Michael Heiden, Alison Hogan, Michael Dunn, Kitty King: Vancouver East Cultural Centre
The Kitsilano Kat Kickers gathered at the Soft Rock Cafe in Vancouver one blustery night in February of 1979. What started out as a casual jam quickly became a tight quartet specializing in a unique blend of Hot Club swing: Django Reinhardt meets Billie Holiday, with a little Dan Hicks, a smattering of Tom Waits, and a couple of country weepers thrown in for good measure.
Our timing couldn’t have been better: the previous year had seen the beginnings of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and we got hired to kick off the second one. Not only were we given a choice spot on the Friday night main stage at Jericho Beach Park, but we appeared on the cover of Friday’s Vancouver Sun Leisure section, got invited to play at the press conference prior to the festival, and performed at the wrap party at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
By the end of 1979 we were in fine form, and were building a loyal fan base who loved our quirky style. We eventually had to come up with a more politically correct name because some people actually believed that we were all about abusing cats. (!) For the more posh sort of engagements (for which the boys would don their white dinner jackets) we became Mystery Pacific, which is the name of a Django tune.
The most memorable gigs were a cocktail party at City Hall for the Russian consul, opening for Jose Feliciano at the Commodore Ballroom, our first anniversary concert at the Soft Rock (where MC Gary Christall asked the SRO crowd to give us a standing ovation before we played a single note…) and playing the opening slot for Stephane Grappelli at the Courtenay Civic Theatre on Vancouver Island.
What a thrill it was to get to meet the man whose music we loved so much! He and his band got hopelessly lost in the wilds of the Comox Valley, so we had to keep playing in order to fill in the time as the frantic promoter paced back and forth backstage. Did we ever celebrate after that show!
Click on the cartoon below to see some souvenirs…
Cartoon by Richard Eli Harrington