Roy Kenner

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Vocalist Roy Kenner is perhaps most recognized for his stint in the James Gang, one of many collaborations with fellow Canadian and longtime friend Domenic Troiano. Kenner began his musical career in…
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Vocalist Roy Kenner is perhaps most recognized for his stint in the James Gang, one of many collaborations with fellow Canadian and longtime friend Domenic Troiano. Kenner began his musical career in the mid-'60s fronting R.K. & the Associates, a local favorite in Toronto's burgeoning R&B movement. In 1967, Kenner replaced George Olliver in Mandala, one of the scene's most sought-after bands. The group was known for its high-energy live shows and outstanding musicianship, including the impressive guitar work of Domenic Troiano. Although the band had started recording material for its debut album with Olliver, the tracks were completed with Kenner taking over all lead vocals. Mandala's only long-player, Soul Crusade, was released in mid-1968 and spawned the Canadian chart hit "Love-itis." After the release of the album, Mandala struggled to stay afloat amid inner turmoil and declining popularity. The group released one final single, "You Got Me," in late 1968 and disbanded shortly thereafter. Kenner, Troiano, and drummer Whitey Glan then recruited bassist Prakash John and formed Bush. The band toured with Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf and cut an eponymous album before splitting in 1971.

Shortly after the demise of Bush, Troiano was asked to replace guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh in the James Gang. Reluctant to sing, he suggested Kenner as a vocalist. The two joined the Cleveland-based rock band in 1972. Straight Shooter and Passin' Thru, both dominated by Kenner/Troiano compositions, were released that year. The new lineup of the James Gang was gaining momentum when legal hassles suddenly prevented the band from releasing new material. The band stuck together until the issues were resolved, but Troiano left in 1973 and was soon replaced by Tommy Bolin. With Bolin pushing the James Gang back into a hard rock sound, this incarnation of the band released a pair of albums -- Bang in 1973 and Miami in 1974 -- that captured the attention of many old fans dissatisfied with the more funk-oriented Troiano-era material. Although the records were respectable sellers, the James Gang couldn't reclaim the success of previous efforts, and they split in late 1974.

After the James Gang, Kenner went back to Toronto and worked on the Canadian TV show Music Machine. During this time, he also collaborated with aspiring singer Lisa DelBello and with R&B band Delphia, formed by Guess Who drummer Garry Peterson. While Delphia never landed a record deal, Kenner was successful in helping DelBello launch her career. "(Don't Want To) Stand in Your Way," a tune written by Kenner, became her first single and proved to be a highlight of her debut album. Around 1976, Kenner accepted an invitation to join funk-rock band Law, sharing vocal duties with keyboard player Ronnie Cunningham. Law released two albums, Breakin' It and Hold on to It, on Roger Daltrey's Goldhawke label, and toured throughout 1977 and 1978. Kenner then rejoined Domenic Troiano, co-writing and singing on Troiano's 1979 album, Fret Fever. The record included the dance hit "We All Need Love," Troiano's biggest commercial success. With Troiano's assistance, Kenner released the single "Transparent Love" on Anthem Records in 1980. Two years later, the track wound up on a split EP featuring Kenner on the first half and George Olliver with Bobbi DuPont and the Royals on the flip. Kenner's recorded output since the early '80s has been minimal. He sang lead vocals on the Troiano-penned theme song for the TV series Night Heat, which enjoyed a successful run in the mid-'80s. The track was released as a single in 1986. Today he remains mostly under the musical radar, focusing on voiceover and jingle work and performing sporadically in the Toronto area.