by Kevin Cain
Pattaya Personalities was formed to highlight the rich depth of humanity that exists here in Pattaya, and this month Ken Minahan is our featured personality.
For those of you that are music lovers you will be aware of the name Ken Snowman Minahan as he has been part of the Pattaya Music Scene scene for well over a decade, actually closer to fifteen years.
Snowman has been rocking clubs and stages with his fantastic Blues guitar from Chicago to Pattaya Beach and many places in between. But where did his love of music start from, and how did he end up in Pattaya?
Ken was born and grew up in Chicago where his earliest memories of really starting to listen to music was on Sunday morning after church, down on Maxwell Street.
“ They had what is now called a Flea Market and all the shop owners would have their wares out on the street. They would also provide a space and electric for Blues musicians to perform for tips and help promote business.”
Artists like Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams and the Wolf with the original Butterfield Band were amongst the great Blues players that Ken watched and listened to jamming at Big John's in his formative teens.Then Ken started developing as a guitarist and was soon getting attention for his innovative and fresh playing and soon he was touring regularly and playing live gigs for a living.
Relocating to California in his mid twenties he found getting work as a guitarist increasingly difficult . Saturday Night Fever had just been released and Disco was sweeping the USA and Europe. Good live gigs were becoming increasingly difficult to get and now DJ's and dance floors were exploding onto every major town and city.
After a period of exhausting touring he joined a Vegas showband purely to survive and earned a very lucrative living playing lounges for the gambling fraternity. However, this gave him a perfect opportunity to learn from great Chicago Blues players and stunning headliners from Vegas.
In 1986 Ken was on the move again and relocated, this time with his showband to Miami Beach. He was returning to his first and greatest love and formed the Miami Beach Blues Band playing in the new clubs popping up in the developing South Beach area. It was here that he met Piano Bob Wielder and the duo instantly connected and formed a duo to play pre WW2 Blues.
By 1992, Ken and Piano Bob were collecting award after award for their brilliant live performances which culminated in sweeping the board at the International Blues Competition in Memphis the same year, the most notable award being the B.B. King “Lucille” award. Then in 2001 Ken decided to take some time off and planned a three week holiday to Thailand.
It was during his first week in Bangkok that his love for Asia started and at a suggestion of a friend he found his way down to Jomtien and the sea.He cites this period of his life as; “Being orchestrated by a higher being” By this he meant that during his stay in Jomtien that divine intervention took a hand. He stumbled across a job playing music in a band and a place to live. He even took his latest CD into a studio to get copied and was offered a part time job two days a week playing in the studio.
Thus Ken became a regular musician at Pattaya's famous Blues Factory and stayed for 11 years, previously unheard of, until it's sad demise a couple of years ago. Again fate took a hand and Peter Windgasse who was a regular customer at the Blues Factory put a suggestion to him.It was the formation of a new Blues Cafe in fashionable Pratumnak with an edit to play quality live music seven days a week.
So now we have returned to the current day and find Snowman still living in Jomtien,playing class Blues guitar at Mood Blues Cafe.
He is enthusiastic about his current three piece band the Blues Machine that incorporates himself on guitar, Lek on bass and Oi playing drums with the addition of vocalist Jowel and occasional keyboard player Nicky. Almost the complete band from the Blues Factory.
Finally Ken sips his tea and leans back in his chair. The reminiscing has bought back beloved memories of his past and a huge grin lights up his face. We have been talking in Sketchbook just across the road from where he lives. “Sometimes I teach guitar here” he proffers to a question I have not yet thought to ask. “The atmosphere is very creative and open,” we then continue to talk for another hour or so.
It was the first time I had met Ken and I was transfixed by the casual way he imparted his life story. He mentioned dozens of world famous Blues musicians that he had met along the way without even a hint of boasting or name dropping.
Finally our interview came to an end, although it could have easily of lasted a further two hours, I shook Ken's paw like hand and imagined who else had also done that.
Pattaya has so many people that contribute to the community and Ken has certainly as far as I am concerned, changed Pattaya for the better for sharing his life with us. I hope Snowman continues to strut his stuff on the stage in Pattaya for another 15 years and delights us all with his fabulous playing.
If you want to catch Ken Snowman Minahan then check out Mood Blues Cafe on Soi 6 in Pratumnak, where there is plenty of parking space and no need to venture into town. The band play Fri-Sun weekly and Mood is closed on a Monday.
Details on their website : www.moodpattaya.com