Kevin Donaker-Ring, center stage

Kevin 1 guitar collthumbThere’s “friends” and then there’s friends. Although the specifics of how Kevin and I met have been muddied by time, I’m now thinking it was early 1976, at a La Jolla Shores beach party.

My memory stems from the fact that I had wanted Kevin to go to Wings with me and that was June (rescheduled from May) 1976. He already had a guitar and amp and was taking lessons, but a lot of the connection was over a shared love of music, starting with The Beatles and later Cheap Trick, The Zombies and many others. Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” was always a particular favorite. He didn’t make it to Wings, but we did manage to catch Queen with Thin Lizzy soon after.

From almost the moment we began hanging out, we talked about starting a band.

And we did.

Kevin 2 SpythumbKevin 3 Anthony MeynellthumbKevin 4 at the MarqueethumbKevin 5 DS 2thumb

It was Mike Rice, with his wonderful speech at the Secret Society 25th Anniversary show, who really got me thinking about how long Kevin and I have been friends and making music together. Starjammer, The Pedestrians, Manual Scan and The Shambles. Thirty-three years (and counting) is the sort of number that makes you sit back and take stock. :-)

Read more about the Secret Society reunion …

His guitar playing is wonderful. Yeah, great tone and all the technical stuff, but what I really love is his sense of melody, which makes his solos particularly amazing. My personal favorites include “Blurs Somewhere” with its series of fret runs and “Rain” which plays off nicely against Bill Calhoun’s keyboards, but there are lots of contenders. In our playing together, at this point, it’s an almost psychic connection.

It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am without having somebody as great (and cool) as Kevin in my life. Although work and distance do not allow for us to hang out like we used to, there’s no reason to think we can’t have another 33 years of music to make. I’m looking forward to that!

KEVIN 6 DSthumbKevin 7 90sthumbKevin 8 2581thumbKevin 9@SOMAthumbDetail: David Klowden, Kevin Donaker-Ring and Jerry Cornelius (collection Bart Mendoza)

Here’s a collection of photos of Kevin spanning a little over a decade, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s.

1) Kevin and his collection of guitars
2) A promo pic circa the Enigma Records era
3) From a proof sheet, Kevin and Anthony Meynell of Squire at Christ Lutheran Church in 1985
4) Kevin and David Klowden at The Marquee, London 1991
5) An outtake from the “Days & Maybes” session
6) An outtake from the “Days & Maybes” session
7) I haven’t a clue where this is from, but I like the pic …
8 ) At our home away from home, 2581
9) At the original SOMA, downtown
10) This was posted once before, but I felt it belonged here as well, an early shot of Kevin, David Klowden and Jerry Cornelius.

— Bart Mendoza

More from the Mendoza Collection:

Check out related bands, people, venues and gigs!
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The Penetrators

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29 Responses to “Kevin Donaker-Ring, center stage”

  1. gary heffern Says:

    Well THIS made me smile this morning. What a wonderful thing to do Bart! It’s no secret that I am a fan of both you and Kevin, and Manual Scan. Anyone that has seen you guys throughout the years (well i know I saw a few years of it with some time gaps in between!)
    can see the special bond you guys have…and its real…long may you run!

  2. Paul Kaufman Says:

    Cheers and best wishes to both Bart and Kevin! Having seen the evidence in person in May, I can say that you guys are rocking better now than ever. Here’s to the next 33 years!

  3. Mmrothenberg Says:

    Thirty-three years is an amazing accomplishment.

    When I introduced Scan at our Che Games evenings in May 2009, I remarked that when I left San Diego in January 1987, Kevin and Bart were already an institution with 11 years of collaboration under their belts. They’ve now tripled that number … As Paul notes, they were great then and probably three times as good now! :-)

    (A little historical perspective: John Lennon met Paul McCartney on July 6, 1957. They recorded together for the last time on August 20, 1969, a skosh more than 13 years later. I’ve stood on supermarket lines longer than that!)

  4. David Lewis Says:

    Nice tribute Bart.

  5. David Rinck Says:

    So I’m here in Monrovia, Liberia for two weeks, and I was kinda feeling a bit blue from walking around in the apocalyptic post-war garbage-strewn streets this morning, and then I came home and read this, and you made my day Bart!

    This is what community is all about! Man, nice tribute, I don’t even love Paul Howland this much!

