Steve Kimock

full biography

Steve Kimock has proved himself a master of fluid improvisation for over four decades, in the process inspiring music fans with his transcendent guitar speak voiced through electric, acoustic, lap and pedal steel guitars. With his multi-decade reputation as a blazing psychedelic guitarist versatile enough to touch almost all aspects of American music, Steve Kimock continues to evolve creatively as illustrated in his last two critically acclaimed records, a romantic pop collaboration in Satellite City and an experimental solo effort in Last Danger of Frost.

While one can say that his genre is rock, no one niche has ever confined him. Instead, through the years, he’s explored various sounds and styles based on what’s moved him at the time, whether it’s rock or jazz; funk or folk; psychedelic or pop; blues or boogie; Americana or world fusion.

Threaded through this expansive and highly nuanced musical landscape is Kimock’s signature sound, the prodigious product of his ability to articulate crystal-clear tone, melody and emotion into intricately woven music crafted with technical brilliance. His passion and devotion to performing live is matchless, and his unparalleled ability to embrace and capture his audiences musically is the stuff of legend.

Kimock co-founded the jazz/rock band Zero in the ‘80s and KVHW in the ‘90s; since then, he has recorded and toured in various outfits under his own name. His collaborations with assorted band mates and groups have provided an everlasting wellspring of inspiration for the guitarist, and he has shared the stage with a seemingly endless array of international musical luminaries. After more than 40 years on stage, Kimock is more committed than ever to a jubilant spirit of musical diversity — the same spirit that has fed his desire to pursue an authentic relationship with the guitar since the day he realized his calling.

Born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he was inspired by the instruments that filled the home of his folk-singing aunt, Dorothy Siftar. Then a cousin showed him some licks on a beautiful Gold Top Les Paul. Soon Steve got his own guitar, a $10 acoustic that he began playing 12 hours a day, every day. He’s still at it and even reclaimed his cousin Kenny’s original 1968 Gold Top Les Paul as his own in the early aughts.

After playing in a series of high school bands, in 1974 Kimock moved with the Goodman Brothers from a commune in Pennsylvania to northern California. His first home was directly behind the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music, and every morning he awoke to the sound of sarods and sitars, sparking his passion for music of other cultures that colors his own compositions to this day. After being part of various bands including Keith and Donna Godchaux’s Heart Of Gold Band, Zero was formed in the early 1980s by Steve Kimock and drummer Greg Anton with Quicksliver Messenger Service’s John Cipollina. Various San Francisco Bay and international artists including Nicky Hopkins (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who) Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship), Vince Welnick (The Tubes, Grateful Dead), John Kahn (Jerry Garcia Band), and the legendary saxman Martin Fierro (Legion of Mary), and more played with the band. It was during the early Zero era that Kimock would define his fluid style of melodious improvisation. By 1992, Zero was regarded as one of the marquee Bay Area bands and architects of the infant jam band genre. It seemed inevitable considering the Zero family tree, that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter added lyrics to their instrumentals. It was a magic ingredient and Zero took off, adding vocalist Judge Murphy to the mix. After nine albums and over 1,300 shows, Zero was more than a conglomerate of talented musicians, they were a San Francisco institution. In 2022, Zero hit the road again in support of their latest release Naught Again, recorded at The Great American Music Hall in 1992. Chance In A Million was released from these live sessions in 1994 and then on the 25th Anniversary of these live sessions, Naught Again was released as a double LP in 2022, followed by an extensive live tour.

Dubbed “The Guitar Monk” by Relix magazine, Kimock is driven by the knowledge that there is always more to discover…

While still performing with Zero in the early 90s, Kimock began to explore new terrain with the looser, bluesier Steve Kimock & Friends, an ever-evolving project that continues to feature a cast of acclaimed singer- songwriters, Hammond B-3 players, rock guitarists and numerous other serious players Kimock has befriended along the way. Late in the century it was succeeded by KVHW, a much lauded though short-lived quartet comprised of himself, Zero bassist Vega, drummer Alan Hertz, and former Frank Zappa vocalist and rhythm guitar player Ray White. In February 2000, KVHW morphed into the Steve Kimock Band, which featured Kimock along with a rotating crew of bassists, guitarists and drummers including Rodney Holmes, Alphonso Johnson, Bobby Vega and more. The SKB era found Kimock in a prolific period of writing, and he released four albums under the Steve Kimock Band moniker, which included Eudemonic and three live albums Live in Colorado, Volumes I & II and the self-titled Steve Kimock Band. He continued to play with old friend, songwriter and slide guitar player, Billy Goodman thru the decades in both the US and Europe; they released a record titled Big Red Barn Sessions in 2008. In 2009, he toured with the upbeat, gospel-influenced, soul-rock band Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, which featured legendary Hammond B3 player Melvin Seals and son, John Morgan Kimock, on drums; and following that toured under his own name with a quartet that included legendary keyboard/B3 player Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic, Talking Heads).

Once touted by Jerry Garcia as his “favorite unknown guitar player,” Kimock has also performed with Bob Weir’s Kingfish in the 80s and toured in both 2007 and 2014 with Bob Weir’s RatDog, and later, was featured in Weir’s Campfire band and record release tour. In addition, Kimock toured with numerous post-Grateful Dead ensembles including The Other Ones, Phil Lesh & Friends, and the Rhythm Devils, featuring Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, while also recording and touring with Bruce Hornsby. Kimock has also led the supergroup Voodoo Dead since 2015, which originated at New Orleans Jazz Fest with Kreutzmann and features George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Jeff Chimenti, John Kimock, Jackie Greene, and many more.

A musician’s musician, Kimock has also shared the stage with countless other musical luminaires such as David Lindley, Jorma Kaukonen, Hot Tuna, Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers, Merl Saunders, Buddy Miles, Derek Trucks, Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, Grace Slick, Little Feat, Nicky Hopkins, Norton Buffalo, Papa John Creach, Debashish Bhattacharya, the Wailers, all members of Phish, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jerry Joseph and more.

In 2014, Kimock followed with the return of a rollicking, revamped Steve Kimock & Friends, widely regarded as the most exciting iteration of Kimock’s rock/dance band outfit since its inception in the early 90’s. The ensemble, featuring bassist Vega, Dead & Company keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, drummers Bill Vitt, Jay Lane, John Morgan Kimock, and Wally Ingram, guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Leslie Mendelson, hit a joyous crescendo during the Dead’s 50th anniversary year, thrilling music lovers with a sold-out tour of psychedelic grooves and carrying on a musical legacy in a jubilant atmosphere. Kimock continues to elevate audiences worldwide with Steve Kimock & Friends.

In 2015, Steve holed up in his barn/studio for a winter with an engineer and a fair number of acoustic and electric guitars. The retreat yielded Last Danger of Frost, an introspective and brilliant experimental record. To perform that music live, he organized the band KIMOCK (Steve, Bobby Vega on bass, John Morgan Kimock on drums, Leslie Mendelson on vocals, keys guitar and later toured with Andy Hess on bass). As they played, their creative juices began to flow, and soon they (Steve, John Morgan, and Leslie) were writing new songs. The end result, Satellite City, was released in October 2017, and voted one of the best albums of 2017 by Glide Magazine. Steve and John Kimock continued to produce music, releasing the singles Invocations in February 2019, Steve Kimock’s slide masterpiece While we Wait and in 2020, a studio instrumental single, Point of No Return.

Dubbed “The Guitar Monk” by Relix magazine, Kimock is driven by the knowledge that there is always more to discover – that and the fact that he loves guitar too much to do anything else.
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