King of Cosmic Southern Soul
An artist as unique as his music, King Corduroy embodies the best of the South, melding together east, west, and everything in between.
Kurt McMahan, aka King Coruroy, wears every place he’s ever lived on his sleeve like a map, and his musical sound evokes the combined melodies of the cities where he grew and learned musicianship.
The three main areas that contribute to King Corduroy’s artistry are in Alabama, Texas, and Southern California.
Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, Alabama (where he spent his childhood) stick out as cities that emphasize the importance of family, community, and accountability. However, those cities were not 100% conducive for his creativity, due to common close-mindedness attempting to put people in boxes.
Austin, Texas (where he lived for 6 years) acted as a music college for King Corduroy. As soon as King Corduroy moved there, he realized there was a vast world of knowledge in writing and performing music.
In California (where he stayed for 4 years), King Corduroy lived in the beautiful and scenic Topanga Canyon, right outside of Los Angeles. The region is a true melting pot; walking into a room, automatically several varying languages fill the atmosphere. Hosting so many colorful cultures, LA and the surrounding regions offer a smorgasbord of food to experience, as well as authentic art and music. Plus, in LA King Corduroy stood out more from the crowd than he did in Texas, since his look radiates classic Southern Rock.
King Corduroy also lived in Baja, Mexico for 4 months. Several of the sites he’s lived, including Baja, he refers to as vortex towns, which are particular towns where like-minded people are drawn to each other like spiritual magnets. These cosmically connected cities pushed King Corduroy’s musical expressiveness to where he is today, Nashville.
As for King Corduroy’s music influences, he literally wears them on his arm. His ink-laden skin exhibits images that indicate the likes of Levon Helm, Townes Van Zandt, Stax Records, Gran Parson, Leon Russell, and The Rolling Stones’s Exile on Main Street.
Equally as important as an artist’s influences is an artist’s name, and the origins of King Corduroy’s name are surprisingly humble.
While on the hunt for a perfect moniker, he fiddled with the name King Biscuit, evoking the King Biscuit Flower Hour, until his eye landed on a (metaphorically) glimmering corduroy jacket in the room. His roommate’s enthusiastic approval officially legitimized the new pseudonym.
King Corduroy’s bio on HOME’s directory and ReverbNation describes his sound as “Cosmic Southern Soul” using such phrases as “the swamp sound of muscle shoals,” “the soul of Stax in Memphis,” “the funk of The Crescent City,” and “Country twang with a Cosmic message.”
As these are not typical, everyday phrases, the following terms have been defined to provide more insight.
Muscle Shoals: Jerry Wexler, a partner of Atlantic Records, had recently signed Aretha Franklin when he took her to Muscle Shoals, a swampy city in northern Alabama right along the Tennessee River. The swampy sound of the region seeped right into her song, “Chain of Fools.”
Swampy Sound: A style of music that is syncopated, or kind of behind the beat, while incorporating blues with a bit of twang.
Stax: Referring to the typical sound of a record store in Memphis called Stax Records. Their music sounded similar to Detroit Motown, except stripped down with fewer instruments while having more funk and groove. It includes certain sounds such as Otis Redding’s horn sounds.
Crescent City: Another name for New Orleans, Louisiana.
Country Twang: I assume we all know what this is.
Cosmic Message: Derived from the storytelling tradition of Country, it is a message delivered lyrically that tunes into the cosmos, acknowledges that we’re all connected to everyone else in this universe, and that we should look to everybody else with love.
One of King Corduroy’s songs featured on his album Austin Soul Stew is called “The Ballad of Douglas McAdams.” I asked King Corduroy if Douglas McAdams is a real or fictional character.
“The person is real. I had a friend doing a songwriting thing at a random spot in Austin, so I brought my first ever guitar with me, which was an old guitar from my Grandfather in Alabama. It was a 1935 Kalamazoo, which is a model that used to be made by Gibson.
So there was a cat that listened to me play and afterwards was itching to tell me about his guitar from his dad. Basically, everything in the song’s story is true, though the first line of the song is janky because of the way the guy told me the story.
But the thing he was telling me was that his father had a pre-fire Gibson, that the guitar was made in the original factory before it burned down. The truth is that Martin is the factory that burned down.
Anyway, this guy wanted to talk about the guitar, but he started talking about his dad instead. That’s when I started taking notes on my phone and asked the guy if I could use his story for a song. He said I could, so later I wrote the song.
Darry is the guy, his dad is Douglas McAdams, and everything in the song is everything he said.
Later on, I made a record with the song on it and went back to the same bar in Austin so that I could describe the guy to the people there in order to find him. Unfortunately, people at the bar didn’t know who he was.”
In any case, Darry and King Corduroy have blessed the listening world with an impressive ballad.
Like the inspiring old guitars and their colorful stories, King Corduroy seems like he could be from another decade. Although, he postulates that he is meant to be in the present, in order to keep the sounds of that day alive. Everything is cyclical, even in music.
Interviewed and written by Andra Ingram