Off and on for the last year or so, I’ve been trying to listen to all my LPs. It’s a major task, given that I’ve got a few thousand. But with my acquisition of a record cleaning machine it made sense. I’m doing it in alphabetical order, and I think today I’ll manage to finish “J”. I took a look through my archives, and I guess it’s been almost two years— I think I got the cleaning machine for my birthday in 2011. It seems weird, and sad, that in all the time I’ve been writing I’ve never said anything about Ken Hunter— I think of him from time to time, and it’s always with a smile. Ken was the one that got me listening to more jazz, and jazz of lighter varieties like Stanley Jordan.
I suppose one of the reasons why it becomes difficult to get up the energy or enthusiasm about writing is the fact that the majority of people that I’d really like to have as an audience are dead. Kenny was one of the first that I lost, and for the most bizarre of reasons. He moved away, a year or two before I left Bakersfield, to take a job as a prison guard on the coast of California. I heard, just after I arrived in Arkansas, that he was playing basketball one day and a blood clot tore loose in one of his legs and caused a heart attack. He died in the emergency room. He had just started a family, and the loss to them and his friends was devastating. It was one of those cases where you just can’t understand why such a young, healthy guy is just suddenly gone. I’m not sure he was even 30. I don’t think he was.
I met Ken when I was working at Leo’s Stereo. He was one of the stock people, along with Wilson Gambi, (a Nigerian fellow that I liked as well). When you stepped off the floor to take a breather, Ken was always there to talk music with, and though we didn’t always agree, we respected each other’s opinions. One of the things that defined Kenny was his faith, and he would always joke around with the sinners who worked in that industry with very little sense of judgement. Salesman, aren’t generally the most moral people, and for Ken even the most vile of us wasn’t beyond redemption. He tried to preach, in subtle ways, in every act of kindness that got us all through the day smiling. I wasn’t surprised that he moved on to being a prison guard. He wanted to make a difference in the world, and hanging out with the converted wasn’t what he considered to be the most important thing to do.
I wasn’t much interested in Christian music when I met him, and I suppose I’m still not that interested in it. But I was interested in Kenny’s music. He never really recorded anything much that I know about, though I suppose it’s possible since he was always in bands and some of those bands did go on to record. Mostly, I just went out to see him at coffeehouses and such.
I think about Ken every time I put on certain records. I cannot help but wonder how such a kind and sweet man could have just died like that, while so many of my less virtuous friends (including myself) seem to keep living. But thoughts of Kenny are always happy ones, because he simply wouldn’t have wanted it an other way.