Kim Vincent Fowley (born July 21, 1939) is an American record producer, impresario, songwriter, musician, film maker, and radio actor. He is best known for his role behind a string of novelty and cult rock pop singles in the 1960s, and for managing The Runaways in the 1970s. He has been described as "one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll" and as "a shadowy cult figure well outside the margins of the mainstream."
Fowley is the son of the character actor Douglas Fowley and actress Shelby Payne. He was, born in Los Angeles, California where he attended University High School at the same time as singers Jan Berry, Dean Torrence, Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Johnston, and actors Ryan O'Neal, James Brolin and Sandra Dee. In 1957 he was hospitalized with polio, but on his release became manager and publicist for a local band, The Sleepwalkers, who included Johnston, drummer Sandy Nelson, and, occasionally, Phil Spector. He spent some time in the armed forces, and by his own account also worked in the sex industry in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. In 1959 he began working in the music industry in various capacities for both Alan Freed and Berry Gordy. His first record as producer was "Charge" by The Renegades, a group comprising Johnston, Nelson, Nik Venet and Richard Podolor. He also promoted records for Skip & Flip - Clyde Battin and Gary Paxton - including the # 11 hit "Cherry Pie".
During the early 1960s Fowley was involved, as Co-Producer/Co-Publisher, with a string of successful records produced in Los Angeles. With Gary Paxton, he recorded the novelty song "Alley Oop", which reached # 1 on the charts in 1960, credited to the non-existent group The Hollywood Argyles. In 1961 he co-produced the instrumental "Like, Long Hair", which became a # 38 hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders. He also wrote "Nut Rocker", for B. Bumble and the Stingers, which became a # 1 hit in the UK in 1962; and talent scouted "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow", a # 48 hit for The Rivingtons. The following year, he produced "Popsicles and Icicles" by The Murmaids, which reached # 3 in the charts in 1963 and which was written by a pre-Bread David Gates, then a session musician and songwriter who had met Fowley while Kim was hitchhiking in Los Angeles.
During the mid-1960s Fowley publicized/consulted singer P.J. Proby and relocated for a time to London, England. Fowley wrote the lyrics for the song "Portobello Road", the B-side of Cat Stevens' first single, "I Love My Dog". He also produced a Them spin-off band led by two ex-Them members, brothers Pat and Jackie McAuley (who were only allowed to use the band name 'Other Them' in the U.K., but called themselves Them on the European continent, releasing an album called Them Belfast Gypsies and a single "Let's freak out" under the name 'Freaks of Nature'); an early incarnation of Slade known as the N'Betweens; Soft Machine (he produced their first single); and the Lancasters, an instrumental rock group featuring a young Ritchie Blackmore.
Fowley also worked on occasion as a recording artist in the 1960s, issuing albums such as Love Is Alive and Well. In 1965, he wrote and produced a song about the psychedelic experience, "The Trip". He appeared on hypephone on Frank Zappa's first album Freak Out!. Other singles by Fowley as a recording artist included "Animal Man" (1968). All of his efforts as a solo artist since 1970 have become cult items, both in re-issue and bootleg formats.
In 1969 Fowley produced the album I'm Back and I'm Proud for Gene Vincent. He co-wrote for Warren Zevon's first solo album, Wanted Dead or Alive. Fowley collaborated with his friend Skip Battin, during Battin's membership as bassist with The Byrds on a number of songs. Several appeared on the group's 1970 album, Untitled; and one from the 1971 LP, Byrdmaniax, Farther Along, was released as a single: "America's Great National Pastime".
In 1973, Fowley produced three recordings by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, for the film American Graffiti (1973). These songs were "At the Hop", "Louie Louie" and "She's So Fine". He also co-wrote songs for KISS, Helen Reddy, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell and Kris Kristofferson. He also made recordings with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, which were eventually released in 1981 as The Original Modern Lovers; Fowley's tracks were not included on the original versions of The Modern Lovers album, but some were included on later CD reissues.
In 1974, Fowley placed an advertisement in local fanzine, Who Put the Bomp looking for female performers. He hoped to form an all girl group that he could produce and would perform his songs, but no one responded to the advert. In 1975, he met the teenage guitarist Joan Jett who expressed interest in forming an all-girl band. Less than two weeks later, he met 16 year old drummer Sandy West who introduced herself outside of the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood, California. West told Fowley of her aspirations to form an all-girl band after playing in all male groups. This meeting led to Fowley giving West Jett's phone number. The two met and began playing together at West's home the following week. A short time later, Fowley recruited Lita Ford, Cherie Currie and Jackie Fox. They eventually became The Runaways. While he did produce some of their albums and contributed lyrics to songs, the band was primarily responsible for creating their own music. The group severed their ties with Fowley in 1977.
