Long-time London musician Ken Thorne’s musical journey began in his native England playing the Recorder in elementary school before taking up the Violin and then the Viola in his secondary school’s orchestra.
“I don’t even remember the names of the strings on those instruments. But it was great fun being part of an organized orchestral sound,” he recalls.
The young Thorne joined his family’s Church choir where his musical efforts paid off financially.
“It was a bit mercenary actually as one got paid for singing at weddings and funerals,” he says. “It taught me a lot about vocals.”
A local youth club held Saturday night teenage dances where Ken and his friends could listen to the latest records of the day.
“Just before we came to Canada in November 1962, kids in woodworking class started building their own guitars as everyone was really into the guitar groups like The Shadows. I don’t think any of them were ever playable,” Ken laughs.
The music bug really bit him in Grade 11 at London’s Wheable Secondary School where he befriended guitarist George Attrill who could play tunes, like “Walk Don’t Run” by The Ventures. They decided Ken would get a guitar and play rhythm while George would play lead.
“Dad got me a Kent guitar and a small amplifier from Eaton’s. I paid a schoolmate a pack of cigarettes to teach me the E chord, so I could play the song “Bo Diddley” by Ronnie Hawkins. I thought it was great that you could play a song made up of one chord,” Ken recalls.
In 1963, the British Invasion spearheaded by The Beatles and Rolling Stones hit the airwaves. For teenage Ken Thorne, it was a defining moment.
“One just had to learn to play those tunes you heard everyday and lots of guys got into guitar-playing and forming little cliques. Some even had the aim of playing music. George and I recruited a singer and drummer and learned enough songs to bluff our way through a Teen Town gig in the basement of All Saints Church on Hamilton Road. We were called The Tek-niques and it soon became a regular occurrence.”
Following The Tek-niques came A Small Experience with Ken on rhythm guitar and vocals, George Attrill, lead guitar and vocals, Rob Pugh, bass guitar and vocals, and well-known London drummer Graham Lear, who would go on to play with the likes of George Olliver, Santana and Paul Anka.
“We played British and American rock cover tunes while most of the other bands in London were into the Soul R & B thing,” says Ken.
They played University Frat Houses, Wonderland Gardens and the teen dance circuit in halls and arenas.
Eventually Ken was told by his parents that he had to get a “real” job, and the band dissolved shortly afterwards.
“I ended up working at London Life Insurance Company and then left that and returned to University and Teacher’s College, eventually taking a position in Elgin County to teach Science and Math to grades 7 and 8.”
A call from Rob Pugh in 1973 led to the formation of a new band called Daybreak that worked the Southwestern Ontario arena and dance hall circuit and local bars for 23 years before folding in 1996.
Ken’s present band, Tom Cat Prowl, was formed in 1996. The lineup consists of Ken on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chet Risser, lead guitar, Robert Keener, bass guitar and vocals and Gene Vandevyvere on drums and vocals.
“We mainly play danceable Rock’n Roll music,” says Ken. “All of our songs are recognizable and great for audience participation and sing-alongs.”
Ken also does solo “Acoustic Rock’n Roll” performances which give him an opportunity to play different tunes from the group format.
In addition, he belongs to a mentoring group called Ruby Tuesdays (organized by Jake Levesque, another long-time London musician), which meets once a week to give interested musicians opportunities to develop their performing skills in front of others.
Calling himself a self-taught Rock’n Roll guy, Ken likes well structured organic songs that tell a good story and have an identifiable hook with a good melody and harmonies.
In 2015 Ken released a solo CD of 10 personally written and arranged tracks titled “Red Light Go.” It can be downloaded from CD Baby and other streaming sites.
When not performing, Ken keeps busy with his online business, Thorne’s Insect Shoppe Ltd., importing and exporting specimens of dead, dried insects to collectors, institutions and artistic workers all around the world. Visit https://thornesinsects.com/ for more information.
Asked if he ever considered making music his full-time job, Ken replied: “I’ve always considered myself a part-time professional musician. I just did not run off on the road and get stuck in that rut with all its pitfalls. I have many interests and things to do, so I strive for a nice balance in life. This way I meet so many wonderful people, have fun and keep it going.”
Readers can go to the Tom Cat Prowl website — www.tomcatprowl.com — to check out the band’s upcoming gigs and they can contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on a mailing list for news of his solo performances.
This story originally appeared in the monthly online publication, Aging Well. To subscribe to Aging Well, contact Pat Moauro at email@example.com