By Rick Coates
Since hitting the big time with Kid Rock over 12 years ago, Kenny Olson has always made a point to return home to Traverse City once a year to jam. This year is no exception.
Olson, who left Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band five years ago to pursue solo projects, will be back on Sunday, July 3 for one show at Union Street Station.
Olson is currently working on several projects since relocating to Nashville a couple of years ago. He has become a major part of the Nashville music scene by hosting an almost weekly Kenny Olson and Friends jam sessions, where A-list music stars join him on stage when they are in town recording or touring. Paul Rodgers of Bad Company, Buddy Guy, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Doors Down, Chaka Chan and some of Jimi Hendrix’s former band mates among others have all joined him.
“It has been pretty cool and a lot of fun,” said Olson. “I have been getting encouragement to turn this into a record and a tour and now that is happening.”
The idea of recording with these legendary performers hit home for Olson when two of his friends passed away.
“I guess I took it for granted jamming all the time with Buddy Miles and Mitch Mitchell, who were in Hendrix band and we toured and did these Hendrix’s tribute shows with others. Then in just a few months a part from each other, they passed on,” said Olson. “Mitch passed on my birthday and I guess it was a message to start recording an album.”
Olson is not at liberty to name names yet but several heavy hitters have promised to play on his album and join him when possibly on a tour.
“Originally it was going to be Kenny Olson and Friends but that has changed to the Kenny Olson Cartel,” said Olson. “I will say this, the legendary Paris Delane will be doing the bulk of the vocals. I can’t say anything more now but Paris will be coming with me to Traverse City on July 3 and I will have a few more surprises for that night as well.”
Delane was the leader of the south side Chicago subway gospel-blues-rockers Sonia Dada. He grew up in a neighborhood where statistically, young black men didn’t live past the age of 16, but Delane had a deep gospel voice and his trio would perform around the subways of Chicago. Legend had it they pulled in $1,000 plus a day.
Eventually they were discovered and the group ended up singing “The Ballad of the Bulls” that was the Chicago Bulls theme song during their championship years. Delane even got to perform the song on the Oprah Winfrey show in front of Michael Jordan and the rest of the Bulls players.
Delane has toured throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia with his album going triple platinum. He has won a Cleo award and is featured on the movie soundtrack for “Nothing to Lose” starring Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins, and also the Soundtrack for the movie “Waterproof” starring Burt Reynolds, April Grace, Orlando Jones and Ja’net Dubois.
He has had the opportunity to perform with many greats over the years and Keith Richards considers him among the best American vocalists. He caught up with Olson a few years ago and they immediately connected.
“It was a funny thing; I had been recording all day and a friend of mine said, ‘come on let’s go out I want you to meet one of the all time great guitar players.’ Of course I chuckled because I have been on stage singing with Keith Richards and Carlos Santana, so I was curious as to who this cat was,” said Delane. “When we arrived I was mesmerized. Kenny asked me if I would come and join him and we did something I have never been able to do before. We just started writing a bunch of songs right on stage. he would play and I would just start singing lyrics. It was amazing, people afterwards were asking how long we had been together.”
Delane just chuckles when asked what those lucky enough to get tickets for the July 3 show should expect.
“I am not sure what we are going to do but I will say this: it will be magical,” said Delane. “I am coming into Traverse City earlier in the week so we have some fun rehearsing and we will put on a show for the people. I can’t wait. I love Michigan and I know what a great musical state it is, plus I have some friends up that way.”
To see the Kenny Olson Cartel contact Union Street Station for tickets at 231-941-1930. Doors open at 8 pm on July 3 and Olson said they plan to hit the stage early.