Shiny Heads Productions have teamed up with SCALA (Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association) to honour the life and contribution to music of Adelaide songwriter, Howard Kehl.

A team of Howie’s friends and colleagues have banded together to continue Howard’s mentorship legacy by creating the ‘Howard Kehl Rock Music Development Award’ as part of SCALA’s annual Festival Of Original Music Song Competition.

The gig, aptly named Howie’s Kick Off, is on Sunday, September 11 and the line up consists of local talent like Vince Contarino, Dino Jag, Catherine Blanch, Grant ‘Kanga’ Thiele, Kevan Keeler and Luis Saez-Sanchez along with members of Poundcake, Amberlist, Almost Human, FastMotor and Portrait all performing songs written and/or performed by Howard Kehl.

Howie's Kick Off Crew4.1 CSue Hedley 2016
The cast of Howie’s Kick Off

We spoke with Vince Contarino, from Led Zeppelin tribute band Zep Boys, who had a long and close friendship with Howie, and he reflected on how that friendship began.

“Howard was a very good friend of mine and I met him back in the very early 1980s. I used to be in an original band called The Dukes and we used to play all around town and around the country and Howie was in a band that used to support us, called Almost Human. Howard used to operate the monitors, and at every gig, we would have a chat and share a laugh. He was such a charming guy. He was also a very talented drummer,” Vince says.

Vince Contarino

“When The Dukes split up, he said he wanted to put together a couple of gigs with a bunch of musicians. That was in about 1984 and I’d been touring as a professional musician since 1978. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I spent six years on the road touring, and at 24 years of age, I was almost burnt out. So when Howard offered me a chance to do something just for fun, I was really keen. We lived close together in Glenelg and I would go and visit him at his place while he was writing songs.

“Almost Human were a real glam rock band, but Howard had a really varied taste in music. Not only did we laugh a lot, because he was a bloody funny guy, always quick with a gag, he also loved his music and he would take songs and rearrange them. In our band Portrait, we took a Cliff Richard song and really rocked it out.”

Although Howie passed away last year, he and his influence on so many musicians, is not forgotten, which is why Vince wanted to commemorate his life by creating a legacy in the way of an award.

Howard Kehl - Image by Catherine Blanch - Howie's Kick Off
Howard Kehl

“We had a beautiful friendship and when he passed away, it was very, very sad. It was sad for a lot of people and I thought, if I’m feeling like this, so must many other people so a few of us got together and I said to Dino that I would love to create some sort of award in memory of Howard,” he says.

“Howard is like so many musicians in Adelaide where they may be unknown, but their contribution is intense and so valuable. His influence carried and helped people with their careers, but he wasn’t in the limelight. I thought there was some sort of justice in honouring Howard with the award, because he represents so many of us.”

Vince will be performing with fellow musicians who have played in bands with Howard, and his set list will be a fitting tribute for his friend.

“I’m going to play some songs from the Portrait shows he put together way back in 1984. He was into Whitesnake, so I’m going to do some Whitesnake. I’ll get Dino and whoever else wants to get up to do a Beatles song for a bit of fun,” he says.

“I know all the people I will be playing with and have known them for many, many years. I taught my guitarist! I taught him guitar and singing, and I wish I could play guitar like him! The bass player was in Portrait, and the first time he every performed live was those gigs with Howard. And I’ve known Dino forever. I know all the boys, so it’ll be fun because we’re all together and we’ll be celebrating our mate.”

Howie’s Kick Off is at The Gov from 1pm on Sun 11 Sep.
 Tickets are $16 + $4 booking fee online or $25 at the door.

By Libby Parker

Photos supplied