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 studied at C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early 1960s, where he befriended Homer Flynn and Jay Clem. The group of friends expanded when he met the people who would eventually become known as The Residents in the early 1960s at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. In college the group became 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 July of that year, he co-founded The Cryptic Corporation alongside Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox and Jay Clem, and (partly due to his name) took the position of President of the new company.
The company was founded in part due to Kennedy's desire to protect his finances, as an unincorporated partnership would have allowed the other members of the company to leave with the money if they wished.
The Cryptic Corporation took charge of operations of Ralph Records, which had previously been operated informally by the group under the guise of Residents, Uninc.. Their first action was to move operations from the Sycamore Street studio to another, much larger studio space at 444 Grove Street in Hays Valley. The building was large, with two fronts, but Kennedy managed to purchase the building for the relatively low price of $100,000. The Cryptics hired more employees for Ralph Records and signed other artists to the label (including Schwump, Snakefinger and Little Squeegee Wonder).
After moving to the Grove Street studio, The Cryptic Corporation also purchased an old movie theater at 11th & Howard, which they intended to operate as an independent movie theater called The Ugly Grey Theater, showing largely science fiction, fantasy and horror films. The idea was shelved when the residents of the neighborhood petitioned against the idea, erroneously believing the group intended to open a gay porn theater in the space.
Following a disagreement with the Cryptics in 1978 over a supposedly unauthorized Ralph reissue of the single "Satisfaction", The Residents fled to London with the tapes of the much-delayed work in progress Eskimo. Kennedy travelled to England to retrieve the masters to find that The Residents had moved on to Japan, leaving the Eskimo tapes in the care of their friend Chris Cutler. Kennedy was photographed retrieving the tapes from Cutler, flanked by a bodyguard. The Residents returned to San Francisco shortly after the retrieval of the tapes and received an apology from the Cryptics for the misunderstanding, and a new 16-track recording studio.
In 1982 Kennedy produced the Ralph Records 10th Anniversary Radio Special featuring Penn Jillette. It would ultimately be his final noted act as President of The Cryptic Corporation.
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 became such a financial disaster for the group 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 smaller space 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 "Captain Doc") of The Cryptic Corporation is Homer Flynn, the last remaining founder of the company, who owns a majority share alongside co-owners Cherry Red Records and MVD Audio.
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.
- The Delta Nudes - Greatest Hiss (2013, recorded 1969 - 1973)
- The Residents Present The Delta Nudes (2016, recorded 1969 - 1973)
- Theory Of Obscurity - A Film About The Residents (2016, Interviewee)
- Hardy Fox
- Homer Flynn
- Jay Clem
- The Delta Nudes
- Ralph Records
- The Cryptic Corporation
- 20 Sycamore Street, San Francisco
- 444 Grove Street, San Francisco
- Jim Knipfel, "Somethin' Devilish: The Untold (And Finally True) Pre-History of The Residents 1963-1971"
- Nathan Tucker, "Rock Is Dead, Long Live The Residents", Antigravity Magazine, 2018
- "The Cryptic Corporation" at RZWeb