May 04, 2011 - By Allan Nahajewski
|Floyd King & the Bushwackers in action: from left, Maggie Ferguson, Jim Bizer and Dennis Kingsbury. (click for larger version)|
Special Writer for The Review
You won't find him in the Lake Orion phone book, but living in the village on a gravel road for the past 26 years is one of the legends of Michigan's folk music scene.
The one and only Floyd King.
In recent years, Floyd King & the Bushwackers have performed at sold-out folk venues in Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Livonia, Port Huron, Port Sanilac, Lexington, Remus and Houghton Lake. The group's high-voltage acoustic "party gospel" music leaves listeners smiling with their feet tapping.
On stage, Floyd has a commanding presence. Off stage, his true identity emerges. In real life, Floyd is the shy and quiet Dennis Kingsbury, a retired computer analyst who lives with his wife of 34 years, Annette.
Kingsbury, 64, adopted the Floyd King persona 20 years ago during a time when he was developing an interest in blues music. "If you're a blues musician, you just can't be Dennis Kingsbury," he says.
He grew up on a farm near St. Anthony, Iowa, and has loved music as long as he can remember. "I used to sing Gene Pitney songs while on my tractor," he recalls. "My neighbors would say they could hear me from a half-mile away."
Seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show cemented his interest in music. He got his first guitar in 1964 and played in the high school swing band and in a duo before moving to Michigan at age 19.
He continued his musical journey as part of a folk trio while a student at Oakland University and was in a rock band throughout the 1970s and the early '80s.
The birth of the Bushwackers took place in November of 2001 at a songwriters' retreat in Harbor Springs. Kingsbury invited fellow songwriters, including current Bushwacker Jim Bizer, to join him in an impromptu one-night band – Floyd King and the Hallelujah Choir. Two years later, Kingsbury and Bizer joined forces with singers Maggie Ferguson and Denise Marie Stein, and the result was musical magic – high-energy acoustic music with stunning harmonies. "It's been pure joy to be able to play with such accomplished singers and musicians," says Kingsbury. "They can take my wildest ideas and do even more with them than I ever imagined."
In 2008, the group recorded its first CD, with Kingsbury playing guitar, mandolin, Dobro, octave mandolin, bass and harmonica, in addition to singing. Today, the group performs as a trio. Stein succumbed to leukemia in 2009. "A loss beyond words," says Kingsbury.
Over the years, Kingsbury has written more than 200 songs. He says his inspiration comes from real places and events. One of the Bushwacker crowd-pleasers is a song called Castaway Bar. "One of my neighbors gave me a newspaper article about a tavern in Palm Bay, Fla., that was destroyed by a hurricane," he says. "The bar had live bluegrass music every Wednesday night for 30 years. I thought that would make a good story for a song."
Kingsbury's says his songwriting style and method was influenced by Marc Cohn's first CD in 1991. "I listened to that CD every day for six months," he says. "Before then, I would start writing a song with a guitar riff. Now I always start with the story." He spends weeks polishing each song.
Bushwacker shows include a heavy dose of Kingsbury originals, mixed in with some spirituals, humor, surprising turns and lots of energy. "Unlike a lot of folk music, we're not very introspective," he says. "I like to think that we're playing into a 90 mph wind," he says.
For song samples and videos, to buy a CD or check on upcoming shows, visit www.floydkingmusic.com .