Kenny Håkansson

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Not very well known to a wider audience, Kenny Håkansson has earned respect among musicians as one of Sweden's best rock guitarists. In the '70s, he played guitar in Kebnekajse, maybe the most important…
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Not very well known to a wider audience, Kenny Håkansson has earned respect among musicians as one of Sweden's best rock guitarists. In the '70s, he played guitar in Kebnekajse, maybe the most important band in creating Swedish folk-rock, and in the early '80s, he played in the rock-reggae band Dag Vag. The few solo albums Håkansson released have never earned the same attention as the bands he was a member of and have mostly built on the same musical ground as Kebnekajse. Håkansson has also worked as a session musician, backing a number of well-known artists, including Pugh Rogefeldt, Bo Hansson, Cornelis Vreeswijk, and Lisa Ekdal.

Håkansson was born in Stockholm in 1945. While attending grammar school, he played in a local brass band. In the '60s, he learned to play the guitar and, after a few minor band projects, he joined the blues band T-Bones for a couple of single releases. In 1967, this band transformed into Baby Grandmothers, influenced by the psychedelic wave. After meeting bandleader Mecki Bodemark in 1968, Håkansson was recruited to his Mecki Mark Men. The band released two albums and, in 1970, went on a U.S. tour together with Sly & the Family Stone. The tour ended up in chaos and, after returning home, Mecki Mark Men broke up; the major part, including Håkansson, forming Kebnekajse. Initially this band played instrumental rock not very unlike what they had as Mecki Mark Men, but already on their second album they showed heavy folk influences. During the period from 1970 to 1977, Kebnekajse came to develop Swedish folk-rock immensely, before turning to fusion on their last albums. Håkansson was seen as the creative force of Kebnekajse. When he left the band, a year before they broke up, he released his solo debut, Spelar Springlekar Och Gånglåtar, which was a return to the folk roots that had made Kebnekajse famous.

In 1979, Håkansson joined the rock-reggae band Dag Vag, taking the stage name Beno Zeno and playing with them until 1982, when he released his second solo album, Benos Ben. Håkansson, or Zeno, continued to play with Dag Vag occasionally during the '80s, but concentrated foremost on the less well-known Bills Boogie Band, led by Bill Öhrström and including Bosse Skoglund, Hasse Larsson, and Jukka Tolonen. In the '90s, Håkansson continued his career as a session musician in between gigs with the reunited Dag Vag and, in 1994, he joined the backing band for singer/songwriter Lisa Ekdahl just before she got her big break. Håkansson played with her for four years and also released the solo album 2117 M.Ö.H. in 1995. Again, he took inspiration from traditional Swedish folk music, but this time he wrote the songs himself. The title of the album refers to the height of the highest mountain in Sweden, which happens to be named Kebnekajse. In 2001, Håkansson released his fourth solo album, Hjärtats Gåtbok. It got mixed reviews, but attracted more interest than his '90s album, and was unusual for Håkansson in having a focus set on the vocals rather than on the guitar.