John Kennedy is an American financier and businessman, known for his association with The Residents and their record company Ralph Records, and his tenure as the first President of The Cryptic Corporation from 1976 until his departure in 1983.
Association with The Residents
John Kennedy, along with friends Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, and Jay Clem, met the group who would eventually become known as The Residents in the early 1960s at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. At this time, the group were an "anti-fraternity fraternity" known as "Delta Nu".
Kennedy left Louisiana Tech (and the group) for California around 1966 to look for work, and the group splintered and went their separate ways. Kennedy reconciled with the then-unnamed group in the late 1960s when they began recording in their small San Mateo apartment. He filmed the group's guerrilla style performance at The Boarding House in San Francisco on October 18th 1971.
The fledgling group, by this time renamed Residents, Uninc., moved from "famously uncool" San Mateo to a former print-works, nicknamed "El Ralpho", located at 20 Sycamore Street in San Francisco's Mission District. Kennedy worked with the group in this studio as an editor on their ambitious and ultimately unfinished film project Vileness Fats from 1972 until 1976.
During this time, he also assisted informally with the operation of the group's newly-founded independent record label, Ralph Records, which had issued their debut EP Santa Dog in 1972, and album Meet The Residents in 1974.
Kennedy had become independently wealthy after inheriting an apartment building in Paris, which was worth a million dollars by 1976. In that year, he co-founded The Cryptic Corporation (as a means of protecting his assets) alongside Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox and Jay Clem, and took the position of President (mostly in name only) of the new company.
The Cryptic Corporation charge of operations of Ralph Records, which had previously been operated informally by The Residents themselves. They hired more employees, and found other artists to sign to the label (including Schwump and Snakefinger).
Around this time, the group moved to another studio space at 444 Grove Street. The Residents' recording studios, as well as graphic design arm Porno Graphics' studio space, and Ralph's offices would all be operated out of this building, which had been purchased by Kennedy.
Kennedy travelled to England to retrieve the masters of The Residents' 1979 album Eskimo from a London bank vault, after the group fled with the tapes after a disagreement with the Cryptics. He was photographed retrieving the tapes from the group's friend Chris Cutler in London, flanked by a bodyguard.
Departure and legacy
By 1982, following a series of increasing financial disappointments for The Residents and Ralph Records, it had become less and less profitable to run The Cryptic Corporation. Kennedy had been willing to put money into the business for several years, but there had never been a disciplined business sense among the group - in one instance, Kennedy over-produced a large number of record sleeves in order to keep up with demands from Jay Clem (effectively the business manager) that Ralph could never run out of stock. Clem would be the first member of The Cryptic Corporation to resign, in 1982.
Kennedy resigned from The Cryptic Corporation around July 1983, during The Residents' debut tour, The Mole Show, which would become a financial disaster for the group to the extent that they briefly vowed never to tour again. The Residents returned from the tour to discover that their source of money had dried up, and that Kennedy had also taken back the Grove Street studio and office space. This series of events led The Residents to scale their operations back significantly, moving to a much smaller space at at 109 Minna Street in 1984.
Kennedy's successor as President of The Cryptic Corporation was Hardy Fox, who remained in this role until his retirement in 2016. The current President (or "Cap'n Doc") is Homer Flynn, who co-owns the company with Cherry Red Records.
Kennedy remains on "decent" terms with Homer Flynn and The Cryptic Corporation, with Flynn claiming in 2018 that despite not seeing each other very often, the two had been in contact for a while after Kennedy was interviewed for Don Hardy's documentary film Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents in 2016.
- Hardy Fox
- Homer Flynn
- Jay Clem
- The Delta Nudes
- Ralph Records
- The Cryptic Corporation
- 20 Sycamore Street, San Francisco
- 444 Grove Street, San Francisco