story by Cindy Reid photos by Paul Nurnberg
Beaufort Lifestyle recently got to meet Kip Leming, Lady’s Island resident and rock and roll veteran. He shared some of his story with us over coffee on a sunny morning.
Born and raised in Hopewell, NJ, which is near Princeton, Kip started playing the bass at age 13. He said, “Everyone wanted to play guitar or drums, so being a bass player, I could be in as many bands as I wanted to be in. My first band played at sock hops and other various local functions and we used shopping carts to wheel our equipment because we didn’t have cars! Good thing the amp was on wheels.” Kip continued, “After a few bands, I discovered cars and girls and took a break from music for a couple of years. But then a friend needed a bass player and when I saw their “Marshall stack” I knew they were a good band. We called ourselves ‘Marshall Law’.” (FYI … “At the request of Pete Townshend, Marshall produced an 8×12-inch cabinet on top of which the 1959 amplifier head was placed, giving rise to the Marshall stack, an iconic image for rock and roll. The size of the wall of Marshall stacks soon became an indicator of the band’s status” https://en.wikipedia.org)
Kip adds, “At that time I went from that band to another band, which is what happens as bands come together, play for a while and then start to fracture. A bass player can try and hold a band together, both musically and socially, but change proved each band got better. There was always a place for a bass player!”
Kip was doing well and in 1977 that lead to being noticed by a new group called Mistress, which had been formed by Rick Derringer’s (Rock & Roll Hootchie-koo) guitar player. Among the highlights, Mistress actually got to tape a demo in the studio owned by Jimi Hendrix in NYC.
Kip says, “We were playing rock in a disco era- it was tough! “ He continues, “I became a luthier and started building acoustic guitars. I would build the whole body from scratch; another guy would build the neck and so forth. I would build two a day. We went to trade shows, met a lot of musicians, including the legendary Les Paul. That was a lot of fun.”
Back at the band, the drummer from Mistress went on to join the New York band Riot. Kip says, “They put out two records which got great reviews and they were going on tour opening for Sammy Hagar in Britain, when I got a phone call asking, “do you want to go?” Obviously the answer was yes!” he laughs, “I had three weeks to learn the show. Playing with Riot was a great time, we were playing hard rock and touring with Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush and Kiss, which had great productions and you could see these legendary bands at their peak. These bands were professionals who knew exactly what they were doing. But watching them night after night, doing the same ‘spontaneous’ bits, you could see how the time and touring turns them into the equivalent of professional wrestling!”
It wasn’t all rock and roll bands and life on the road. Kip says, “I always liked cars. Where I grew up in rural Hopewell, you had to have a car. I built a ’56 Chevy and drove it to high school. Back then you had to be good at fixing cars or know someone who was. “ He says, “Although I was still working as a musician, if you are not touring there is no money coming in. Touring is the only money you make in rock and roll. I needed an income so I got a job at a foreign car repair shop washing cars. One day all the mechanics quit. At the time, I had a BMW and I had tools so I became the mechanic on the spot.”
It was a great fit for this bass player. Kip says, “ After that I went to Porsche and after that I went to Mercedes Benz where I stayed for thirty years. I started as a technician and worked my way up to Service Manager. The cars are great and it was a great career. I went to Germany to their factories many times, I got to ride around Daytona with race car driver Johnny Rutherford , and have many other great experiences. Mercedes Benz is a wonderful company that really values their mechanics.”
Kip and his wife Cathy, a writer/editor and retired C-suite executive assistant from Bristol- Myers Squibb, moved to Beaufort six years ago. He says they originally started looking at property in Jacksonville, Florida and worked their way up the coast to Savannah, Georgia. He says, “We were in Savannah and we rented a car and drove up to Beaufort to check it out. We loved it immediately and moved here two years later . We love it here, we love our neighborhood. In our old neighborhood up north, I knew the neighbor across the street and the one to our right. That was it. Here we walk outside and it’s ‘hi how is it going!’ We love the people and the friendliness here.” Their household includes two Cornish Rex cats, a Model T and a Harley. Kip and Cathy’s son, Scott, lives in Pennsylvania and daughter, Marie, lives in Hilton Head.
Not ready for retirement yet, Kip wanted to share his love of Beaufort with others. So, he is a realtor at Ballinger Real Estate. Kip says he enjoys taking classes and learning new things, in fact, he recently obtained his Residential Electrician Certificate.
You may recognize Kip from a feature in the Beaufort Hospital’s Living Well magazine. He says “I have a heart condition, elevated LP(a) , and when we were thinking about moving here I was worried about finding a doctor with expertise in my condition. Come to find out, Dr. Vyge on Lady’s Island actually wrote his thesis on it, so that worked out very well.”
Kip says, “I am always in one or two bands, playing bass. I just started playing in a new band, RKs (short for Rhythm Kings) We play pop, soul, R&B. We cover Amy Winehouse, Earth Wind and Fire, Al Green and Santana. I like all the stuff we play because I like all different kinds of music.” The RKs have played at Maggie’s Pub at Habersham and at Gullah Grub on St Helena Island and will be adding gigs as the weather warms up.
Favorite current band?
“Cadillac Three”- a Nashville band that is Led Zeppelin meets ZZ Top.
The Porsche 930. White.
Favorite Place in Beaufort?
Anywhere on the water – I mean physically on the water in a boat. I recently learned how to sail at the Beaufort Yacht & Sail Club, found I really liked it and plan on continuing. I haven’t found a bad place here yet.
Check out Kip’s page at The Metal Archives, https://www.metal-archives.