Band of Brothers: For Two Decades, Kevin and Michael Bacon Have Kept Their Musical Duo a Family Affair

April 16th, 2015

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This is an excerpt from the all-new MAY/JUNE 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Pops Staples, Iconic Axes from the Grateful Dead and Others, Conquering Iceland in a new Land Rover Discovery Sport, Fox News Senior National Correspondent John Roberts, and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.

BAND OF BROTHERS: After playing together for two decades and releasing eight albums, the Bacon Brothers, Kevin and Michael, have kept their musical duo a family affair.

By Damian Fanelli | Photos by Jimmy Hubbard

Kevin Bacon is a Golden Globe-winning actor known for his work in more than 80 films and television shows, including Diner, Footloose, JFK, Mystic River, and his current Fox hit series, The Following.

But even though he has enjoyed a long and successful acting career, one of Bacon’s most treasured achievements is the fact that he gets to perform music on stage with one of his biggest influences.

That person also happens to be his older brother, Michael, who Kevin plays with in their band, the Bacon Brothers. Michael, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer, was a professional musician and songwriter in Nashville long before Kevin made his big-screen debut in National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978.

“Michael has played music professionally since 1969,” says Kevin, who, as a kid, considered guitarists far more heroic than actors. “In high school—even junior high—Michael was a musician. Was he an influence? One hundred percent.” Michael, who writes and performs music for films and TV shows, has more than 100 credits to his name, including the documentary series Nova, RFK, The American Experience, and The Kennedys (for which he won an Emmy).

Although Michael, 65, and Kevin, 56, have been playing music together since their early days in Philadelphia, they decided to formalize the band in 1995 after one impromptu show led to another and then another. In the 20 years since, they’ve released eight albums, including 2014’s 36¢.

On this frigid Saturday afternoon in February, Michael and Kevin, guitars (and a vintage baritone ukulele) in tow, have convened at a cavernous but comfy photo studio on Manhattan’s West 18th Street to discuss gear, family, and Elizabeth Taylor.

“Very early in our musical career [1997], we were asked to play at Elizabeth Taylor’s 65th birthday,” Michael says. “We were playing vintage Martin acoustics with Sunrise pickups, and Martina McBride was singing harmonies with us. We had a rehearsal, and everything was great. The next day at the gig, we walk out before our performance, and I hear Kevin lightly strum his 12-string while Michael Jackson was giving a testimony to Elizabeth Taylor. Kevin was completely out of tune, but we couldn’t do anything about it at that point. They said a billion people were watching around the world, all of Hollywood was there, and it was a total disaster.” He laughs. “I felt bad for Kevin because I had brought him there, and we felt really bad for Martina because she had just had one hit at that time.”

“But we weren’t able to ruin her career,” Kevin jokes.

These days the Bacon Brothers enjoy the support of a different Taylor: Taylor Guitars. The duo brought a pair of brand new 600 Series models to the interview and photo shoot, and Kevin even keeps a Taylor GS Mini in his trailer when filming The Following. “Taylor gives us a lot of support,” Michael says. “Guitars will break. If one of our guitars dies, I don’t know where they come from, but there’s always a Taylor there for us, and that’s a great help. They also play in tune. They’re incredibly dependable guitars that always sound great.”

The Bacons’ musical journey began early on with Michael. “Our parents were supportive of anything arts-related, including music, painting, and acting,” Michael says. As a child, Michael played cello and soon added guitar to his repertoire. As part of his day job (which he calls “the greatest job in the world”), Michael relies on an arsenal of stringed instruments, great and small, old and new—everything from a Seventies Tele to a cigar box guitar.

Just a few feet away from the Bacon Brothers sits a battered, ancient, diminutive grey case. Inside rests an important piece of Bacon musical history: a vintage Harmony baritone ukulele. Although not necessarily a collector’s item, it holds special value to the brothers.

“Our parents were socially conscious music lovers,” Michael says. “When I was growing up in the Fifties, the acoustic guitar was really brought back by left-political-leaning people like Pete Seeger. So [my parents] got our sister, Hilda, guitar lessons from a guy in Philly named George Britton. Hilda would take lessons on that ukulele and bring it back and teach me. I just sort of adopted it, but it actually still belongs to her. It reminds me so much of that time when I was just starting music. I had a cello on the artistic side, and I had the baritone ukulele. Every day in my career as a composer, that’s my source, those two worlds.”

Coincidentally, Kevin is doing his part to keep the Bacon-ukulele tradition alive. He recently bought his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick, a ukulele for her birthday. “It came from a really cool little place in LA in the middle of Little Tokyo,” Kevin says. “Inside the Japanese/American Cultural Community Center is this place called U-Space where they sell ukuleles, teach ukulele, and sell Kona coffee. They have get-togethers, and it’s all based around this little instrument. She loves it and takes lessons. She actually practices more than I do. I’m very impressed with her.

The Bacon family musical legacy even extends to Kevin and Kyra’s son, Travis whose first word was “guitar” and who plays guitar and sings in death metal bands in New York. His son’s musical taste was initially difficult for Kevin to wrap his head around. “I love him and support him in being a musician and playing whatever he wants to play, but it was so atonal and the vocals are all screams. But I’ve actually developed an appreciation for it. He was a very musical child and was really obsessed with guitars. He wasn’t an academic kid or an athlete, but when he had a guitar in his hands, that was where he was supposed to be. He’s still that way. I love him no matter what he’s playing…”

This is an excerpt from the all-new MAY/JUNE 2015 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For this story, plus features on Pops Staples, Iconic Axes from the Grateful Dead and Others, Conquering Iceland in a new Land Rover Discovery Sport, Fox News Senior National Correspondent John Roberts, and more, pick up the new issue of Guitar Aficionado at your newsstand, or online by clicking anywhere in this text.

GA_May-June-15

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Comments

  1. Posted by Dave James on April 16th, 2015, 16:53 [Reply]

    If you want to hear how good these two are, dial up the episode of “Live From Daryl’s House” where they perform with Hall’s house band. “Above The Clouds” is a terrific song.

  2. Posted by dan0 on April 16th, 2015, 18:59 [Reply]

    I found your article informative and answered all the questions I had about the bacons.Please continue with short insightful passages as above.It was all hog no bull.Thanks again.Your entire magazine is great from cover to cover.I truely look foward to recieveing it in my mail box.It’s like christmas over and over all year round.

  3. Posted by Rho on April 16th, 2015, 19:45 [Reply]

    ..Wow.., how exclusive.

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