Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney remembers Van Buren Fowler

Kevn Kinney talkes about Van Buren Fowler and his untimely death.


Legendary Atlanta rock band Drivin' N Cryin' lost one of its former members on March 7. Guitarist and shredder Van Buren Fowler, 54, was an influential member of the Southern rock 'n' roll staple, and helped shape the sound of DNC during the high point of the bands career. Fowler roadied for Kansas, worked and played with R.E.M., and recorded four albums with Kevn Kinney and DNC. He is the stuff of rock legends - a man who had to have both knees replaced because he roadied for so long. Yikes!

Although Fowler was not an original member of Drivin N Cryin, he was brought in around 1988 after the group released its first LP, Scarred But Smarter. Kevn Kinney, DNC's frontman and founding member, shared his thoughts about Fowler's relationship with the band, his departure, and their final performance together.

Tonight (Sat., April 5), the 40 Watt Club in Athens hosts the Buren Fowler Rock N Roll Celebration w/ Drivin N Cryin, the Rattlers, and more. Cash donations for the Fowler family will be taken at the door.

On meeting Van Buren Fowler.

"We meet Buren in St. Louis, traveling on the road. We went to see R.E.M. at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis and they were just on the cover of Rolling Stone that week so that was a really big thing. So we're in the bar with Peter Buck and we play him our new record, Whisper Tames the Lion, and he hates it. He was like, "This is horrible." He loved Scarred But Smarter, but he was like "This is not a great record. I need to produce your next record." And that's how we did our demos for Mystery Road. That same night, Peter introduced me to Buren. Buren was working with R.E.M. at the time. He was a rhythm guitar player and a guitar tech. I think he worked for Mike Mills at the time; Peter's guitar tech was named Microwave. So Peter said, "Hey, you should get Buren to play with you," and I was like "yeah, I think I'll do that." So Buren came and played banjo and octo-guitar, you know, he played some country licks; it was really a lot of fun. But eventually it morphed into, the more and more we played and the more we listened to the music, he kept influencing me, as far as embracing our heavy metal fantasy world. He already had the long hair anyway so we were like "yeah" and just started to play more metal. It started to become a part of the band. You know, it was fun. It was fun to be in a metal band fore a while."

"The first record he (Buren) did with us was Mystery Road, and then he did McDougal Blues with me, and then we did Fly Me Courageous. Smoke was his last record. So he did four records with us. When we went to Geffen Records, we switched out. Buren loved WASP, he loved Ronnie James Dio, he loved metal, he loved Randy Rhoads, and he could do all those licks. Man, he loved all that stuff."

Fowler's departure.

"I changed the direction of Drivin' N Cryin' when we went to Geffen Records, when Island dropped us after the Smoke record, which was a disaster. But I think its one of our best records musically. I think it's just unapologetically rock; rock in your face. I wanted to call it Fuck You but they wouldn't let me. When we changed directions and Buren left the band, I think it was devastating to him, unfortunately. And I think he never recovered from it. I didn't know what to do, you know? Then he moved away. I think he worked for Louisville Slugger for a while making baseball bats, or that's what I heard. The only thing he loved more than rock 'n' roll was baseball. That was his second passion after guitar."

"Buren was more of a showman whereas I wasn't. He would put his foot on the monitor and rock out. He loved taking pictures with fans. He was just a sweet gentle soul. He loved the fans; he loved the people. He'd go talk to the people after the show, whereas I used to just runaway. I was terrified to share myself with people, you know? (Laughs) He was a very important part of one of our biggest years. We miss him. We always played with him later on. Anytime he would show up at one of our shows in Atlanta we'd always let him share the stage. He never stopped thinking about the dream. I just played with him and Peter Buck in Athens. Mike Mills was playing, Peter Buck, everybody was up there. It was great. I didn't know it would be the last time we would play together. Michael Stipe was in the audience and R.E.M. was on stage and Buren was playing "Straight to hell," so you know, that makes me feel good."

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