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Interview with an unknown legend

By Jarrett Bellini, CNN
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Interview with Steve Kimock
  • Jerry Garcia once named Steve Kimock one of his favorite unknown guitarists
  • His latest project is the Steve Kimock Crazy Engine
  • Kimock tours with his son, John Morgan Kimock, on drums

(CNN) -- "It was cool on one level, and then on another level it was kind of like getting gum on the bottom of your shoe."

Steve Kimock remembers when the Grateful Dead's legendary front man, Jerry Garcia, hailed him as one of his favorite unknown guitarists. To Kimock, it was surprisingly bittersweet praise: The emerging artist wasn't looking for fortune or fame.

"That doesn't go away," Kimock continues, lamenting Garcia's endorsement. "And there's a certain audience expectation that goes along with that."

Despite any perceived added pressure to perform up to billing, it was certainly due appreciation for this musician who picked up his first six-string as a child.

Ever since he was 10 years old, influenced by the instruments and songs he encountered at his Aunt Dottie's home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the only thing on Kimock's mind has been music. Nearly 50 years later, not much has changed; his road manager revealed that even after a lengthy gig, Kimock still takes a few guitars up to his hotel room to noodle away into the night.

However, Kimock's talent and innovation have managed to go relatively unnoticed throughout the decades. His main fan-base stems primarily from in-the-loop devotees of improvisational rock who have followed his here-there-and-everywhere career, one that has haphazardly placed Kimock on stage with many of the best in the business.

"I think the primary thing might be the complete lack of goal orientation," he says. "I never got my head around the idea that I would be OK being in a situation where the music itself had been formalized into some kind of product. So, as a result, I've just sort of done whatever I felt like."

And that brings us to his latest project, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, a new, rather conscientious endeavor to inject at least some focus and structure into his music, bringing in both a bit of the old and a bit of the new.

"There's less math involved," Kimock says with a grin. "It's a little dancier, a little more straight ahead. It's just not big-production pop."

The lineup includes, most notably, legendary Hammond B3 organist Melvin Seals, widely recognized and acclaimed for his years with the Jerry Garcia Band.

Arguably, though, the real talking point is the inclusion of Kimock's son, John Morgan Kimock, on drums, who, while only in his early 20s, is proving himself night in and night out as a bona fide prodigy.

The wild card in this foursome is bassist Trevor Exter, a talented New York singer-songwriter who Kimock proudly claims they pried away from his cello.

"Trevor and Johnny had a duo gig: cello and drums. And because he was hanging out all the time, playing with Johnny, it was like, that thing's got four strings and that thing's got four strings. Why don't you play that thing."

Exter moved over to bass and the band was complete. Unconventional. Experimental.

It's sort of the Steve Kimock way.