month of Sundays, Junior’s life disintegrated. He spent much of the rest of his years fighting drug addiction and health problems, trying to get back on his feet. “ I first became aware of Kevin Junior’s band The Rosehips via a newsletter from either Jeff Dahl or Nikki Sudden. He played a style of rock n roll I always dug. Stones swagger, Thunders styled, the Jacobites, blue eyed soul, Nikki Sudden, blues, early 70s outlaw country- here was a guy who could also write memorable rock with a truck load of melody, hook, harmony and chorus’. Hell, he even looked like Ron Wood or Thunders. The Chambers Strings album, ‘Gospel Morning’, was just about pop perfection. Not dissimilar in many ways to the musical hooks that the Jayhawks were scoring big with around the mid to late 90s. Nikki Sudden released an album in 1999 called ‘Red Brocade’, an album I licenced and subsequently released into Australia on my old label Vicious Kitten Records. The album was recorded in Chicago and was very much the result of a musical collaboration between Kevin Junior and Sudden. I exchanged some emails with Kevin around this time and told him how much I dug Month Of Sundays. I still love a tune like ‘Dead Man’s Poise’. Kevin was complimentary of both Vicious Kitten fanzine and also what Vicious Kitten records was trying to achieve. In 2001, the second Chamber Strings album, ‘Month of Sundays’ was released, and was critically well received. Blue eyed soul, pure pop, strikingly original. 15 years later this album shows what a high calibre song writer Kevin Junior was. I had lost track of Kevin Junior until around 2007, when I read he was back making music. I didn’t know about his 5 years of heroin hell, which explained why he dropped off the radar. In January, 2007, Journalist Bob Mehr wrote an eye opening article about Junior’s descent into heroin and homelessness in an extremely articulate article in The Chicago Reader that I implore you to read. There is also an insightful interview with Kevin from 2010 on Sugar Buzz magazine that is also worth reading. I would rather not think about his drug issues. Rather, he should be remembered and celebrated for his music – superbly crafted rock ‘n’ roll that will endure. If you are not aware of any of Kevin Junior’s music, start with either of the Chamber Strings’ albums, ‘Gospel Mornings’ or ‘Month Of Sundays. Kevin Junior was born on December 26, 1969 – and passed away January 16, 2016. He is survived by his mother, Gloria Gerber; father, Roger Gerber; and sister Kimberly Edgemon. Rest In Peace.
Rockbrat Remembers: KEVIN JUNIOR December 26, 1969 – January 16, 2016Posted: August 29, 2016 by Cowboy Col in Rockbrat Remembers:
Tags: chamber strings, Dave Kusworth, Epic Soundtracks, Gospel Mornings, Jacobites, Jeff Dahl, Kevin Bain Gerber, Kevin Gerber, kevin junior, Month Of Sundays, Nikki Sudden, Red Brocade, Rosehips, The chamber Strings, Vicious Kitten Records