Injured Trumpeter Gets By with a Little Help from his Friends

Injured Trumpeter Gets By with a Little Help from his Friends

by STEPHANIE POWERS | August 21, 2018

Even if you’re not a Tampa Bay music scenester, if you’ve been to a show around town in the last decade there’s a good chance you’ve been at a show that horn-player Kenny Pullin has performed. He plays and has played trumpet in some of the Bay area’s most celebrated bands including Poetry N’ Lotion, Magadog and Have Gun, Will Travel. Pullin got injured recently at his house remodeling and restoration day job and was forced to take a short break from music, and work. Creative Pinellas talked with Pullin about his accident, his Tampa music history and getting engaged at Gasparilla Music Festival.


Tell us about your accident.
I was restoring the exterior of a home in Seminole Heights, and lost my footing on a roof. I attempted to leap onto an extension ladder, unsuccessfully, and fell head first, approximately 9 feet, onto a concrete slab. By some miracle, I was able to fling my head and shoulder upward at the point of impact and was spared any head or spinal trauma. I did, however, suffer 2 broken ribs and collapsed a lung. Amusing side note: as I was writhing in agony, an older dreadlocked gentleman came over from Giddens Park ,where I often played as a child, to offer assistance by making himself available to be my connect for future street-level purchase of Percocet, which I graciously declined, but he did slide my cell phone to me so that I could call for help, which I really appreciated.
How has recovery been? Are you insured?
I’m about 6 weeks into my recovery and my pain is very manageable these days. I’m still about two weeks out from doing any strenuous labor.  I am uninsured, and am currently filing with Medicaid and Hillsborough County for assistance with my hospital costs.  Also, a friend of mine started a GoFundMe page which has helped tremendously to cover my bills and day to day expenses while I’m disabled.
How did you start playing music?
I first played in concert band at Oak Grove in 7th grade. [Teacher] Mr. Shaffner is someone whose inspiration still lives on in me today. I started on flute, because we didn’t have a lot of money, and instrument rentals can be expensive. But then after I begged my parents to let me try trumpet, because I was getting bullied at the bus stop with my little flute case, they acquiesced. I played in marching band for 8th and 9th grades at Middleton Jr. High, which was a lot of fun, but then my tastes in music led me to play guitar, drums and more until 1994 when I picked up the trumpet again. Great decision, by the way, as I don’t have much gear to set up.
What bands have you been in?
I have been a member of Sugardaddy, d’Visitors, Magadog, The Apes, Rocksteady@8, Synergy in a Cup, and Gwan Massive. I have been a regular guest for Tribal Style, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Basiqs, and I have been an occasional guest with Dynasty, Jinx, The Rukus, Kenosobi, Breakdown, Florida Night Heat, Swamp Logic, Brand New Opiates, The Pauses, and once even sat in with The Walkmen.
What bands are you currently in?
Poetry ‘n Lotion, Rocksteady@8, The Holy Terror (John Nowicki’s New Project), Gwan Massive, and of course I (still) occasionally sit in with Tribal Style and Have Gun, Will Travel.
When can you start playing music again?
I’ve already started practicing again. I was very relieved when my doctor told me that playing trumpet would be beneficial to my lung’s recovery. I should be able to start gigging again soon.
What was your favorite show you’ve ever played?
There’s no way I can resist mentioning many memorable shows, but my favorite would have to be Poetry n’ Lotion performing (The Beatle’s album) Abbey Road for my mother’s birthday. Also notable PnL shows were a Devo (tribute) and Rocky Horror. d’Visitors 10-year show at Ella’s was incredible, as was the Amy Winehouse tribute at the Hub. Magadog opening for the English Beat was epic, as well. With Tribal Style, I’ve been fortunate to meet and open for legends like Toots, the Marleys, Yellowman, the Wailers, Don Carlos and Steel Pulse.  I’ve been fortunate to have played many Rock The Parks, which makes me very proud because I love my hometown, my favorite being Gwan Massive’s recent Prodigy tribute. Also, with the Gwans, we’ve opened for De La Soul, and did A Tribe Called Quest tribute just before Phife passed. One year we were invited to play Crowbar for Old Dirty Sundays Anniversary, and I look into the crowd, and there’s Charlie Chase, hip-hop pioneer and legend, enjoying himself watching us! Or the time Tribal Style played the James Brown Festival in Augusta, and the Godfather’s tenor sax player joined us on stage. There I was yelling out key changes to Brown’s saxophonist! I may never make big money doing this, or achieve great fame, but if I were to die tomorrow, I’d feel content that I’ve experienced things I would’ve never imagined or expected. Do something you love and have passion for, it makes life’s hardships so much more tolerable!
What was your favorite show you’ve ever attended?
Once again, I can’t just mention one show, but my hands-down favorite would be David Bowie’s Sound+ Vision tour at Jacksonville Coliseum. My buddy Gabe and I camped out from 5 a.m.and were front row center, the show was general admission. He played sax in our faces during TVC15 and even shook our hands! I also camped out for six days outside of the Tampa Theatre to get 4th row (Paul) McCartney tix at the old Sombrero. Next would be Jane’s Addiction at the Masquerade on 19th St, or meeting Bootsy Collins outside of the Ritz when his Rubber Band were Deee-Lite’s house band. Or the dozen times I’ve seen Elvis Costello, or the five times I saw Living Colour. Run-DMC at The Rubb, or meeting Rakim at Jannus. Lee Fields at Crowbar. So many ODS- definitely the night Mos Def and Talib Kweli rocked it, and that Rob Swift show way back when, and Dj Kool Red Alert, and Diamond D spinning all 45s. Ok, I’ll stop there.
Tell us about your GMF engagement.
The funny thing is that about a week before the big day, my now fiancé, Nancy, and I were taking an Uber to a friend of ours’ birthday party. In the back seat, she tells me that if and when I propose, just don’t do it in front of a lot of people. Well, I had been planning it for a while, lots of our friends were coming just for that occasion, PnL had practiced the song for months, and I had about a half dozen spies making sure that Nancy didn’t go get a drink or use the bathroom during the song, and Bowie had just passed so I had to do it, no matter what! Since “Be My Wife” is somewhat obscure tune, Nancy was caught completely by surprise when I sang those lyrics on one knee with a ring in my hand, as were those in the crowd who weren’t already in the know. Shortly thereafter, Charles Bradley (R.I.P.) was giving me marriage advice backstage. Certainly a show I’ll never forget!
What does your musical future entail?
Look for me to be playing some shows with The Holy Terror, as well as an encore performance of The Last Waltz with Have Gun, Will Travel and friends at the Palladium on October 6. I’m also pleased to be starting a new ska band with old and new friends – be on the lookout for The Meteorites!

If you’d like to help with Kenny Pullin’s medical bills, you can donate at his Go Fund Me page.

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