The year 2008 marked the 62nd year of Kennedy's professional debut in the entertainment business when he became the boy singer with the Bill Creighton Orchestra in Buffalo, New York. It was in 1946 and Kennedy had been singing for many years with church choirs and as a soloist in high school music productions and with various glee clubs.
1947, Kennedy was the singing co-host of a live on-stage radio variety show
from the Strand Theater on WABY, Albany, New York where his first celebrity guest
was the popular Cab Calloway.
|such jazz artists as George "Pops" Foster, Bob Wilbur, Edmond Hall, Frankie Newton, and J. C.Higgenbotham and presented artists such as George Shearing, Wild Bill Davidson, and Sidney Bechet in concert.|
|After returning to the States from distinguished service with the US Marines in Korea, he produced and hosted a series of "Parade Rest" radio shows for the USMC Nebo Theater in Barstow, California, starring such artists as Bob Hope, the Les Brown Band and Shorty Rogers and his band.|
At The University of Texas, while an undergraduate, Kennedy raised the first money to build university radio station KUT-FM. He also purchased KHFI-FM in Austin in 1958 and as its owner - manager aired the first stereophonic broadcast in Texas radio history (long before multiplex) when his engineers utilized the separate channels of two FM stations.
In 1959, he founded the Texas Association of FM Broadcasters and his station became the first FM station in Texas to succeed commercially. In 1962, he was the first recipient of the Armstrong Foundation Award for FM Broadcasting Excellence from Columbia University.
Kennedy was vice president of KHFI-AM-FM TV (1965-1967) and between 1958 and 1971 he served as a director of The Austin Symphony Orchestra (1958-1971), the Austin Ballet Society (1960-1963), Austin Civic Theater (1959-1971) and was president of the Austin Advertising Club (1963) and the citywide Austin Aqua Festival (1966). For the festival's 5th anniversary, Kennedy produced the world premier of The 20th Century Fox film "Batman" starring Adam West, with Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith, and Caesar Romero under the direction of executive producer William Dozier. The double premier at the Paramount put the Aqua Festival in the black with the proceeds.
Kennedy owned and operated the Chequered Flag club, a seminal showcase for established and emerging songwriters from 1967-1970, and next door to the club his Texas Speed Museum was home to his racing car collection and base for his successful racing team.
In 1970, following a successful three years as an amateur SCCA National Champion with forty wins in several sports car classes, he and his Lancia Racing Team won the International 12 Hours of Endurance at Sebring in the under 2-litre touring class, and finished 5th in the Monterey Mexico Five Hours.
His many interests found him active in Texas politics associated with US Senator John G. Tower. In the field of jazz, he co-produced the Longhorn Jazz Festival with George Wein in the late '60's bringing over 100 top jazz stars to Texas including Cannonball Adderly, Art Blakey, Roy Ayers, Milt Buckner, Dave Brubeck, Arnett Cobb, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haymes,Woody Herman, Illinois Jacquet, Elvin Jones, Les McCann, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Stitt, Buddy Tate, Dizzie Gillespie, and Teddy Wilson as well as Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, and Dionne Warwick.
In and among the more than fifteen hundred other events produced or presented by Kennedy, he worked with Gatemouth Brown, Hubert Laws, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and pianist Errol Garner, Papa John Creach, Muddy Waters, Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin' Hopkins, Odetta, Stoney Edwards, Charlie Pride, and newcomer Ruthie Foster.
At the invitation of the Governor's Office of Texas, he founded the Kerrville Folk Festival in the Texas Hill Country in 1972 and, produced it for 32 years for an accrued audience of more than a million and a half fans. More than 30 of his young artists are on national record labels.
In addition to literally hundreds of emerging songwriters on the Kerrville
roster, there are many artists of stature who have been associated with Kennedy
including Jerry Jeff Walker, Marcia Ball, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Peter Paul
&Mary, Asleep at the Wheel, David Broza, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Judy Collins,
Steve Earle, Freddy Fender, The Flatlanders, Janis Ian and a whole reader board
of top songwriters.
In 2002, Kennedy also received the John E. Crosby Jr. Industry Achievement Award from the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association in recognition of 15 years of service to the industry as producer of the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival and for hosting more than 50 major wine tastings and seminars in Texas and other states during the past decade. He was also awarded a double Texas Wine Ambassadorship by the industry.
Since his retirement from the Kerrville Festivals, he has continued to serve as consultant to the festival and to many other events around the country including Plano's 2007 Texas Music concert series. Kennedy has also produced 24 major events for his non - profit Kerrville Special Events Association including six Michael Martin Murphey Cowboy Christmas concerts and a wine dinner commemorating the 30th anniversary of Murphey's hit song "Wildfire", four sold out performances by the Golden Dragon Acrobats and several Glenn Miller Orchestra dances.
Late in October 2007, Kennedy conceived and produced a special "Music
from Kerrville" concert for The Woodlands, Texas, grand opening of its' New
Village of Creekside Park and its' Rob Fleming Park Lodge. He hosted a three hour
event starring Michael Martin Murphey and his Heartland Cowboys, Floyd Domino's
Western Swing All-stars featuring Paul Glasse and Terri Hendrix and her quartet.
Kennedy currently serves on the board of VIP Sports Getaway and is a charter member of the Reno Air Racing Association and a member of the Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui.
To find a guide to Rod Kennedy Presents, Inc. Archives 1947-1999 at the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin: Click here
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