  6. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>So I’m here in Monrovia, Liberia for two weeks …

    David Rinck: I am in love with any sentence that starts with these words. It does sound hellish … But are there any restaurants?

  7. David Rinck Says:

    I had the best dammed ribs last night here. They came with potato salad and baked beans too!

  8. Mmrothenberg Says:

    Update: Bart provided me with the studio track of the Shambles’ “Blurs Somewhere” featuring Mr. Donaker-Ring. Dave Fleminger just converted it to MP3 format so we can all enjoy it here:

    The Shambles play “Blurs Somewhere”: Listen now!

  9. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>I had the best dammed ribs last night here.

    OK, so, Liberia … Founded in 1847 and ruled for many generations by descendents of freed U.S. slaves … So is soul food a cornerstone of the national cuisine?

    PS: Ten points for anybody who can connect Liberia and Kevin Donaker-Ring into one coherent narrative! :-)

  10. Patrick Works)) Says:

    gotta be coherent?

    I think Charles Taylor sang backing vocals for Scan during their much maligned and oft forgotten “anarchic soul” period.

    I remember they played this gig at the Voodoo Kings clubhouse in SE San Diego, and another at the Black Frog Tavern near Federal Blvd.

    Or was that just a dream?

    Patrick Works
    Creates his own coherence.

  11. David Rinck Says:

    Matthew -- Ten points for anybody who can connect Liberia and Kevin Donaker-Ring into one coherent narrative? I’ll take that! Here goes:

    -- Bart’s story about his friendship with Kevin Donaker-Ring really chased my blues away this morning in Liberia!

    -- After I read Bart’s post, I listened to a couple of songs by Manual Scan with Kevin Donaker-Ring on guitar this morning in Liberia, and the blues were even farther away…

    -- Manual Scan and Kevin-Donaker-Ring should come to Liberia and play a free show! Forget the blues.

    I really mean it, sometimes you guys have got my back in ways you can’t really imagine. This is community, and you guys are my peeps. I love you all!

    BTW Bart and Kevin, if you guys come to Monrovia for that show, man you are gonna DIG the ribs!!!

  12. Mmrothenberg Says:

    To add more Kevin Donaker-Ring to the Kevin Donaker-Ring thread …

    I’ve been very happy for the opportunity to get to know him better this time around. In my interactions with Scan back in the ’80s, Bart was always more the talker (like me)! Bottom line, Kevin and I never really conversed.

    Now, we’ve had a lot more chances to communicate over the past couple years, and I am glad to count him as a real friend. I enjoy his eclectic mind and his generosity of spirit … Music is just one facet of his range of interests and enthusiasms, including the nonprofit academic exchange program he founded.

    Kevin’s and Bart’s collaboration really is enviable. How many people can keep a creative team going for three years, let alone 33? (I bet most of us who play music have been in bands that broke up before they ever played out!) :-)

  13. Simon Says:

    Kevin, were you always Donaker-Ring? In my memory, you’re “Kevin Ring…” Just wondering…

    Very nice tribute, Bart!

    As to Liberia, I know there’s a connection between Kevin and vampire-pirates. I think the narrative possibilities are at least several.

  14. Paul Fehlman Says:

    Cheers Kevin! Nicely done Bart.

  15. Bruce Injection Says:

    JIMS HOUSE OF GUITARS!! Yeah I have a couple of good stories about those guys!!

  16. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>Have we ever done a Guitar/music store thread?

    Tony: Here we go … I need to figure out a way to resurface these subjects gracefully!

    Please, everybody, enjoy. :-)

  17. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>I really mean it, sometimes you guys have got my back in ways you can’t really imagine. This is community, and you guys are my peeps. I love you all!

    Dave Rinck: If you need any kind of Che Underground peacekeeping force over there … We’ll be the ones in the black-leather helmets!

  18. Bruce Injection Says:

    >>”Jim’s House of Guitars was the injections favourite store” Lou Skum.

    >>”Tony: Here we go … I need to figure out a way to resurface these subjects gracefully!

    Please, everybody, enjoy. :-)”

    Thanks MATT. I’ve never heard of that thread!!

  19. ava Says:

    kevin = brother. always. i feel blessed to have him back in my life. and his amazing wife. growing up would have truly been a drag if it hadn’t been for kevin and his equally lovely mother. getting to see her at the park back in may was tremendous.

    bart, nice tribute to your inspiring collaboration. manual scan is still one of my favorite bands to see live!

