BROOKSVILLE — Kenny Stockton’s talent is multifaceted. He is a skilled and seasoned keyboardist, a vocalist, and an engaging entertainer. But when throat cancer stole his voice, a few of his best friends refused to allow the disease to steal his livelihood.
Greg Gruner, Robert Shaw, and Jim Goncalo, all residents of Hernando County and longtime friends of Stockton, couldn’t imagine ever turning their backs on someone they described as a “really good guy.” In fact, Gruner and Shaw couldn’t hold back their emotion when discussing what led them to launch a community effort designed to help Stockton navigate this newest gig.
“Kenny is a really proud guy,” said Gruner. And rightly so. Stockton, who many in the local music industry know as Kenny Keys, was at the epitome of his career. Dubbed the “Voice of the Sevilles,” Stockton had been a viable symbol of the local musician trade for decades. He played his piano in various bands, most notably Kenny & the Sevilles and Without Smith. He played at various Tampa Bay venues, including the coliseum in St. Petersburg years back when the radio station, 92.1, held very popular Sock Hops.
“If you loved Doo-Wop, you loved Kenny and The Sevilles,” says a synopsis of Stockton. “Kenny and others from the band ended up joining The Satellites and (he) became the voice and keyboard player of that band, continuing the Doo-Wop and Oldies in venues throughout Florida,” as described on a Go Fund Me Campaign, created by Jim Goncalo.
A malignant tumor was discovered in Stockton’s esophagus after he’d been suffering from a recurring sore throat in February of last year.
Several scopes produced no clues until finally one physician went a little deeper and discovered the tumor. Stockton was sent to Bayfront Health Spring Hill for a biopsy.
“During the biopsy my throat swelled and (the physician) had to put in a trach,” Stockton recalled through a text message. The surgeries to remove the tumor and his voice box and thyroid were performed at Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta. Though Stockton had made Florida his home for decades, he chose the hospital in Atlanta to be closer to his daughter.
His recovery was slow but steady. He is doing much better physically, said Gruner, though confinement in a neighborhood with no friends has affected him. “He wants to come home.”
Stockton’s ordeal cost him everything tangible. He has no house, no reliable transportation, and no income. He qualified for social security disability at just $600 a month but had no way of bridging the gaps between his other financial obligations.
Gruner, who owned Complete Automotive Care in Brooksville, remembered parties at various friends’ homes where Stockton played for free. “He always gave,” Gruner said.
When the group sat down to brainstorm ways to help their friend, they hit resistance from the humbled artist, Gruner said. “He was dead-set against us helping him. I told him, ‘Ken, how many parties have I had at my home that you’ve come, set up, played for hours?’ And he said ‘what are you kidding me? I’m your friend.’ ”
“He was really not there,” Gruner said. “He was too proud, until we convinced him.”
A Go Fund Me was created to help raise money so Stockton could move back to his network of support. All money raised will help find Stockton a home, repair his van, and supplement his social security.
“We want him here,” said Robert Shaw who played base with Stockton in Without Smith. Stockton is still a sought after musician. The men are certain he will recover even faster among his very strong ties in Hernando.
“He wants to come home,” Gruner said. Kenny knows he has a lot of life left, Gruner went on. “He said he still wants to play.”
The Go Fund Me Campaign has raised $2,175 toward a $10,000 goal. But more than money, the community has stepped up its support in a variety of ways.
Brooksville Transmission will help get his van back on the road.
Vineyard Christian Church in Brooksville will provide as many meals as needed.
Others are helping find Stockton a place to live and assist with helping him replace some of the musical equipment he was forced to sell.
The group is planning a fundraising event for Stockton that will include several live musical acts. They are currently looking for a venue.
But in the meantime, the goal is to get Stockton home where he belongs.
“I must admit they are wonderful there,” Stockton texted about his treatment at Emory. “But after living in Florida since 1979 I have strong ties to friends there.”
To help Kenny Stockton, visit the Go Fund Me Campaign at https://go fund me.com/f/ken-stockton-needs-help-cancer-sucks or contact. Complete Automotive Care is also accepting donations for Kenny Stockton.