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Former Member Biographies Nathan Parks Biography Ken Thornton Biography John Ganser Biography Lee Fehr Biography Band Biography



Ken Thornton

Ken Thornton


Ken Thornton
Ken is originally from the south suburbs of Chicago and has been playing music since he was about 10, which is when he began teaching himself to play guitar and drums. By the age of 11, he was in his first band and beginning to compose his own music.

He had a few guitar lessons early on but is almost completely self-taught. He learned a lot by spending countless hours figuring out guitar parts by ear from the records of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Rush, and many others. By the time he was a freshman in high school, he was listening to artists like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, King Crimson, and Genesis and had begun playing music with complex time changes and musical passages. He also had become very interested in Northern Indian classical music.

After the days of high school and kegger party gigs, he went to an audio engineering school but ultimately decided to pursue a degree in applied computer science, which brought him to Central Illinois in the mid-80s.

Ken started teaching guitar lessons, which led to meeting a lot of the local musicians, including those that would form HUEπ (pronounced “A Chewy Pie”). He was the guitarist and reluctant lead vocalist for the group, which played originals and an eclectic mix of cover tunes. They changed their name to Deadpan Jester in 1994 just prior to releasing a record of original songs, the majority of which were composed by Ken. They split up after seven years, and Ken spent the next seven years playing and/or recording with a number of bands: The Sediments, Geoff Beran, Spider Webster, The Dits, 100 Year Picnic, and Vooom, which was the first band he played in with vonFrickle’s drummer, John Ganser.

Being a devoted Beatles and Monty Python fan, it is no wonder that Ken is also a big fan of The Rutles, especially of the music written by Neil Innes. He met Neil in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the two had a chance to sit down together with a couple of guitars. The following year, he played guitar with Neil for the first time as an acoustic duo and also as a lead guitarist with The Rutles. Neil gave him the nickname of "Rutling Ken Thornton," and he had the pleasure and good fortune of being the lead guitarist for the Rutles for most of their UK gigs until they retired in 2005, including gigs at the Royal Albert Hall and the Glastonbury Festival. Ken has also played a bunch of other acoustic duo gigs, group gigs, and radio shows with Neil outside of the Rutles over the years, and played guitar on two tracks on Neil’s 2005 release, “Works In Progress.”

In 2001, frustrated with not being able to keep a band together long enough to get anything done, he decided to record a solo album and play/sing all of the parts himself, though he did end up asking John Ganser to play drums on a few of the tracks. The resulting self-released album was called “Venus de Milo, Please Raise Your Hand” and shows a lot of his classic rock and pop influences.

In 2000, Ken had become a big fan of a local group called vonFrickle. These guys dressed up in white suits with goggles and masks, used fog machines and strange lighting, and played instrumental music that was a mind-blowing mix of progressive rock and improvisation. John Ganser invited him to put on a suit and his alien mask and sit in with the band for a few gigs before being assimilated as an official member in mid-2002.

Ken says that vonFrickle is simply the most creative and talented group he’s ever been a part of. He enjoys putting on the mask and the excitement of the live shows, and he finds the creative side of the band to be both challenging and rewarding, whether it is composing, contributing to the arrangements, taking solos, or coming up with names for the compositions. He hopes to continue making music with the band for many years.

1994 - Deadpan Jester Self-titled
1999 - Geoff Beran
2000 - The Dits
Dits 2000 Live
2000 - The Dits
The Dits Family Band Live!
2000 - The Dits
An Evening With The Modern Dits Quintet
2000 - The Dits
A Very Special Dits Family Christmas
2001 - The Dits
Dits Big Band
2001 - The Dits
Live! Bootleg
2001 - 100 Year Picnic
As Tall As The Sky
2002 - Ken Thornton
Venus de Milo, Please Raise Your Hand
2003 - The Sediments
American Cheese (Demos)
2003 - vonFrickle
Mission 4.9
2004 - Neil Innes
Live at Martyrs' Chicago (unofficial release)
2005 - Neil Innes
Works In Progress
2006 - vonFrickle
Beyond Weird Series – Episode 2, Frank's Great Escape
2006 - vonFrickle
2008 - vonFrickle
The 40 Fingers Of Doctor V
2008 - Neil Innes
The Seventh Python (Film by Frozen Pictures, not yet released)
2008 - 100 Year Picnic Tales of a Modern Splash
2010 - vonFrickle

Ken is always looking for new music to check out. Rock, pop, jazz, Indian classical, and African music are his favorite genres, and he has an eclectic library that includes music from over 600 artists. Apart from the primary influences already mentioned above, here are some of Ken’s current favorite artists in no particular order: XTC; Peter Gabriel; George Harrison; Patto; Roy Harper; Radiohead; Pugwash; Supergrass; Todd Rundgren; Ravi Shankar; Shakti; Vishwa Mohan Bhatt; Kushal Das; Joanna Newsom; Miles Davis; Elliott Smith; Yes; Jaga Jazzist; Love/Arthur Lee; Toumani Diabate; Fleet Foxes; John Lennon; Paul McCartney, Adrian Belew; Allan Holdsworth; Ollie Halsall; Danny Gatton; Eric Johnson; David Bowie; Electric Light Orchestra; The Move; Jellyfish; Jeff Buckley; Jethro Tull; Kula Shaker; Cheap Trick; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; The Who; Queen; Stevie Wonder; Tom Waits; Medeski, Martin, & Wood.

Brian Moore i2.13 Electric Guitar
Roland Guitar Synth
Fender Twin Reverb Guitar Amplifier
Roland Keyboard Amplifier
Various Effect Pedals