Kent Henry: Guitarist with Steppenwolf and Blues Image

Best known for the evocative blues rock of “Ride Captain Ride”, which made the US Top Five in the summer of 1970, the band Blues Image lost several of their members to more successful American groups of the era.

The singer and guitarist (and founder member) Mike Pinera joined Iron Butterfly (best known for their 17-minute epic “In-AGadda- Da-Vida”, while his replacement, Kent Henry, went on to play guitar in Steppenwolf.

Both musicians actually featured on the hit recording of “Ride Captain Ride”, which was written by Pinera and the band’s keyboard player, Frank “Skip” Konte. Henry contributed the distinctive fluid guitar fills and clean main solo that lifted the million-selling track, while Pinera played the distorted lead at the end.

The song remains a favourite with oldie stations and has featured on several soundtracks, most notably in the recent TV series Lost.

Born Henry Plischke in Hollywood in 1948, he took up the stage name Kent Henry when he joined his first band, The Lost Souls, at the age of 14.

He became so proficient on the guitar that Jimmy Page called on his services in September 1969. Page had just completed Led Zeppelin II at Mystic Studios in Hollywood and had decided to stay on to produce an album by the outrageous British rock ’n’ roller Screaming Lord Sutch.

The resulting album, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, featured John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins, as well as Page and Henry, and sported a shot of Sutch leaning on a Union Jack Rolls Royce on its cover. Issued on the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion, it made the Top 100 in May 1970. By then, Henry had left the band Charity, with whom he’d recorded Charity Now for the Uni label, and been drafted to complete Open, the second Blues Image album. He also contributed to Red, White & Blues Image, the group’s final album, before the producer Richard Podolor recommended him to Steppenwolf.

Henry replaced Larry Byrom and played on the For Ladies Only album in 1971, co-writing the lengthy title track and “Black Pit”. The following year he travelled to the UK with the band and performed their signature song, the biker anthem “Born to Be Wild”, on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The guitarist also played on Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes and My Sportin’ Life, the first two solo albums issued by the Steppenwolf frontman John Kay after the group went on a hiatus in 1972. Having fallen out with the Steppenwolf drummer Jerry Edmonton, Henry was not invited to return when they reconvened two years later.

In the Eighties, Henry moved to Portland, Oregon, and played with the Paul deLay Band. He also worked as a technician in the city’s Apple Music store for over a decade. Easy-going and modest, Henry received several gold records for his work with Steppenwolf, but typically gave the awards away to friends.

Pierre Perrone

Henry Plischke (Kent Henry), guitarist, singer, songwriter: born Hollywood 5 April 1948; died Portland, Oregon 18 March 2009.

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