We were saddened to hear of the passing of Kevin McCreery on September 14 from cancer.
Many will remember Kevin as a fixture in the regional music scene, as his local bands Mach, Love Jones and Feeding the Machine enjoy “legendary” status to those who followed original music in the area during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Kevin’s bands were regulars at the annual Review Music Awards and within the pages of the magazine.
As Kevin’s musicianship grew, so did his profile in the music industry. He gained national and international attention as a member of Tantric and with Uncle Kracker. In fact, Kevin toured right up until the end of his life, with his final gig with Uncle Kracker falling on August 21, 2017 – the same day as the solar eclipse.
Very fitting for “our star.”
The outpouring of sentiment from those who knew Kevin or played with him has been overwhelming, as he clearly made countless friends along his journey and very few adversaries. He was cherished as much “as a guy” as he was as a musician.
Songwriter Donny Brown was a contemporary of McCreery’s, one whose career also has had multiple chapters, beginning with being brave enough to try to play original music right here in the Bay City / Saginaw area.
As Brown put it, “Kevin was one of the guys who made everyone think it was possible. When he was with Fran MacMillan and Eric Link in Mach, they were the first ones to really say ‘this is our band, we are going to play our songs.’ It was very inspirational to a lot of people.”
MacMillan, who had the longest running musical partnership with McCreery, could remember the first time he saw the guitarist play.
“Eric and I were playing a show in Mecosta. Milestone was one of the other bands on the bill. We didn’t know him, but Kevin was the guitar player in that band. They opened with Crazy Train and Kevin just nailed the solo. I just looked at Eric and we knew we had to have him as our guitarist. But. we didn’t know how to find him. A few months later a woman I was working with at McDonald’s suggested I get together with her nephew Kevin, because ‘she heard he was pretty good.’ So, I found him again. That was January 1983 and we never looked back.”
MacMillan went further in describing his musical admiration for his long-time friend.
“I’ve always referred to him as all my favorite guitarists rolled into one. You would literally hear him throw an ‘Ace Frehley’ lick into the middle of a ‘King’s X’ type song we were writing. He had such a broad spectrum of music he could work with. And he was a great guy to play with. He was my guitarist for more than 30 years. I don’t know what it is going to be like without him.”
Bassist Bruce LaFrance had nearly as long a run with McCreery, playing in Love Jones and Feeding the Machine, but also joining Kevin as members of Tantric. It was with this band that the two first toured extensively, including international stages and the privilege of entertaining active duty troops abroad.
Described LaFrance, “Kevin was like a brother to me and, honestly, that meant sometimes we didn’t see eye to eye. In fact, we both would look back and laugh about times when I threatened to take him outside after a show and kick his a** out of general principle. But, in reality, we toured the world together. We grew as musicians together. And we grew as friends and as men. And through it all on stage it was always pure fire, pure chemistry. Something that comes along very rarely, if ever, in a band or musician’s lifetime.”
Review Magazine editor & publisher Robert Martin recalls the non-assuming nature Kevin possessed when discussing each of the ground-breaking endeavors he was involved with. “I was fortunate to interview Kevin upon numerous occasions over the years, and was always eager to showcase his talent at our annual Music Awards Ceremony. When I first heard Love Jones, I knew they were totally unique and original in the sense that as an instrumentally-based trio, there were not that many around that could carry the weight. You had Raymond happening in Saginaw and Mr. Hyde out of Midland, but Kevin was so talented that he could fuse numerous styles in a manner that was clearly defined and completely his own. And he was never boastful about his talent, but always enthusiastic about it. His earnestness was infectious.”
Guitarist John Dinsmoore, long-time friend of McCreery’s, began his own varied musical journey around the same time as McCreery. He offered a couple of very specific remembrances of Kevin and the inspiration that he had continued to provide, even though time and distance sometimes got in the way of hanging out like they once were able.
Said Dinsmoore, “You know, he made it. He never quit rocking. I just remember when he was touring and he would post pictures of his rigs at these stadiums. I just remember the look of accomplishment in his face; he was happy.”
Dinsmoore also highlighted another well-known facet of McCreery’s personality and that was his Christian faith.
As Dinsmoore recounted, “I remember running spotlight for Mach at Harpo’s when I was about 21. On the way home, Kevin and I talked about God. I remember going by that huge monument of Jesus (on I-75), the one that says, ‘Are you on the right road?’
“I always think of Kevin every time I drive by it.”
Kevin Paul McCreery is survived by his daughters; Kinley and Lacey McCreery, one grandson; Greyson Cecil, his "adopted" daughter; Madesyn Betz, his sisters; Vicki McCreery (Blake), Stephanie Irish, and Melissa Girard along with his brother-in-law; Mike Blake. He was 53 years old.
He also leaves behind an exceptional body of recorded work, including a solo album that was near completion at the time of his passing. According to those we spoke to for this article, efforts are underway to finish up the final touches on this project and release it in his memory sometime within the next year.
We will let you know when details are available.