The long musical journey of Carson City’s downtown Traveling Troubadour Chris Kay
Local musician Chris Kay can be found performing on the streets of downtown Carson City as the Traveling Troubadour, but not many know his musical history spans more than 50 years.
Kay’s musical career began in his teens in the mid-1960s in Reno, with the band The Manzanita Jungle. Aptly named after the tangle of bushes that grew all around the Sierra Nevada, it was created by Curry Jameson, Tim Gorelangton, Mike Marvin, Tim Miner and Gary Jameson. They were six “upper-classed white bread mopped-topped mobster with matching blazers and Beatles style boots,” as Kay describes. They played regularly at a teen night club on Fourth Street in Reno, called the Carnival Room.
“I can remember going live from the Carnival Room on KCBN at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1967-68. When the band jumped into our rendition of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire,’ the whole town went crazy,” recalls Kay.
In the height of their career, the band was signed on at Fantasy Studios in San Francisco and produced hit songs like “Colorado Sun,” and “Morning Glory Side.” After Kay graduated from UNR in 1972, the band fizzled out as each member began to venture to new projects.
Kay himself went solo, and gained success. He performed, recorded, and produced the CD “Americana Man” which made it on the top 100 chart in 2009, just below Billy Idol and above Britney Spears.
His dedication to performing the music has built up in memorabilia over the years. The walls of his home are decorated by about three dozen beautiful guitars. He has a full collections with bass guitars, banjos, double neck guitars, mandolin guitar, and ukuleles. He says they all have their own unique sound and way of playing, but he loves them all.
Kay officially retired at the end of last year, but his passion for performing remains. Kay performs on sunny days Monday through Thursday with just an electric guitar, microphone, and amplifier. His route includes Comma Coffee, the State Capitol, and the intersection of highways 395 and 50.
He also holds a concert every Tuesday at the Laxalt Plaza under the bell tower at noon, weather permitting.
“The streets of Carson City are my stage now. It’s my contribution back to the arts, and my way of giving back to Carson,” said Kay.
He continues to play some of the same songs he sang with the Manzanita Jungle. If you happen to see him performing, roll down the window, give him a wave, or even pull over for a listen if you have a couple minutes. He’s not panhandling or soliciting, he only wishes to brighten people’s day with music.