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Kenny Aronoff

by Kathryn Boughton

When Kenny Aronoff was still “just a skinny kid from Stockbridge, (MA)” in 1964, the Beatles descended on America, making their debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a transformative moment for him. “I wanted my mom to call and get me a job with the Beatles,” Aronoff said this week as he waited in a Los Angles airport for John Fogerty to arrive so they could take a private jet to their next gig. “I wanted to be a rock star. When I realized I couldn’t be in the Beatles, I started my own band.”

Aronoff never was a Beatle, but in what he calls “a beautiful bookend” to the story, a year ago he played with the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, in The Night that Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles commemorating the 50th anniversary of their appearance on Sullivan’s show. In between, he has played with virtually every significant rock artist of the 20th century—Fogerty, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bob Seger, Melissa Etheridge, Smashing Pumpkins, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Elton John, Santana, Ray Charles, Jon Bon Jovi … well, you get the picture.

“Being a rock star is not like you think about it - sex, drugs and rock and roll, yeah, that’s part of it, but a real rock star has to step above that,” he said. “I wanted to be a rock star, but how do you do that? Who do you talk to? There were no role models.”

Aronoff is now trying to be that role model, not only for budding rock stars, but also for others wondering how to achieve their dreams. He will appear at the Mahaiwe Theater Sunday, August 23 at 7PM in An Evening with Kenny Aronoff, talking about his strategies for a successful life and career. He will also tell stories about performing with the last century’s biggest musicians, about playing for four presidents and appearing in venues such as the Kennedy Center Honors and the biggest stadiums around the world. Tickets are $25 to $40.

According to Aronoff, becoming a rock star is not the hard part- it is staying on top that is the challenge. “The key ingredient is how do you go a step above that?” he said.

The answer would be familiar to Horatio Alger: you work, then you work some more. “It’s one thing to be successful,” he said. “I want to educate people about how to stay successful.”

“Your present is your future,” he continued. “All the Oscars, Grammies, meeting four presidents, the kids screaming for our bands - that doesn’t do anything for my future. Every day, I have walked a couple of miles in the direction that will be my future. Everyone gets unhappy and disillusioned when things don’t seem to be happening fast enough, but great things don’t happen immediately. And once you do make it, you have to continue to do those things that got you there.”

Aronoff’s appearance is part of the Storyteller’s series being offered this summer by the Mahaiwe. Another great musical storyteller, Graham Nash, is also part of the series, appearing Saturday, August 15 at 8PM. Nash has written more than 200 songs, including such classic hits as Carrie Anne, Our House, Marrakesh Express, and Teach Your Children.

A two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee - with Crosby, Stills, and Nash and with The Hollies - Aronoff was also inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame as a solo artist with CSN and is a Grammy Award winner as well. Nash’s voice continues to be heard in support of peace and social and environmental justice. Tickets are $36 to $81 (including a donation to Nash’s charity, The Guacamole Fund).

For information about programming or for tickets, click the link below or call 413-528-0100. The theater is located at 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA.