Kenny Passarelli played trumpet in the Denver Junior Police Band before picking up the bass guitar as a teenager. He was in college at the University of Denver and headed toward a career in law (his father’s desire) until a meeting with Stephen Stills changed his life. He played as part of a Colorado band called Beast and then became a founding member of Barnstorm with Joe Walsh, co-writing the 1973 hit “Rocky Mountain Way.” An early adopter of the fretless bass, he replaced Dee Murray in the Elton John band in 1975, playing on the albums Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves. He then joined the Hall and Oates band and appeared on the albums Along the Red Ledge and Livetime. He also played and toured with Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills and a variety of big-name musicians. In the mid-1980s, Kenny cut back his road schedule and reinvented himself as a pianist and composer. He wrote and recorded a bilingual piece that he performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. He also produced and toured with blues guitarist Otis Taylor. Kenny lived in Santa Fe and Mexico City before returning to Denver in 2009.
Kenny talks with G. about performing as a youth at LBJ’s inauguration (3:05), picking up the bass guitar (5:36), getting busted (9:57), meeting Steve Stills (11:57), losing a gig with CSN (14:13), connecting with Joe Walsh (15:40), the birth of Barnstorm (17:44), composing “Rocky Mountain Way” (20:52), switching to the fretless bass (22:50), playing with Dan Fogelberg (23:20), joining the Elton John band (27:38), working with Hall & Oates (34:18), auditioning for a role in Saturday Night Fever (36:29) and producing Otis Taylor and other acts (40:08).