When a Kinks Gig Was Promoted by a Serial Killer… Wait, What?

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kink4In the annals of the strange associations forged by classic rock, few are as bizarre as this one on The Kinks‘ ill-starred debut U.S. tour that ultimately caused them to be banned from playing the States by the American Federation of Musicians until 1969. The fifth date of the trek was a hastily arranged and poorly attended concert on June 23, 1965, at the Illinois State Armory in Springfield. This particular Kinks concert was promoted by the local chapter of the Jaycees and its vice president, a pudgy shoe salesman named John Wayne Gacy, the same man who was later convicted for the serial murders of 33 young men and boys.

After the show Gacy invited the band to stay at his house, and they went there and had some drinks. Accounts vary, but it was either an odd smell to the place, Gacy’s strange vibe or the shine their drunken host took to Dave Davies (or all of the above), but the group opted to get hotel rooms rather than spend the night.

Ray Davies was asked about the circumstances, in a 2014 interview with Loudersound. “I didn’t stick around, but I think [our bassist] Pete Quaife hung out there,” he said. “I don’t know what the guy claimed to be at that time. You’d meet a lot of people like that, hanging out with promoters. That could have been a potentially scary time. I’ve worked with a lot of dodgy people in my time, without knowing their connections.”

Two years later, their host sexually assaulted a teenage boy and was ultimately sentenced to ten years in prison. Gacy was considered a model prisoner and was granted parole, with probation in 1970. Less than a year later, he was again charged with sexual assault but when the male victim failed to show up in court, they charges were dismissed. His first known murder took place in 1972 and throughout much of the decade, he went on a killing spree. He was brought to trial on Feb. 6, 1980, and charged with 33 murders, and subsequently was found guilty later that year. He was executed in 1994.

At one point, Gacy was a children’s entertainer known as Pogo the Clown and created and sold paintings of himself as Pogo during his 14 years on death row. It adds an eerie irony to Dave’s 1967 song “Death of a Clown.”

Let’s all drink to the death of a clown

In 1969 the Kinks returned to America to promote their album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), after a four-year touring ban by the American Federation of Musicians.

Related: Things have quieted down regarding new Kinks’ new material

The Kinks’ recordings, including several recent compilations, are available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

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  1. Joe
    #1 Joe 16 February, 2017, 14:02

    Sorry to tell y’all , but he didn’t buy the house until about 1971. I grew up on that block and had been in the house with previous owner. What were the kinks on in ’65???

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    • Chet Tompkins
      Chet Tompkins 23 June, 2023, 11:07

      Yes, Joe, this whole thing is inaccurate and exaggerated. Gacy was part of the group that sponsored the concert, but the band never went to his house so they never smelled anything strange. Just another concoction somebody later made up to tie the events together.

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  2. Eandtee
    #2 Eandtee 24 June, 2017, 02:07

    Why were they banned?

    I saw them in the late 60s in NYC at a Schaffer (beer) concert in Central Park. It remains one of my all time favorite concerts!

    Reply this comment
    • Mike
      Mike 18 October, 2017, 02:06

      Always jealous when I hear of folks who saw the bands I grew up on so early. I didn’t get to see them til the 80s at MSG and Brendan Byrne Arena. They definitely put on some of the best rock shows I ever saw. Shame they broke up and never reunited.

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