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Random Connection: Ford Madox Ford

I love live music; I prefer smaller venues; I don’t really care if it’s rock ‘n roll, blues, alternative, jazz, R&B or reggae…I like it all! Well, except country. Sue me, I’m not a lyrics guy.

A few years ago, November of 2016 to be exact, my wife and I were in Austin, Texas, visiting friends. One night while the girls were working, my buddy and I went out to get a taste of the Austin music scene. We hit 6th Street, of course, but toward the end of the night, we wandered into the Continental Club on Congress, one of our favorite spots. It was already past midnight and the place was pretty empty. We sat at a table near the stage, ordered a beer and waited for the final act to come out. About 12:15, four band members finally made an appearance. There were three guys with guitars and a drummer. They slipped on their guitars as the drummer squeezed in behind his drum kit. He picked up his sticks, raised them over his head…tick, tick, tick, BOOM! The band exploded and proceeded to tear the place apart during a frenzied half-hour set. I looked at my buddy, my eyes wide with pleasant surprise. He looked back at me with the exact same expression.

Half way through their set we walked out on the floor in front of the stage. We were standing next to a woman who looked to be about the same age as us. She was dancing and clapping to the music, a big smile on her face. I assumed my normal music-listening posture: statue still with both hands tucked into my front pockets and a smile on my face. They played a song called Before the Fall which I absolutely loved. They ended the set with a raucous extended cover of Let’s Work Together. At the end of the song, the lead singer raised his guitar above his head and smashed it on the stage, separating the body of the instrument from the neck. Pete Townsend would have been proud! He and his bandmates walked off the stage to enthusiastic applause from the handful of fans that were still there.

After shaking my head a few times to ascertain if both of my eardrums were still intact, I turned to the woman next to me and said, “Who ARE those guys?”

She smiled and said, “That’s my husband! Would you like to meet him?”

I said, “Heck yeah!”

She took me and my buddy backstage and introduced us to her husband, the lead guitarist and main singer in the band. Turns out his name was Chip Kinman and his band was Ford Madox Ford*. I’m embarrassed to say, that even with my fairly diverse tastes in music, I had never heard of him before. Chip gave each of us a CD featuring the first three songs they had recorded with FDMDXFD along with some other paraphernalia. We had a nice chat, and before we left I asked him what he was going to do with his broken guitar. He laughed and said, “I’ll put it back together again. It’s not the first time I’ve smashed that thing.”

When I got home later that week I looked him up. Come to find out, Chip Kinman and his brother Tony were legends in the punk rock scene back in the 70s. Their first band, the Dils, hit it big in and around the Bay Area of northern California and were a major presence on the punk scene in L.A. as well. After the Dils disbanded in 1980, Chip and Tony pivoted toward a completely new genre of music affectionately known as cowpunk. Fronting three bands throughout the 80s and 90s, including Rank and File with the inimitable Alejandro Escovedo, Cowboy Nation and Blackbird, the Kinman brothers recorded and produced a lot of memorable music.

In 2016, after a 10-year hiatus from performing and recording, Chip formed this latest band with his stepson, Dewey Peek. Chip and FDMDXFD grind out some powerful original blues rock with an occasional remake of one of his old punk tunes. They released their first album, This American Blues, in 2018.

After meeting Chip in Austin, I messaged him on Facebook to thank him for the CD and let him know that I had just purchased all the music he and his brother had ever created. He said, “I need 1,000,000 more fans just like you! Thanks, pal!”

*Ford Madox Ford was an English novelist, poet and critic best known for his novel The Good Soldier.

**Ford Madox Ford, the band, features Chip Kinman, Dewey Peek, Matt Littell and S. Scott Arguero

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