Running For Cover – The Ken DeFeudis Story

Ken DefeudisAs any connoisseur of outsider, kitsch & oddball ephemera already knows, the 25 years of culture that pre-dated consumer world wide web adoption (1969-1994) was knee-high in ridiculous, homespun, privately-pressed LPs and tapes. There were an untold number of weird, untalented and often strangely compelling hustlers out to make it in “the biz”, without having the slightest idea how to proceed, yet still having enough wherewithal to get into a recording studio, or to roll the tapes at home. Think Harvey Sid Fisher. Think Shaggs. Think the entire song-poem brigade, and countless other lesser lights.

In the early 1990s, some pals of mine became very smitten with a modern troubadour named KEN DEFEUDIS and his one-song 1990 cassette single “Run For Cover Lover”. You need to listen to it, even for just a minute, before you proceed further.

This song was a staple of certain San Francisco/Oakland house parties I attended, usually well after an exceptional number of drinks had been consumed. I hadn’t thought about it, nor DeFeudis, much for decades until it sprang back to mind last week and I decided to “Google” it. It turns out it wasn’t just my ne’er do well friends who were obsessing over this guy and his ear-grater of a song. Amazingly, the guy’s even in the “Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music” book.

I remembered a few conversations from back then with Grady Runyan, who was the prime mover in my memory among the DeFeudis ultra-faithful, and I recollected that he’d actually gone so far as to call the guy and talk with him, even getting additional tapes mailed to him as one point with new DeFeudis songs (!).

Grady’s now the founder/owner/manager of Grady’s Record Refuge in Ventura, CA; you may also know him from his stints in bands such as Monoshock, Liquor Ball, the Bad Trips, Cardinal Sin, Sternklang, the Umbilical Chords and others. I figured he’d be able to add to the DeFeudis lore that’s already collecting on the internet, and therefore sat him down for the quick email Q&A that follows.

How did Ken DeFeudis’ music come into your life? What made your attraction to it so instant?

I received my RFCL cassingle from Rubin Fiberglass, who was working at a music distributor in SoCal at the time….there were a handful of promos circulating in his warehouse, and he figured I’d dig it.  He was right. I played it for my roommate Christopher Junker and a certain fascination developed, which was further fueled by other’s dismay at our relentless wee-hour plays. Christopher and I were also doing these inebriated sound collages in the living room at the time, with record players, tape decks, TVs, etc. and KDF was always an ingredient in those. There was definitely a WTF factor. The music plus the cover picture plus the notes on the back…..was it a put-on or not?  I’m usually attracted to things like that, for whatever reason.  Part of me did not want to know more.  The other part me decided to call him one night (his number was printed on the cassette).

You drunkenly called the guy one night, and actually got him to talk to you, right? What was that like? Did you correspond further after that?

I called him but got his answering machine. Kinda forgot about it after that.  Amazingly he did return my call some weeks (months?) later.  There was a party at my house and Cardinal Sin was playing in the living room. Christopher answered the phone and started yelling “it’s DeFeudis, it’s Defeudis!!”  So the set was interrupted as I took the call.  First thing he did was apologize for calling so late, but explained he kept “musicians hours”.  It was well past midnight where he was calling from.  We probably talked for 15 minutes or so but the details are pretty fuzzy now.  I remember him being very serious abut his music and thanking me for my interest.

I remember you saying that after you’d made contact with DeFeudis, he sent you some more gems, including his follow-up, “Rookie Lover”. What were those recordings like?

I don’t remember this at all.  Have to check my tapes. (editor’s note: I know I’m not making this up. Anyone have a “Rookie Lover” tape they can MegaUpload for us all?)

What involvement did you have in birthing the late 90s Oakland band The Run For Cover Lovers, who took their name from DeFeudis’ hit?

That was my roommate Darryl Pretto’s band.  I wasn’t involved, other than having exposed him to the song many years before……going back a bit, when Blackjack out out the Cardinal Sin LP “Doggyhead”, they printed the band name on the spine as “The Run For Cover Lovers” without the band’s knowledge.  I think Darryl may taken the name from that prank as much as the original song.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Christopher had a friend named Brian Blesser, who was an artist in Berkeley.  Brian came over on occasion and was exposed to our fascination with KDF.  When Amoeba Berkeley opened, Brian was hired to paint the collage/mural above the entrance to the store.  He got Ken’s face in there, centrally located.  I think only handful of us knew, or cared.  It remained for many years and might still be there…..
(Grady subsequently emailed this picture. Yes, there he is, top right, with his hair touching the pink streak)
amoeba-record-store 2
Thanks very much to Rubin Fiberglass for the initial find; to Grady Runyan and Chris Junker for the small-batch popularization of DeFeudis’ music; and to Grady again for taking the time to help add some perspective to a pretty timeless piece of music.

5 thoughts on “Running For Cover – The Ken DeFeudis Story

  1. I too made contact with Ken DeFeudis back in the day, through the mail. Got a couple of letters from him, one of which included some sort of song cycle he’d written about Christopher Columbus, in which the great explorer attempted a music career.
    (The payoff line, delivered in Ken’s distinctive accent: “I’d rather be a *croonah* than sail my *schoonah*!”)
    I suspect I no longer have either letters or tape, but will have to look.

    I also asked him to suggest names for a band I was starting at the time … the only name I remember was Born To Tease, which we totally should have used.
    (I think Kiss And Run might have been another. The unfaithful love object was clearly an overarching theme of his oeuvre.)

    In real life, Ken was a realtor and also worked in the collections business, and served in the Army National Guard for a while. Apparently he was a painter too.
    Sadly, he died in 1994, not tremendously long after “Run For Cover Lover” made its own quirky but indelible impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jest came across my cd-r of other ken schtuff. . .
    rippin’ it now. . .
    more infos, here. . .
    http://the-rockin-rex.com/blog/?p=25
    there’s sum press-kit schtuffs. . .
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    as infered in mi orig 10yr old post. . .
    he was originally from new rochelle. . .
    about 15 min from where i had mi schtore. . .
    btw. . . mebbe yu knew cathy fitzhugh. ..
    from aquarius circa 90s era??
    went out with her ’84 – ’85. . .

    Like

  3. NOT FOR PubLiCaTioN. . .
    this is an ‘ephemeral’ U/L. . .
    will disappear. . .
    butt. . . here y’ go. . .
    the suburbia today pics are CaThy in Hi-SkooL. . .
    disregard the SCAB folder. . .
    it’s ‘RaRe’ but only so-so NHYC femme band. . .
    that i U/L’d fer another friend. . .
    https://mega.nz/fm/6oYzxA7Q

    Like

  4. This is a comment from Tom from NYC, not from me – he said he’d had some difficulty publishing a comment on this site….sorry about that, Tom:

    Wow… I had such a similar experience to Grady. My roommates and I in grad school in the 1988 – 1990 discovered KD through a cousin of mine who went to Berklee and worked at a music studio. We got the tape with what we called “The Best of Ken DeFudis”….. My roommate Tony got so obsessed, he would play it over and over again and couldn’t study with out it.! It drove out other roommates crazy. Tony and I called him one night years later, after a few drinks but by then he had died. We felt very badly about calling at that hour as drunk idiots. I think his son answered the phone. Anyway, I have the audio cassette and am going to digitize it. He does a lot of covers, and then uses some backing music (for standards) to sing his own lyrics. He does such greats as Amazing Grace, Some Enchanted Evening, All of Me and Desperado and Me and Bobby McGee. Tom from NYC

    Like

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