    (loyal, kind, funny, smart as hell = kevin in a nutshell.)

    dave, ribs in liberia… i think there is a song in there somewhere.

  20. Dave Fleminger Says:

    Great post!

    Like Tony I first got to know Kevin when he was working at Guitar Trader. Although he was half the age of most of the others working at the shop he already had a most impressive knowledge of instruments, music-making, the nuts and bolts of how both guitars -- and songs -- are put together. Then, as now, he’s a whirlwind of phenom energy…a truly gracious, generous soul….along with being a most awesome player and performer!

    I luv those two photos of Kevin with the groovy tools of his trade — his guitars are his well-chosen palette and he unlocks their various colors when he paints his sound….whether it’s a Rickenbacker chime, the classic voices of a Vox AC-30 (he was the first person I ever knew that could control one of those monsters, let alone lift it!), the endlessly switchable variations from 3 Tri-Sonic pickups…and even more impressive, he makes all these sounds his own!

    Among my most immediate and cherished recollections about Manual Scan is that vibe that Bart and Kevin create…their music has always contained that magical chemistry, whether it was at some crazy out of control party, or one of many, many shows, or rehearsing quietly in Kevin’s living room with no PA and towels over the drums.
    They kindly tolerated my numerous disruptive personality foibles during my tenure in the group, and I think the only time I remember Kevin actually losing patience with me was when I insisted on (literally) standing stubbornly stock still by the stove in his kitchen in order to prove that a watched pot does indeed boil.

  21. mcc Says:

    the first keyboard i used in men of clay was hugh isbell’s moog prodigy
    which had it’s charm but was limited in terms of what i wanted out of the thing. when it came time to look at something of my own i went to guitar-trader. there was a very young guy in there at the time, which i’m guessing was kevin. i asked him if he had any used keyboards and he pointed towards the back room. after much rummaging and repeatedly discovering my immediate choices were beyond my budget i discovered two old battered warhorses of a most cantankerous nature towards the very back of the shop and at the bottom of the heap. i asked him if they worked. he actually plugged them in for me. one was a fake vox single-tier organ and the other a majestic clunker of an electric piano…and believe me this thing was ugly. they worked. i immediately fell in love. the price? i asked. he said $40 for both.
    i really think he just wanted to get rid of me to make room for guys looking for vintage vox-amps etc.

    whatever…..he did me right as those things helped comprise my sound even through dogs with masks.

  22. mcc Says:

    okay….it’s possible that i paid $45 for both..or he asked $45 and i said $40…..threatening to look around some more.

    a man’s gotta haggle right?.

  23. Kevin Donaker-Ring Says:




    To all.

    And especially Bart. It is a two-way street, my friend. I’m always in awe of your songwriting abilities, and you continue to be one of my very favorite songwriters. Not to mention, a truly great friend.

  24. Kevin Donaker-Ring Says:

    As to my last name, yes, it used to be just “Ring” — until I married my second wife. (v 2.0)

    Here’s a cut ‘n’ paste of something I put on Facebook regarding the name change. Mostly ’cause I’m too lazy to re-write it:

    So, the Spousal Unit’s last name was “Donaker”. I certainly don’t own her, so she shouldn’t have to take my name. But at the same time, we’re a team, and getting married is a union. A joining together — there should be some way to represent that. My idea was for us to hyphenate our names, and she agreed. (It also greatly pleased her dad, who had only fathered females, so the name lives on. But then we’re not having kids, so there goes that point.) “Donaker-Ring” flowed better than “Ring-Donaker” so that’s the way we went.

    Strangely enough, a few years after we got married we learned that one of her high school friends had done the exact same thing. Though if it were me I would have gone with “Mott-Lee” instead of “Lee-Mott”. I mean c’mon! Who would pass up something like that?

  25. Mmrothenberg Says:

    >>As to my last name, yes, it used to be just “Ring” — until I married my second wife. (v 2.0)

    Kevin: I wanted us both to be “Ono Lennon,” but Nancy nixed it … So the kids both have “Tobin” as their middle names. (I’m “Matthew Tobin” about as often as she’s “Nancy Rothenberg.”) :-)

  26. Bruce Injection Says:

    Couldn’t talk my wife into taking INJECTION as her last name!!

    I kept my name, she kept hers, baby got mine, Perreault. (between the baby and ME, I call her Julia Injection)!!!!!!!!

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