The 1980s saw Fowley travel to Australia where he announced that he was "looking for the new Beatles or ABBA". His search turned up power pop band 'Beathoven' who were still under a recording contract with EMI. Changing their name to The Innocents, he secured a new record deal with Trafalgar Records and produced several songs for the group. They too became a cult band in later bootlegs/re-issues. Fowley also produced the first demos for the iconic power pop band, Candy, which featured Gilby Clarke and Kyle Vincent. Vincent was Fowley's personal assistant. Producer Kim Fowley recorded the first album for Steel Breeze at Rusk studios in Hollywood and got Steel Breeze their recording contract with RCA. Casey Kasem, on the March 12, 1983 edition of American Top 40, describes how Fowley discovered Steel Breeze while going through approximately 1,200 demo tapes that were about to be discarded by a local Hollywood night club, Madam Wongs. Fowley pulled out the Steel Breeze demo of "You Don't Want Me Anymore" which he knew was a hit. It was the first single from the band's self-titled album and quickly jumped into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 supported by a video that was a favorite of early MTV, and peaked at #16. The next single, "Dreamin' Is Easy," also made it into the Top 40.
In 1984, still owning rights to the name The Runaways, Fowley re-built the image around Gayle Welch, an unknown teenager from New Zealand. Adding Denise Prior, Missy Bonilla (then a typist for Denny Diante at what was CBS Records) and Cathy DiAmber (Catherine Dombrowski) with David Carr on keyboards, a Chicago guitarist Bill Millay and numerous session musicians. Fowley, assisted by New Zealander Glenn Holland, sought to cash in on the fame of the former Runaways members who had gone on to significant success in their individual solo careers. In 1985 he returned to the United States and recorded further songs with The Innocents' David Minchin.
In 1986. Fowley spotted the band Shanghai(consisting of Eric Leach and Taz Rudd of Symbol Six (band), Brent Muscat of Faster Pussycat, Patrick Muzingo, and Todd Muscat of Decry at the Troubadour., After seeing their performance he asked, “Are you ready to make a record?!” They immediately moved into with Fowley and began writing and recording songs. David Leibert, Alice Cooper’s road manager, was recruited to come in to handle the day to day babysitting chores. Shanghai played the re-opening of the Whisky a Go Go in April of 1986 with Guns N' Roses and Faster Pussycat. Their last show was at The Scream in LA in 1987, with the band disbanding due to many unmentionable factors.
Fowley is featured in Mayor of the Sunset Strip, a 2003 documentary about the disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer.
Kim became an experimental film maker after the DVD release of Mayor of the Sunset Strip. His written and directed works include: Black Room Doom, Dollboy: The Movie, Satan Of Silverlake, The Golden Road To Nowhere, Frankenstein Goes Surfing, Trailer Park's On Fire and Jukebox California. Video clips/scenes from these movies can be seen on YouTube and Myspace, and feature a cast of regulars including but not limited to musical oddities such as The Fabulous Miss Wendy, Versailles, Snow Mercy, Richard Rogers(Crazy White Man) & Clown Porn Queen Hollie Stevens.
In 2008, Fowley was reunited with Cherie Currie at Houdini's mansion in Los Angeles. He also played three dozen gigs between June 2007 and February 2009 as the act Crazy White Man, a duo featuring him on vocals and Richard Rogers on guitar. The bulk of the Crazy White Man shows took place during 2008 and included the Tribute to Gidget Gein which raised funds for Gidget's Hollywood Forever memorial.
Capitol re-released several of his titles, and director Guy Ritchie used his song "The Trip" in the 2008 film RocknRolla. Although the movie was #1 in its first week of release in the UK, it dropped off quickly and grossed $25 million during its worldwide theatrical run. Fowley is currently to be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio with a four hour show on Saturdays and Sundays.
Currie wrote a memoir of her time in the Runaways, and it was turned into a film, The Runaways, which was released on March 19, 2010. It featured Kristen Stewart playing Jett, and Dakota Fanning portraying Currie. Michael Shannon played the part of Fowley.
Kim Fowley wrote a book "Lord Of Garbage", scheduled for publication October 2012. He also is introducing his Fragrance ="Garbage". Both the book & the fragrance are marketed by Kicks Books (NYC).