Ventura County Star

Old trick, new Dog

'Kung Fu' icon David Carradine gets back to his musical roots with the Soul Dogs at Fall Family Faire

By staff and wire reports
October 21, 2004

High kicks and karate chops? Nah. These days, David Carradine would rather show off his hot licks and musical chops.

The actor, who rose to fame on the 1970s martial arts series "Kung Fu" and earlier this year delivered a killer performance in Quentin Tarantino's hit film "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," is also an accomplished singer-songwriter who majored in music at San Francisco State College.

When he's not in front of the camera, Carradine has lately begun rocking out as the newest member of the popular Los Angeles-based band Soul Dogs. He and the foursome will pound out funk, jazz, rock, pop and blues tunes Sunday during the Fall Family Faire at Juan Bautista de Anza Park in Calabasas.

Besides the Soul Dogs, the Fall Family Faire will feature Halloween carnival games, inflatable rides, pumpkin painting, a costume competition, arts-and-crafts activities, food and a pumpkin patch people can prowl in search of their own great pumpkin. Admission is free; activities cost 25 cents to $1.

"We've planned a wonderful day of community fun for families to enjoy in their own back yard," said Fall Family Faire chairwoman Sue Orgen. "It's a traditional hometown event."

Carradine's appearance with the Soul Dogs will no doubt prove to be a big draw, just as it has at SoCal hot spots like the B.B. King Blues Club at Universal Studios' CityWalk.

"We actually operate the way a garage band does, which is a funny thing for a 67-year-old guy to say, but it's true," Carradine told syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck earlier this year. "We regularly rehearse, and we're constantly working on developing new material, recording whenever we can. It's like the old blues guys -- it gets to the point where you don't need to practice so much but you just like to play. We get together, and if we're playing great, it's a great night."

Onstage, Carradine isn't content to just be a sideman. He sings, plays guitar and piano and often whips out his flute to add a whole new texture to the band's gritty sound. He also writes a lot of the group's material.

"The music is a mix of country, rock, blues, pop and classical," Carradine told Cox News Service recently. "It's hard to classify. I have a formal music background, and I write songs. Some songs are social commentaries, some are love songs and a lot are pretty autobiographical."

Carradine, the oldest son of legendary actor John Carradine and half-brother of Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine, didn't start out as an actor. Or a musician. He started out as a sculptor -- at age 4.

Music didn't interest him until he was 7, and he started taking piano lessons. His dream, early on, was to write operas.

"Everybody in the family is a musician so music is in the genes," Carradine has said. "But the acting is almost inescapable."

So it was. The acting bug hit at San Francisco State, where the drama and music departments were in the same building. He got a part in a play, purely by chance, and it impressed his girlfriend. That was all it took for him to start pursuing acting seriously.

Success hit hard in the 1970s when he starred as Kwai Chang Caine in the hit series "Kung Fu." He went on to make dozens of movies, star in a second "Kung Fu" TV series, write books and compose music. His latest CD is a self-produced, self-released album called "As Is."

All these years later, Carradine is philosophical about the way his acting career ended up overshadowing his musical ambitions.

"When I started as an actor, I assumed I would have a career as a Shakespearean actor," he has said. "I never thought about movies. And I certainly never figured on being an action star, but that's what I became. Sometimes you have no choice in these matters."

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Photo was not used with Star article.© 2004 Marc Mangano